Another fairly leisurely morning (not sure what our excuse is today) meant we were dropped at our start point and set off about 9.15. The weather was beautiful as we walked along the road before turning up past an old mill where we encountered our first significant climb.
The majority of the walking was on forestry tracks and we made good time, trying and failing to spot a Capercaillie Hen. The views were stunning, however around 6 miles in, Olivia was starting to struggle with her feet which may or may not have been attributed to the fact that she had put her socks on the wrong feet (some people never learn!!).
We met a lovely man with a boxer dog called Troy who we chatted to for a few minutes. We explained what we were doing and that we were heading to Dornoch. He cheerily informed us that Dornoch was only 12 miles away and then his face dropped as he said ‘Oh but you’re walking there!’.
At this point, the John o’ Groats trail gave us 2 options, following the main marked route into Tain, or an unmarked but direct route to Dornoch. Obviously these idiots decided they could handle the unmarked route - no prizes for guessing what happened next! We’re still not 100% sure where/how it happened because we were doing so well and we only realised once we emerged from the woods into an unexpected car park.
Kate and Phil studied the 3 different maps we’d brought with us and worked out how we could locate the route again. Meanwhile, a sock change for Olivia worked wonders and we headed off again up Tain hill. The climb was rewarded with yet more stunning views and lots of butterflies, dragonflies and bees. At the top we met a man with a lovely golden retriever who said he had seen our story on Facebook so it’s nice to know that word is spreading!
As we made our way down the other side of the hill we repeatedly thought we had rejoined the main route but it was quite a long time before we eventually spotted a John o’ Groats trail sign! We then had another section which seemed to go on for ever and ever but finally we came across the roundabout on the A9, just off which we were meeting Wendy who had our lunch. Having already walked 14.1 miles, we have never been so happy to see a roundabout in our lives!
Having had a look at Dornoch Bridge we decided it was a bit too dangerous to walk across so we crossed in the car and had lunch in a lay-by on the other side (same as yesterday but with the addition of the most delicious chocolate muffins). Wendy and Phil then dropped us back at our restart point and, taking the dogs with us we set off again after some more foot first aid.
We were certainly very grateful for Jessie’s and Mollie’s assistance up the hill into Canmore Wood! The woods themselves were beautiful, with lots of heather, and we passed a prehistoric round house before leaving the forestry commission land.
We eventually reached the road into Dornoch and continued down it for about a mile before we finally saw the sign we were longing to see!
We headed to Cocoa Mountain where we had the most delicious hot chocolate and the dogs had a much needed lie down too. Today was always going to be a long day (whose idea was that so close to the start!?) and we’re definitely starting to feel it but the realisation that we’ve walked 4 days of the John o’ Groats Trail in just 2 days makes us feel quite proud of ourselves!