(This might be a bit confusing, as I’ve just told some of the same to Ben to post here, then discovered that there’s internet access at the Tourist Information centre here)

A Tolkein reference seemed kind of apt at this point as I’m in Helmsdale which sounds like it should be somewhere in The Lord Of The Rings, but is actually a fishing village in Sutherland. I’m taking my first day off of the walk, somewhat earlier than planned, but I was getting a pain in my left thigh yesterday, just above the knee, and felt it was better to be safe than sorry and rest it for a day. Besides, Helmsdale is a very nice place and it felt like the sort of place it was worth spending a little time in, rather than just passing through – and I was right, as I’ve discovered that the chip shop/restaurant here is apparently one of the best in the UK.

Anyway, things are going well so far and I’ve covered 55 miles so far, including the entirety of the A99. It might not sound much, but I can now look at a map of the entire UK and note that the line between John O’ Groats and Helmsdale is noticeable, not just a blip. As Ben noted in one of his posts, I’ve abandoned the idea of camping after two nights at the start – my pack was just too heavy to walk with while the tent was on it, and spending the night in a tent after a hard day’s walking was hardly relaxing. Yes, I lose some convenience – I’ll have to make sure I’ve booked accomodation ahead on the Great Glen Way and West Highland Way, for instance – but the trade off is that I’ve gained some comfort. After Tuesday, my shoulders were killing me from carrying that weight all day, yet after a day with the lighter pack yesterday, they’re fine.

So, that does mean a slight change to the week ahead, with most stuff coming a day later – to Golspie, tomorrow, Tain on Sunday and Avoch on Monday, with a day off on Tuesday and then to Inverness Wednesday and starting the Great Glen Way next Thursday. And thinking ahead, Will was asking about walks I might be doing near Edinburgh on a weekend and it looks likely that I’ll be doing something on Sunday 20th on the canals between Glasgow and Edinburgh – either from Croy/Kilsyth to Linlithgow via the Falkirk Wheel or from Linlithgow into Edinburgh, so if anyone wants to come and join me for the day, you’ll be more than welcome, and while it might be a long walk, as they’re canal paths on canals where the builders really appeared to have hated the idea of locks, they’re almost completely flat! Unlike yesterday, where I noticed that the preponderance of placenames ending in -dale around here was because this was old Viking territory and Dale means valley. And valley of course means ‘cross over a hill to get here’ – trust me, the 1 in 8 gradient in and out of Berriedale isn’t fun, and maybe why my leg was protesting so much by the end of the day.

Right, there’s more to say but it’ll have to wait for another time, as I’m surrounded by arts and crafts and am in danger of becoming seen as some sort of public arts exhibit if I sit here typing much longer.

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