Lands End to John O’Groats 1997 Part 9

At Kinghouses we gained some cover from the gale with a left turn to Glencoe, guarded by the mountain of Meall a’ Buiridh. Wild and spectacular scenery accompanied the descent down the narrow glen, but by this time we were too tired to really appreciate it. The hostel was a welcome sight after being blasted on the moor.

If we thought that day 11 would bring some respite from the rain, we were very much mistaken. Our pilgrimage along the A82 continued via Ballaculish Bridge, Fort William and Spean Bridge, under the gaze of mighty Ben Nevis. By this time, we suspected that the sun had ceased to exist and just got on with the task in hand. Despite the dampness, it was still a most enjoyable adventure. We were passing through some magnificent scenery under our own steam and having serendipitous encounters whenever we stopped.

At one of the YHAs, an elderly fellow hosteller had enquired about our trip. We were raising  money for  local charity Mencap. Our new companion went away but soon returned with a tobacco tin, He removed the lid and donated £2 to the cause. Gestures such as this made it all worthwhile.

Leaving Ben Nevis behind, our concentration became focussed on spotting the Loch Ness Monster. In the murky conditions, it seemed highly likely that a huge beast lived in its renowned depths. However, there was no sighting to report and we enjoyed a comparatively short day distance wise on arrival at Invermoriston YHA.

Day 12 began with more miles along the A82, which took us past  the ruins of Urquhart Castle, positioned on a headland with a commanding view of the Loch. Soon after, we joined the A831 at Drumnadrochit and almost immediately took a right turn at Milton up one of the longest and steepest climbs of the whole trip.

This road led us over higher backcountry to Beauly, Muir of Ord and finally Dingwall where we settled down, dripping wet, for lunch. As the cafe slowly emptied, the proprietors came over to our table, I thought we would be reprimanded for making a gigantic puddle on the floor. Far from it, they asked how far we had come in such miserable conditions and promptly donated the bill to our charity.

From Dingwall we skirted the treelined north bank of  Cromarty Firth before another big climb over windswept hills via Evanton and Ardross. The road afforded a fabulous view of the Dornoch Firth away to the East before plunging down the Struie to our penultimate refuge at Carbisdale Castle YHA.

Built in the early 1900s for the Duchess of Sutherland, the castle was designed with 365 windows and had undergone several investigations by experts in the field of paranormal activity to determine the existence of ghosts. It certainly did a good impression of a haunted castle; strange, unexplained noises occurring in our dormitory all night long.

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