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JOG trail, Dornoch to Golspie

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2024 7:04 pm
by Alba Bhoy
Did the 14 miles of the Dornoch to Golspie stage of the JOG trail on Tuesday 13th February 2024. A beautiful winter's day; blue skies, dry, little or no wind, lovely scenery, easy navigation. Couldn’t ask for much more.
Travelled north on Monday 12th Feb and stayed the night at the very nice Royal Golf Hotel, Dornoch, which overlooks the first tee of The Royal Dornoch Golf Course.
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Royal Golf Hotel, Dornoch

With much of the JOG trail being on the same route as the NC500, accommodation in the summer months is either unavailable or prohibitively expensive so £99 for a night’s B and B seemed good value compared to what they charge in the summer.
Following a healthy breakfast was out and away at 0840. Simple task of following the single track road that runs in front of the hotel, between the golf course and the sea, the short distance to the lifeboat station (marked IRB Station) on OS map 21, and the car park beside it.
Picked up an obvious track at the car park and followed that, golf course on my left, sea to my right. Even though it’s February the golf course looked in good condition. Beautiful location, easy to see why it’s so popular even though a round before the end of March 2024 costs £140 and then shoots up to £280 a round from April to October 2024. Golf, a working person's game? I think not! At those prices, i'll stick to walking.
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Dornoch beach

By about 0920 I was at the end of the golf courses and end of the path. As per the Walkhighland notes, head the short distance uphill at the double gates, on a grassy path, and turn right onto the track that was the solum of the old railway. Follow this excellent track towards Embo. Takes about 10 minutes from here to Embo.
Didn't bother venturing into Embo but carried on.Turn left onto the public road when you reach Embo, follow this for a short distance to where it bends left where it meets Station Road. Big info sign for Coul Links and always helpful JOG Trail sign at top of Station Road. Follow the path as it heads into Coul Links. This path takes you through Coul Links and was, i believe, the route of the old railway.
Pleasant meander on the obvious and easy to follow path through Coul Links, much of which looked pretty wild scrub though being February i guess that was no big surprise. I believe some entrepreneur types want to turn some of this land into another top quality golf course of Royal Dornoch standard. Be a lovely setting but can imagine it will take a few bob and a lot of work to realise that ambition. Passed over a gate about 1000 and about 2 mins after that, when a couple of houses came into view to my left, I headed up to my left a short distance to get onto the minor road. That would be about point 948800 on the map, OS21.
Simple task of then following this minor road towards the ruins of Skelbo Castle, Loch Fleet coming into view on my right. Passed below the castle at 1020. Great views of Loch Fleet, where, shortly after passing below the ruins of Skelbo Castle, I stopped for a couple of minutes to watch some seals ‘sun bathing’on a sandbank. It wasn't just me enjoying the February sun.
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Sunbathing seals, Loch Fleet, 13th Feb 2024

Continued heading along this road, Loch Fleet on my right, until I came to the little cottage called Gate House which is located just before the minor road meets the A9. Take the obvious path to the right here that runs through the trees. Loch Fleet on your right, the A9 just a few metres above you to your left. Started on this path, some of it a tad damp, at 1050 and climbed off it onto the A9 at 1105. Simple task of following the A9 from here over the Mound. Crossed the Mound and reached the north side of Loch Fleet at 1115.
Once over the Mound the Walkhighlands route notes suggest you follow various paths through the trees and fields between the A9 and the railway to get into Balblair Woods. That seemed to involve a few left and right turns and also mentioned that some of the fields could be wet. While it was a lovely day for a stroll there had been a fair amount of rain in the previous few days, evidenced by the fact that there was quite a lot of water lying in fields so rather than take a wrong turn and get lost in the woods or get soaked walking through boggy fields, I decided on Plan B.
I continued on the A9 towards Kirkton which was maybe another 2km or so of road walking. Verge was wide enough that I felt I had room to keep clear of any oncoming traffic. Reached the junction at Kirkton at 1145. Turned right here, off the A9, and followed this road over the level crossing and towards Balblair Wood. Less than 50 metres into the wood there was a junction with a JOG trail marker to point you in the right direction. Turn left at this junction and follow the path through the wood, a beautiful pine wood, a really lovely spot. Loch Fleet is to your right (south). Cross over a small bridge over a stream and reached the minor road at 977815 at 1215.
Turn left along this road and follow it towards Golspie golf course. Had planned to follow the Walkhighlands notes, turn right at the junction around 982817 and follow that track down towards the shore and wander into Golspie that way. However when I got down to the caravan park, just above the shore, at the south end of the golf course, workmen were busy repairing roads and the sea wall. They said it would better to follow the road into Golspie as a storm a few days earlier had washed away part of the sea defences along with the path. So back up to the minor road and followed that into Golspie, golf course on my right.
Reached Golspie Main Street about 1300 and treated myself to a nice cup of coffee at the Coffee Bothy before catching the bus back to Inverness and then the train home to Auld Reekie. Cracking walk today, thoroughly enjoyed it, highly recommend.