#85 PARTING LIKE THE 9’N’99

Two Thousand Two Two, journey (nearly) over

Oops, (almost) out of time

LEJoG Day 85

A music obsessive almost to the very end, I’m obviously playing on the lyrics to Prince’s ‘1999’ with today’s post title. But why?

Well… the main event on this, the shortest stage in 40 days over THREE YEARS (Gargrave to Malham, Day 45), was the last road junction en route. The point at which I left the A9 for the A99. It’s the A99 that carries drivers all the way to John o’Groats. And it will carry me a lot of the way too. I intend to use the John o’Groats Trail where possible between Wick and my ultimate destination. But today, like yesterday (and indeed tomorrow) was all road. So that parting of the (A)9 and (A)99 felt even more significant.

LEJoG Day 85 (Sunday 1 May 2022)

Dunbeath to Lybster (7 miles)

Cumulative: 1,227 miles

Facts: Time on walk: 2 hours 5 minutes. Average speed: 3.36 mph. Weather: Cool, cloudy, early mist, no rain.

Practicalities: Another self-catered breakfast (with milk provided), then ticking off the pre-checkout checklist. Wrote a review in the guest book.

The walk

Start: Wee Hoolet’s Rest, Dunbeath, 10:05am. End: Portland Hotel, Quatre Bras, Lybster, 2:05pm.

Today’s walk can be followed entirely on OS Explorer 450, Wick and The Flow Country. And indeed, as it’s all A-roads again, on far less detailed maps!

A quick chat with Amanda and Ray before setting off. I mentioned that I had a short walk today, and they tipped me off to a cafe called Forse of Nature. A popular stop for LEJoGgers, it’s off road but apparently worth the extra time. My earliest possible check-in was 2pm, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to take the diversion when it came. It’s named for the nearby village of Forse, by the way. So not an entirely gratuitous pun 🙂

I’m quite surprised, in retrospect, that there was no rain today. The sky was grey throughout the walk, and the start was very misty. Here, for example, is the approach to the brow of the first hill on the A9.

Murky start on the A9

As you can probably see, there had been some overnight rain. I looked at Dave’s blog later and was amused to note that he took basically the same picture from the same spot back in 2019. I have changed ‘misty’ to ‘murky’ in my caption, in true primary school “in your own words” style…

Took an early break (10:35 – 10:50) before Latheronwheel, just to kill time with the distance/check-in equation in mind, and to relieve the tedium of road walking. The bloggers’ consensus was very much against using the JOGT north of Dunbeath, with off-road coastal walking not recommended until Whaligoe (about 6 miles after Lybster).

Latheronwheel came and went with a slight dip and climb in the road – nothing like as steep or prolonged as Berriedale. The map switches from west to east sheet. Shortly thereafter comes Latheron, and the parting of the 9 ‘n’ 99. As a sentimentalist, I marked the big moment with a few photos.

Last retrospective road sign on the A9 – you’ve come a long way

Sign heralding the junction of the A9 & A99

The actual junction – I’m bearing right here

The first sign on the last road – the A99

Overcome with the excitement (he said piss-takingly), I took another 20-minute break on a farm wall. I’ve been walking in the Lake District since writing the Day 84 entry, with my normal 30L pack. So I may have forgotten until now just how heavy the pack was on Days 83-86. Anyway, that – and not the excitement – was the reason for my break here…

As it turned out, the sign for Forse of Nature was only 10 minutes’ walk away. Arrived at the entrance lane for 12 noon, and didn’t return to the A99 until 1:20pm.

The lane was about ¾ of a mile long, so I was grateful that Amanda and Ray had told me it was “quite a walk”. I’ve already linked to the website above, but here are a couple of additional pictures of Forse of Nature:

Entrance driveway

The tearoom/cafe

I stayed for a hot panini and Irn-Bru, followed by coffee and walnut cake with Americano. Very pleasant and welcome break, and beautifully timed for check-in.

Of the remaining 40 minutes to Lybster there is little to be said. More grey skies, occasional switches to the left side of the road, typical farm and coastal scenes as per the header. I’ve written over 2,000 words for Days 83 and 84, so it’s about time we had a sub-1,000-word post I think!

First sight of Lybster village

Welcome to Lybster

My hotel was at a wonderfully-named crossroads called Quatre Bras.

After the walk

These long afternoons are so relaxing. Unpacked, showered, called mum at home and there was still plenty of time to catch up with posts on the first day of my new Twitter music challenge, #MONPOPOLY. The following morning it was briefly trending – a new experience for me!

Dinner at 6:30pm. The Portland Hotel‘s restaurant is its main selling point I think – the rooms are relatively old-fashioned but the food is excellent and just one level below premium pricing. Both my starter and main were very fishy, as I’d unaccountably been neglecting my piscine pleasures all week (in Scotland! Tut tut). Anyway, I probably ate too much and spent too much, but this is a holiday and sometimes it has to feel like one!

Watched a good TV documentary about Muhammad Ali post-1974 before bed.

 

Picture (1 May 2022), taken from my first break spot, shows the coast ahead, with nearby Latheronwheel in the centre. I chose this as a typical coastal scene for Days 83-86, having noted that none of the other three headers showed the sea.

Next: Day 86 (2 May 2022)… in which I finally “burn the candle at both ends”.

One thought on “#85 PARTING LIKE THE 9’N’99

  1. Thank you once again Arron, always interesting to read of your adventures- especially the “exciting” ones 🙃.
    On a side note Prince 1999 was an answer to a music quiz I was playing with Jim, Caroline and Mark Friday evening.

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