Hike Southbound through Britain with Daryl May
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Dunbeath harbor
DS3 Dunbeath harbor
DS3 Three donkeys
Days S1 - S20                                                                    Scottish Highlands
Day S3 - Lybster to Dunbeath
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Northbound Home
Sunday, Feb 10, 2008

Time of departure: 10.30 am
Time of arrival: 2.30 pm
Place departed: Lybster, Highland
Place arrived: Dunbeath, Highland

Miles: 8
Cum miles: 41.7
Percent complete: 4.3

Bed sign Toremore Farm B&B, Dunbeath ***
Cost for bed and breakfast: 22 ($44)
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It was beautiful hiking weather - calm and cool. Soft grey clouds occluded the sun, and gave of their greyness to the sea. Even though I had a nice plump blister on the ball of my right foot, I could have walked 15 miles or so in these conditions.

But, from Lybster, Helmsdale is about 22 miles, which I considered to be too far for one day right now. So my choices were Dunbeath (five miles) or Berriedale (about eleven miles).

Berriedale would have been a good choice, except that the two places on my list had closed down when I called, and nobody knew of any others.

So it needed to be Dunbeath after only five to eight miles, the higher mileage accounting for traipsing around the town as I later had to. But here were the challenges. The Dunbeath Hotel wasn't answering and, when I got there; it turned out to be closed. The Braemar B&B's postal code placed it in Dunbeath; it advertised itself as "always open" but didn't answer the phone. When I arrived in Dunbeath, I was told it was an expensive shooting lodge seven miles out of town. That left Toremore Farm, which had no sign outside and was closed until May, according to a local guide. And the Inver B&B, which was under construction and unstaffed.

So, suddenly, it seemed there was nowhere to stay for the 22 miles to Helmsdale, which my late departure from Lybster placed doubly out of reach.

All this research took time. It was partly phone research, partly asking locally, and partly hoofing it. Why, the Llama Farm in Berriedale would have been open but for a death in the family. My own little local knowledge led me to knock on the Toremore Farm front door, even though no B&B sign was posted, and remind Mrs. McDonald that she knew me from my last visit, and to please accommodate me even though she was closed. I didn't mention that what I remembered was that my bedroom was so icy that I had to go to bed at 6 pm.

I mention all this to indicate how much one's mental focus and daily mileage in country areas are affected by accommodation, and what it sometimes takes to find it.

So today I walked only eight miles, stopped early, and bought a sandwich in the Dunbeath Spar store and a pint of 80-shillings beer in the Inver Arms, where I wrote this. Next, I checked in at Toremore Farm delighted to have found the one available bed between Lybster and Helmsdale - even if it is in a closed B&B with the propensity for freezing my buns.

Incidentally, the barman at the Inver Arms said that a windspeed of 79 mph was recorded at Wick on Friday. That would likely be at the airport, which is near Reiss where I stopped hiking that day due to high headwinds. No wonder I saw no planes flying in or out of Wick Intercontinental.

And now I come to what made this a sweet day. Departing Lybster, I saw a Mars bar on the edge of the road, near the normal generous supply of plastic bottles, drinks cans, shoes, cardboard, plastic bags,and discarded clothing.

First, I prodded the thing with my stick, unsure what it was. When it didn't run off, I rolled it over. It seemed solid, as if it were a wrapper with something inside.

When I picked it up, I found a Mars bar. And the wrapper was clearly unopened. At this, ideas started fulminating.

Thinking I oughtn't to eat it, I was still loathe to put it down. So I put it in my pocket as I hiked. For a while I pondered whether I might trade it for something, and then trade that something for something else. And so on, as someone else has famously already done. In time, I could own something really valuable - maybe Dunrobin Castle down in Golspie, which comes with a Sutherland kilt, a fresh haggis, a clapshot, and a Sutherland title allowing me to take my seat at the local pub right next to the prized pewter spittoon.

But trading up takes patience, and meanwhile this Mars bar was burning a hole in my pocket. A full external examination disclosed no "best by" date. The wrapper showed no cracks or slits or holes, so the bar seemed whole - albeit rather hard, as if it had dried out with time, or come out of the refrigerator which, in a sense, it had - if you consider the winter temperature.

As I say, the thing was burning a hole in my pocket. So, in the fullness of time, I opened the wrapper. Inside was a rather hard Mars bar that looked like a Mars bar should.

I no longer own that Mars bar. I will never admit that I ate it, though. But, as I said, it had been a sweet day.

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