Hike Southbound through Britain with Daryl May
Click for Northbound hike
DS8 Dingwall sign
Days S1 - S20                                                                Scottish Highlands
Day S8 - Alness to Dingwall
Day S7                                 Still truckin'                                        Day S9
  Southbound Home
    Start hiking here
Scottish Highlands
Central Scotland
    Southern Scotland
North of England
English Midlands
    English West Country

Northbound Home
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Time of departure: 8.30 am
Time of arrival: 1.15 pm
Place departed: Alness, Highland
Place arrived: Dingwall, Highland

Miles: 11
Cum miles: 119.7
Percent complete: 12.3

Bed sign National Hotel, Dingwall **
Cost for bed and breakfast: 37.50 ($75)
  Overview of both hikes
  What others say
  Contact me
DS10 Rushing streams
DS8 Wimpy in Dingwall
The Wimpy in Dingwall.  I reminisce about Wimpy's on Day S12

The Westmore B&B is one of those rare B&Bs that has baths, though not ensuite. I luxuriated in one in the evening, then ate a can of sardines (my MRE), and went to bed early. Seeing as my limbs stiffen up after a hard day's hiking, deciding to dress and head out even to a restaurant doesn't come easily.

The severe gale arrived in the night, just as I hoped, and rattled and shook the building.

Unfortunately, the gale wasn't over in the morning, but it was walkable-in. From time to time, a shiver-my-timbers gust arrived, which bore out the forecasters' wind chill warning. All day the wind was in my right front quarter. It rained, it hailed, and it was both overcast and sunny. Even in the morning, under the overcast it felt like nightfall. What a strange, but mostly miserable, hiking day.

I have a primitive rain meter. My leather gloves don't claim to be waterproof, and they're not. When it has rained hard, and I make a fist, water streams from them as if I was squeezing an orange. When it's rained less, it doesn't.

From Alness to Evanton, I followed a bike track that was built since my visit last year. From Evanton, I was on backroads, and they weren't fun. A single lane with passing areas, it had a surprising amount of traffic. The passing areas work when traffic is sparse, because a car or two can duck into a passing area and allow an opposing car to pass. But when there are two streams of cars, the passing area is too small to hold a whole stream, and now the cars have to make as much use of the muddy shoulder as they can - and that's just where Hobson is.

A local lady near Evanton ascribed the heavy traffic to a closure of the nearby A9, but I ascribed it to Saturday.

After Evanton, I at last departed the road that I'd covered northbound. The Cromarty Firth Bridge glistened on the firth in a moment of sunshine, as I headed not over it to the Black Isle, Inverness and the Cairngorms, but left it to the south as I headed for Loch Ness, Lochaber and Fort William. It was a fateful moment, because it commits me to some rugged, desolate countryside when I reach the West Highland Way - not the best place for a limping hiker.

So how were the boots and my blisters? Well, frankly, the boots and their custom insoles, and the hard roads, did a number on my feet and ankles. They ached really badly after a couple of hours. But I judged that my underfoot blisters weren't being specially targeted, so I persevered to reach Dingwall, where even an eleven-mile hike was all that my feet and ankles could take.

Rob in Inverness had encouraged me to buy trainers instead of boots for road use, and he'd also warned me that the custom insoles (though highly recommended) could alter my posture enough to cause pain for a while.

But I'm not going to be, err, solely on roads. And I don't see myself in trainers on a muddy trail. What Rob didn't warn me about was the quite uncushiony ride that this boot and insole give on roads, and that must be adding to the foot and ankle pain.

So, after arriving in Dingwall and inspecting my blisters finding them under control, I worked on the hard ride. First I pulled out the custom insoles, replacing them with the softer but less contoured original ones. A walk around town seemed to indicate improvement, so I then also bought some cushion insoles to go on top. They're not fancy, but they are thin enough to fit. I'll have to see how they feel tomorrow.
 Day S7                                     2007 and 2008 Daryl May                                   Day S9