Friday, 5 May 2017


Brough → Castletown

dunnet-head.jpg Distance: 12.05 miles
Ascent: 352 metres
Duration: 4 hours 45 minutes

The North
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While tourists consider John o' Groats as the top corner of Scotland, plenty of bores will point out that Dunnet Head is the place which really wears that crown. This is the most northerly point on the island; the general direction of all our walking is south now.

dunnet-east.jpgAs a final coastwalk for this year we've taken a full circuit of the headland.

But if you look at walking guides to the area you'd be led to believe it's not possible. There's a road to the lighthouse at the tip and a frequently described path down the western side, but we couldn't find any suggestion of a path along the east. Fellow hikers: it exists, or rather, the route is eminently walkable, and with the sun flooding the heather slopes it's absolutely gorgeous.

north-highland-way.jpgWhere the B855 turns inland to climb Dunnet Head we noticed a small disc waymark that gave us hope. Inscribed the North Highland Way, it seems to be the genesis of a walking route along the north coast. We'd be inclined to try and follow the route, but saw no further waymarks all day. (Perhaps like the Cumbria Coastal Path the route has been abandoned.)

hoy.jpgFrom the northernmost point of our island we looked across to the island of Hoy. Standing proud above the bulk of the landmass was the top of the Old Man of Hoy, a famous sea stack which will certainly be on our itinerary when we finally visit the Orkney Islands. (We really are spoiled for choice when it comes to places to visit on the Atlantic Archipelago.)

dunnet-bay.jpgAfter traversing the beach at the back of Dunnet Bay we finished our walk at the Castletown harbour. Apparently in the 18th and 19th centuries flagstones were shipped out from here to pave the streets not just of Edinburgh and London, but also Sydney and New York. Reconciling that with the deserted quayside and sleepy village took a significant stretch of the imagination.

castletown.jpgSo that's our last coastal walk for the year. Our goal for 2018 is to reach Cape Wrath and complete the north coast of Scotland. Walking the east and north coasts will have taken five years; we expect the west coast to take twice as long. Would you consider joining us?

Notes for future walkers:

  • The east side of Dunnet Head is walkable! Head north from the corner of the B855 at ND 219 741 and stay near the clifftops.
  • The trickiest part of the west side of the Head was the two steep descents from Chapel Hill, mainly due to the misleadingly large number of paths that want to take you inland.
  • From Dwarwick Pier we started walking outside the fields but soon had to hop the fence where the path was eroded; best stay inside the fields all the way.
  • We descended to the beach of Dunnet Bay at ND 214 710 and stayed there all the way to Castletown. Neither the Burn of Midsand nor the Burn of Garth were difficult to cross (though the latter was deeper).

    Posted by pab at 20:17 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!