Sunday, 30 August 2009

Day 16: Dingwall to Altnaharra

Much better weather today - rather cloudy but with quite a lot of sunshine from time to time. Above all, the wind was much lighter; it was generally pretty still, with just the occassional lightish breeze which didn't hinder me too much.

I set off out of Dingwall taking the high road, which meant a bit of a climb at first but this soon gave some great views over the Cromarty Firth. It was also a great relief not to be within sight or sound of the A9 for a change - this road (and all the roads today) was extremely quiet. After skirting the firth for a while, the road headed off north through the mountains and some truly spectacular scenery. At the road's summit, the Dornoch Firth came into view and there was a wonderful fast descent around to the small town of Bonar Bridge.

After a couple of miles at sea level, the road rose again alongside the River Shin. At the top were the Falls of Shin: some impressive waterfalls, which were a perfect place to eat lunch. Some people claimed to have seen salmon leaping a little earlier, but I didn't catch any glimpses. After this, the road got quieter still until reaching Lairg, "the cross-roads of the north". I continued by the side of Loch Shin for a short section until a junction where the A836, which I was following, suddenly became a single-track road with many passing places, but hardly any cars to use them! This was a fantastic road through the mountains, with beautifully wild and lonely landscapes stretching out everywhere. Sometimes I would stop and listen to the blissful silence, punctuated only by the sound of the very occasional insect or bird.

The approach to Altnaharra saw some of the best scenery of the day, as I rounded the impressive mountain "Meall Nan Con" (standing some 961m high) to see Loch Naver stretching out before me. Altnaharra itself turned out to consist of about 3 or 4 houses (plus a closed-down hotel), so the friendly B&B owner usually provides evening meals as well, and I was glad to have booked this ahead. Unsurprisingly there is no mobile phone coverage here at all, but being used to a succession of cyclists doing the end-to-end and writing blogs, the B&B owners have thoughtfully provided a PC with internet connection!

So, 16 days done - tomorrow should see me end in Thurso, from which it's just a short ride to my final destination!

Distance: 60.0 miles
Total ascent: 996m
Cumulative distance: 959.9 miles
Interactive route map and profile:

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