Hike Southbound through Britain with Daryl May
Click for Northbound hike
Helmsdale harbor at sunrise and low-tide
DS5 Helmsdale harbor dawn low-tide
DS5 DNM shadow
Days S1 - S20                                                                  Scottish Highlands
Day S5 - Helmsdale to Golspie
Day S4                            A blistering day                                       Day S6
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Northbound Home
Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008

Time of departure: 9.00 am
Time of arrival: 4.45 pm
Place departed: Helmsdale, Highland
Place arrived: Golspie, Highland

Miles: 17
Cum miles: 76.7
Percent complete: 7.9

Bed sign Granite Villa Guest House, Golspie ***
Cost for bed and breakfast: 40 ($80)
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DS5 More sheep
DS5 Post office Golspie
DS5 Two sheep
Sheep conversing ("That guy must be crazy"); Golspie post office; entrance to Dunrobin Castle
DS5 Dunrobin Castle entrance

Overnight, I thought my blister subsided - perhaps helped by an anti-inflammatory pill, and certainly by rest, elevation, and a vaseline-based antiseptic ointment.

Wrapping it thoroughly as before, I set out.  But, by evening, it was seriously painful and swollen, and I had the beginnings of a similar blister on my left foot too.

For those who have read ahead, and know the full saga of this blister, I need to try to explain why a mature hiker can have neglected this. One reason is that hiking at 64-years old, and at any age on a long trek like this, inevitably produces aches and pains. One learns to treat them if one can, and then suffer them if one must. This blister seemed no more serious than my ankle and knee pain, and I had treated it daily with multiple layers of blister bandages, and antiseptic ointment incorporating petrolatum (vaseline) which is a known blister treatment too. Then, while it was often painful, pain pills stopped the pain at other times, and I falsely thought it might be getting better. Further, in my naivete, I had never had a blister that didn't respond to treatment as I walked. 

It was another day of wonderful weather. Cooler than yesterday at first, with frost on the grass and on car windshields, it warmed during the day to spring temperatures. Blue skies, sunshine, and totally calm, you'd call it crisp.

This is a glorious stretch of coast. Yesterday, the A9 was 500 ft above the water, giving great views; today was mostly at sea-level, allowing views of the surf, and sometimes the smell of the ocean.

But Hobson was hardly experiencing the world beyond his feet.

My goal was Golspie, 16 or 17 miles from Helmsdale. This was the right distance for one day, and would also position me for a couple of similar-length days to Tain, and then on to Alness.

But Brora, about eleven miles from Helmsdale, is a pretty village, and I decided to stop there at 2.30 pm instead, resting my weary foot for starters. The Sutherland Inn beckoned, and the posted price was affordable.  It would be a treat to just emerge from my bedroom and stroll down to the restaurant and the bar - a treat that felt better and better as I opened their new pine doors and detected a welcoming atmosphere.

In the absence of a receptionist, I spoke to the chef. "Unfortunately," he said, "we're having trouble with the boiler right now. There'll be no hot water for a while."

This didn't deter me at all. The place looked nice enough, and it was early. I'd gladly wait for evening to take a bath. I communicated this to the chef.

"But you don’t understand," said the chef. "We adjusted the boiler, and the thing blew up. That was a month ago. We're still trying to get parts."

My hopes were dashed further when he said they were positively not accepting overnight guests at present. So I asked for another recommendation in Brora in my intended direction. At this, the bar came alive. There is nothing a local likes better than to share his superior knowledge with a stranger. One local told me there was a B&B "up a bit" on the left, and another identified a second B&B on the right, just a little further "up a bit".

Wary as I've learned to be about this sort of recommendation, I clarified the locations of these two places. "Three to five hundred yards," they said. "Just up the road," they agreed, nodding to each other.

But there was no accommodation on the road out of Brora, as Hobson's law proclaims in a wider context for hikers and non-hikers alike:

"The more certain is a bar patron, the more wrong",

which, of course, is derived from the Latin, "Quot crapulae, tot purgamentae".

So two and a quarter hours later, I arrived in Golspie after all.
 Day S4                                   2007 and 2008 Daryl May                                     Day S6