After a couple of nights wild camping, I needed a shower and a kit wash so the campsite in Durness was my target for the day. The walk, in the rain for most of the day was fairly uneventful, roads all the way and at just under 18 miles, I checked into the campsite, pitched up and enjoyed a lovely hot shower.
I headed to the campsite bar for a pint and a meal and within a few minutes, my shirt and hat had been recognised and a couple of brothers were chatting with me over a beer. Sean and Callum were brothers but also brothers in the Lodge, Lodge Laxford No. 1380 which they kindly offered to open up for me to visit the following day. Not too early though, they were in for a few beers before heading down to another village for the local dance... memories came flooding back from when I first moved to Lincolnshire way back in 1989 and would go to the village stomp in Billinghay on a Saturday night, as an outsider you could guarantee ending up in a punch up which would only be a minor distraction from the main event which would see gangs of lads turning up from neighbouring villages to partake in full scale running battles in the carpark..
Anyway, as upstanding members of their community, the boys showed up at 3pm the following day to open the Lodge and there wasn't a black eye or fat lip to be seen...
It's amazing what a dedicated, well organised group of Freemasons can achieve. Their lodge building is housed in a former RAF fuel bunker which was once divided down the centre and housed 2 huge fuel tanks. The Balnakeil base has been rejuvenated into a craft village and their little lodge building is tucked away in the corner, what a great job they have done to create a cozy little lodge room. Cheers guys, it was great to meet you all. 😉🤝
I was to hang around on the campsite for an extra night as I'd had a call from a mate of mine who was driving up from Woodhall Spa and would be arriving sometime on the Sunday to spend a few days with me. Typical of John, he decided to change his plan and instead drove the 11 hours through the night so arrived at lunch time, wrecking my plans to catch up on my admin... instead we had a walk up to the local caves before enjoying a meal and a few pints, I was excited to have some company for a few days and was looking forward to sharing some of my journey with a good friend.
I came to learn very quickly that John is not necessarily what you would call a morning person. We eventually got walking the following morning by 11am, on route for Cape Wrath. A 3 mile walk to the jetty where you have to catch a small boat across the Kyle of Durness to get to the inaccessible piece of land which has no road access at all. For £8, a minibus will drive you for a hour up a bumpy single lane track to get to Cape Wrath at the tip of this desolate chunk of military firing range. Apparently, the last remaining life firing range of its kind where the Navy and RAF still chuck huge pieces of ordinance at old tank hulls dotted about on the landscape. Enormous craters are visible all over the place and a number of small earth movers are strategically positioned to clear and reinstate the small track when the targets are missed and the ground near the road is blown all over the place !!!
Obviously, we didn't take the minibus, it hammered down with rain for much of the day so Johns first day walking with me was probably not what he had envisaged, especially after seeing many of my recent posts walking along the beach in the glorious sun.
We were treated to a little bit of the amazing, untouched scenery and after 14 miles, completely soaked, we descended a very steep hill to find the Bothy we had planned to stay in that night.
Neither of us had ever stayed in a Bothy before and as we were completely soaked through, it was good to not have to pitch the tents and get in with all that wet gear. Apparently, there are just over 100 Bothies dotted around Scotland, with a few in the Lake District and some in Wales. In the main, they are generally old crofters cottages that have been adopted and maintained by the Mountain Bothies Assiciation, they are very basic with no toilets or running water but you can stay in them for free. John got busy lighting the fire with the small amount of paper and twigs we could find, we both scoured the beach for driftwood but there was nothing. I got the dinner on which soon warmed us up and while it was still light outside, we were both snoring for England. It had been a tough wet day and we both slept very well, if I hadn't woken John up in the morning, I swear he'd probably still be lying there !!!
The 5 mile walk up to Cape Wrath was going to be a doddle, the walk south from the Cape had been playing on my mind for some time, no roads or paths, open ground through bogs and over peaks and I had been debating whether to bother with it at all. I knew this was going to be a tough day and I wasn't wrong...