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"End to End via the Margins"
-the diary of a walk.

- Golspie to Helmsdale


So: Liverpool is to be the European Capital of Culture in 2008. Good for them, but a disappointment for Newcastle/Gateshead. I hope the place will still be buzzing.

Janet and Hannah had kippers for breakfast this morning, and a chemical reaction happened between this fact and the medical student's assertion couple of days ago that drugs were a problem in north east Scotland. I wondered if, had Ewan McColl been alive now, he'd have done something for the radio called "singing in the heroin".

Golspie is a red stone town, and the countryside still has golf courses in it. The day was clear, and I could see a streak of snow on what I took to be the Cairngorms. It was good, waalking with the stick, bustling along the coast path, over the daisies, trefoil, buttercups and speedwell, not really feeling puffed at all. I looked at the sandstone rocks. I wondered how all those water-rounded pebbles got so high up there (apparently, I discovered later, there's a fault zone along here where bits of ground have been lifted). So far, I was having a good time.

ut eventually I had to return to the A9. I met a JOGLEer (a walker on this road couldn't possibly be doing anything else). He said John O'Groats was nowhere and that Duncansby Head was the northeast extremity (which is true if you look at the map). We swapped intelligence about the route. In Cornwall, the nearest I got to an End To Ender was "Oh we had one here a few months ago": now, they're all over the place.

I saw a notice commemorating the killing of the last wolf in Sutherland, and two squashed adders on the road. We fear both species. Both can kill us or our livestock. yet the balance of power is with us. Are we sometimes so eager to eliminate threats that we harm the defenceless? ... and I mean people here.

Taking the circuitous but quiet back roads into Helmsdale, I could see a landscape littered with things that looked as if someone thirty years ago thought they might come in useful, some of them as big as portakabins and cars.

Helmsdale has a small fishing port, a 99p shop, one or more boarded up shops,a Costcutter and two over the top fish and chip restaurants facing each other across the street. We ate at one of these in the evening, and did very well for not too much money.

Pictures from today...
Dunrobin Castle, the archetypical Scottish stately home
Remaimns of a broch, Pictish defence
Self with road sign
God save all who work in the fishing industry,
coping with the consequences of declining stocks,
the dangers of the sea,
the hard, unpleasant, not brilliantlqy well paid
work of gutting and preparation.
Give them life and a living.

© Bob Warwicker. The words here may be reproduced freely, but not for gain, or without attribution. All alterations must have the permission of the author.