After a great night’s sleep and an even better breakfast at Culgower House B&B we drove back into Brora. We headed along the beach joined by Wendy, Phil and the dogs who had a lovely time splashing in and out of the sea.
We crossed a burn and shortly afterwards we started to be mobbed by Arctic Terns. We had inadvertently stumbled across a nesting site and they were trying to protect their young. Wendy and the dogs were always going to be leaving us at some point as the whole walk was too far for the dogs but they decided to turn back here so as not to disturb the Terns again on their way back.
We continued on, fording another burn and following the beach before turning off into the fields along a path that didn’t look like it had been used by many other people! We were walking in between the sea and the train tracks and when a train came past we waved like mad! So many of the passengers waved back and it’s amazing how such a little thing can raise your spirits so much! Olivia’s feet were much better today after half of Embo beach were emptied from her shoes (who would’ve guessed that would help!) but it was Kate’s turn to struggle today.
The coastline looked beautiful in the sun and as we rounded a corner we came across our next morale boost which was definitely needed as walking on the soft sand was getting pretty tiring. A group of around 25 seals were lying on the beach, as well as a few in the water. Unfortunately we couldn’t avoid disturbing them as we passed but they swam along with us for half a mile or so which was just lovely!
The next challenge was to cross Loth Burn - the 2nd deepest river crossing on the whole of the John o’ Groats Trail! After fighting our way through the bracken to the recommended crossing we decided that it was too fast flowing and a bit dangerous. Deciding to head further downstream we took our shoes and socks off and waded across. The water was freezing and the stones were slippy and quite sore underfoot but we managed to make it across without any disasters!
A quick stop for lunch and then we were on our way again, seeing lots more seals and different birds on our way. The going was really tough - either soft sand, small boulders or thick grass with rocks underneath. We couldn’t really choose a least favourite and there were many slips, skids and rolled ankles!
We were still following the train tracks and we performed our best waving once again as a freight train passed us. The driver waved and blew the train’s whistle for us which Kevin would have loved and put huge smiles on our faces! Soon we crossed the train tracks and headed up into the village of Portgower. In total we had crossed somewhere around 16 burns (they all start to blur into one after a while!). From here took a track up into the hills to avoid walking on the A9, which gave us stunning views of the sea. Eventually we descended into Helmsdale and as we were admiring a statue, Wendy and the dogs popped up over the hill and we ran to meet them!
The original plan was to walk on from Helmsdale to Berriedale, which was a further 9 miles and what the guidebook described as ‘challenging’. We decided that at this stage of the walk that our priority should be to look after our feet and make sure we can continue our journey but we will definitely make up these 9 miles another day.