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Tain to Dornoch, a winter's stroll

Tain to Dornoch, a winter's stroll

Postby Alba Bhoy » Tue Feb 20, 2024 7:11 pm

Route description: John o'Groats Trail: Tain to Dornoch

Date walked: 30/01/2024

Time taken: 2.5 hours

Distance: 14 km

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For one reason and another last year (2023) I got no further than Tain on my meander along the John O'Groats trail. Time to pick up where I left off and resume my journey to John O'Groats.
I live in Edinburgh so did this as a long day trip. Scotrail Club 50, £17 return to Tain seemed too good an offer to turn down. Forecast was good, alarm set, off to Haymarket for the Early O'Clock train to Perth in order to connect with the first Glasgow Inverness train. Scotrail at their brilliant best, the train was late. Ho hum. Thankfully they held the Inverness train back for a few minutes at Perth so, along with several others, indulged in an early morning sprint from one platform to another to catch the Inverness train.
Assuming that Scotrail could make the early train arrive in Inverness at its scheduled time of 1029 my orginal plan was to then take the 1050 X99 express bus from Inverness to Dornoch and walk this route north to south. Bus left Tain at 1513, and train departed Tain at 1546, for Inverness so that would allow me plenty time to make my southward connection, make for a more relaxed day.
However, the train didn't get to Inverness until 1048 so no time to get to the bus station. The Wick train was due to leave at 1041 but they held it back for 10 minutes to allow pax to make the connection. So, jump onto the Wick train, which thankfully, unlike the train to Inverness, had a trolley service so could enjoy a refreshment en route to Tain. Why is train travel in Scotland so stressful?
Train reached Tain at 1156. Did a diversion into Tesco so I could use their excellent bathroom facilities (Thanks, Tesco) then left there and started walking at 1205. Felt under a wee bit time pressure as there was a bus from Dornoch back to Tain and Inverness at 1458. Next bus after that left Dornoch at 1708 which would have meant a very late return to Edinburgh.
Out of Tesco then follow Chapel Street, Academy Street and Morangie Road, past Lidl and onto the verge of the A9. Plenty space at the side of the A9, about 18 inches of tar to the side of the white line and about 6 feet of stone and grass verge to the right of that so felt reasonably safe.
Reached the Glenmorangie Distillery at 1225, took a quick detour in there to take a photo.
Glenmorangie Distillery

Decision to make here; follow the Walkhighland notes and take the track opposite the distillery to Tarlogie Farm and then through the woods to the Dornoch Bridge or follow the road. Given I wanted to catch the 1458 bus out of Dornoch I opted to walk along the road verge. No navigation issues and made for quick, easy walking. Plenty space to the side of the A9 on the verge so felt relatively safe.
Reached the roundabout at the southern approach to the Dornoch Bridge at 1250 and got onto the bridge proper at 1300. Pavement to the side of both carriageways on the bridge so nice safe walking over the bridge. Beautiful 360 degree views under the blue skies.
View towards Dornoch from Dornoch Bridge

View west from Dornoch Bridge
View west from Dornoch Bridge

Crossed over the Dornoch bridge by 1310. Walkhighland notes suggested there should be a JOG trail waymarker once you crossed the bridge indicating a steep descent down to a path below to your right. I couldn't see any sign of a waymarker. Could have dropped down to the right immediately after crossing the bridge, climbed the fence and went through a gate to access the path which was visible just above the shore line. That seemed hassle, especially as the ground looked a tad damp. Quick look at the map showed where the path joined the minor road at Cuthill Links. That minor road ran close to the A9 so thought just follow the A9 another km or so north and go straight from the A9 to the Cuthill Road. Keep things easy, avoid time trouble!
Turned right off the A9 at 1325. Road joined the A9 on the left, just south of Loch Evelix, and opposite that junction there were a couple of gates. Up a small slope at the side of the road, through these gates and follow a path the 100 metres or so to the the road shown on the map just above Cuthill Links.
Simple measure of following that road in a roughly north easterly direction towards Lonemore and the access to Camore Wood. Turned left off the road at Lonemore at 1345 and followed the signed rough track up to the Camore Wood car park. After about 5 minutes I reached the car park. The route I was supposed to take was taped off with signs saying it was closed due to fallen trees. Didn't want to return down to the road so ignored the sign and went that route anyway. Yes, there were some fallen trees blocking the path but it wasn't too difficult to go over, under or round them.
Blocked path, Camore Wood

Turned right as per the Walk Highland notes at the crossroads, which was just to the left of an ancient overgrown large mound, and continued on my merry way, fallen trees now behind me. I was out Camore Wood about 1415 and followed the obvious path towards the A949, admiring the large standing stone in the field to my right.
Onto the A949 at 1420 and followed that the km or so into Dornoch. Reached the square in Dornoch at 1435 in plenty time to catch the 1458 bus. Dornoch looks an attractive place with its cathedral and nice shops, all very twee.
Dornoch Cathedral

Caught the 1458 bus back to Inverness from Dornoch, reached Inverness at 1635. Quick visit to McDonalds for a burger meal then caught the 1720 express bus to Edinburgh. That was quicker than taking the 1726 train. Bus dropped me off at the West End just after 2100 and was home by 2120.
Long day of travel but with the good weather the walking was pleasant and enjoyable. Some excellent views and easy walking, albeit a lot of it was beside the A9 or on the minor road from the A9 to Lonemore. 11 months after starting the JOG trail it was good to resume it and get this stretch done. Only another 163 km to go from Dornoch to the finish at John O'Groats!
Alba Bhoy
Posts: 70
Joined: May 12, 2013

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