Monday, 31 August 2009

Day 17: Altnaharra to Thurso

After an excellent breakfast including home-made venison sausages, I left the friendly folks at the Altnaharra B&B for my journey to Thurso. On their advice, I'd decided to change my planned route to continue following the A836 north before heading east at Tongue. This would be a few miles longer, and slightly hillier, than the B-roads going north-east, but considerably more scenic.

I definitely wasn't disappointed - the landscapes were just as stunning as yesterday, with the added bonus of passing by several lochs. The weather was cloudy, but dry and still - the only annoyance being the hordes of midges descending on me every time I stopped for a photo. Having not encountered a single midge before today, I had been beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about, but this certainly showed me!

After great views over the Kyle of Tongue, the road curved east, still single-track. It also began to get noticeably hillier at this point, with the largest hills being just before and after Bettyhill - the first settlement since Lairg yesterday large enough to boast a shop! The road continued east from Bettyhill as a proper two-track road (although still extremely light in traffic). Here it ran closer to the coast, with the occasional glimpse of a beach or bay, although mostly the sea was hidden behind hills to the north.

In the large but unexciting village of Reay (just before Dounreay), the route left the A836 to cut across inland for the final 10 miles or so to Thurso. I was surprised to find myself going through proper cultivated farmland on this road - something I had not seen this far north so far. I arrived at my slightly tired-looking hotel just after 3pm, happy in the knowledge that I was now only just over 20 miles away from John o' Groats!

Distance: 59.0 miles
Total ascent: 1208m
Cumulative distance: 1018.9 miles
Interactive route map and profile:


  1. Awesome! So how are your legs feeling about now?

  2. Actually, I did have a few aches and pains around the middle of the trip (about days 5-8), but they'd all disappeared by the time I got to Yorkshire. No problems now!

  3. yorkshire has that effect on people :)

    Still very impressed though - i got tired just reading your blog...