Easy Come, Easy Go...

Day 53 – Harrow to Brough – 12th July – 4.9 nm

One thing about this trip, no achievement is cherished long, a new challenge always lies ahead.
Team Manager Diary

We awake to see our John o’Groats campsite in all its daylight glory. There must be some mistake, it appears we paid 20 quid to sleep in a car park.

It’s breezy, from the west, the boats rattle and creak on the roof but conditions don’t look too bad out there. All the same I want to take a look from Dunnet Head. As we go I'm developing a rather finely-honed sceptical outlook, and I have a suspicion that Dunnet Head may be hiding the truth from us.

It is.

Never trust a headland.

From the cliff top it is obvious that life to the west of the headland precludes kayaking with a future. The view is nice though, the westerly wind has cleared the air and the strong updrafts along the cliff edge makes for some impressively close birdy action (hmm...room for some sort of joke there).

The dastardly Skuas patrol the updrafts looking for unsuspecting victims, while the Puffins make great comical entertainment for a mildly warped mind. I have not seen Puffins soaring before, we get the feeling that the Puffins haven’t either. They seem constantly surprised by the whole set-up, and just when they get the hang of things, they rashly go for a landing and it all ends in cliff-top-ricocheting tears.

We wander up to the summit, only to time it as the cloud arrives, we can see cock all, so we wander down again. Late afternoon we venture into an empty hotel for a cup of tea. Tea, is that all? The manager lets out a loud, disappointed sigh when he hears that we aren't booking into the penthouse suite for the month.

It’s back to Harrow once again. There’s no chance of a favourable tide now, but maybe I can sneak up the eddy, surprise the headland and slog it across the bay into Thurso.

As I load the boat a handful of loud 4 x 4s arrive and nosily clutter up the place. A paramilitary looking group clamber out, clad in black Sea Shepherd uniforms. They swagger onto the pier to watch the seals. As I continue to load the boat you can feel the atmosphere thicken, they don’t seem too impressed that I'm launching here. I feel like a 1970 TV presenter at an operation Yewtree convention. I put on my best ‘don’t ******* bother me’ persona and go canoeing. The seals follow me out of the bay. Wherever I go I seem to upset someone.

As I sneak around the corner the wind hits, it’s a little stronger than I expected. But what I really didn't expect was the tiderace heading at 90 degrees to the shoreline, it’s not such big stuff but pretty nasty all the same. I'm glad to finally get across and continue towards the high cliffs.

It’s a real slog though and I have to get pretty close to the cliffs to gain any shelter. If it’s still like this on the lee side then I guess I'm not getting far on the other side. Instead I turn left and reluctantly call it a day at the small slipway of Brough Harbour. It was a long day yesterday, it’s easier to wimp out when you are tired.

It’s peaceful and pleasant here in the lee of the headland, more seals follow me in and have a bit of a giggle when I trip over a rock in best daydream mode.

A gentleman wanders down from his hill top house, he’s originally  a Lancashire Lad, emigrating north 45 years ago. We have a long chat and he tells of the history of the place. It’s a pleasant way to take the edge off another frustrating day.

Deja Vu returns yet again, as we find ourselves in Thurso, camping about 6ft from where I stayed last time. Back then I was shocked to be told that the chip shop had run out of pies, this time it seems that they have just run out of anything pleasant.

38 miles yesterday, 4 miles today – easy come, easy go...