Day 51 – Dalchalm to Dunbeath – 10th July – 19.9 nm

It’s hoofing down with rain as we set off to cross the golf course, dodging the cow pats along the way. The campsite owner told us of the ongoing conflict between the golfers and the common-land crofters. It seems a slightly strange set-up but refreshingly unpretentious. The cows don’t stand on ceremony it seems, they crap wherever they want. They were there first I guess.

 It was a seriously wet night and now it’s another chilly, grey day. Mr Dry-suit is coming along for the ride. I'm a bit slow getting going, but the tide times have finally slipped and there’s no great hurry - it’s noon by the time I get off the beach. The combination of July and being so far north mean that running out of daylight is not a major worry anyway.

Across the bay is no problem, there’s a bit of a chop but the sandy shore to my left takes all the energy out of it. Soon I'm running along the cliffs and things start to get a little more confused, but life goes on. I'm accompanied by Guillemots and Razorbills along the way. Skuas are starting to be a regular sight now, they are intriguing creatures, very inquisitive, but they can be right little bastards too. 

Helmsdale falls to the rear as I make my way along the cliffs. Now I find I'm starting to struggle with the conditions.

There is a swell running, it’s not large but is of strangely constantly varying amplitude and frequency, it’s coming from two directions too – about 60 degrees apart I guess. It’s all inconsistent and I just can’t seem to find any pattern to it. The rebound off the wall is causing me some hassle and before long I'm starting to find it all rather uncomfortable. It doesn't help with the fact that it isn't monstrously large. I'm struggling here with what really is not such a big swell – this is a little confusing and doesn't help the confidence.

There’s only one beach on this stretch, a small gap at Berriedale. I landed here in 2012 when I just couldn't keep my eyes open, and needed a mid-paddle snooze. The plan didn't factor in a landing here today, but I've had enough now.

A couple of streams join at one end and make a combined exit across the beach. As I approach the water turns a dark, peaty colour and the flow from the streams confuses the swell further, the streams are swollen by the overnight rain it seems. Oh well, I'm not going any further – I wait for a gap and head in.

I'm a bit shaken by all of this; I’m not really sure what is going on, why I’m struggling so much with a swell that just isn't that big. But I have to accept that things just aren't pleasant out there - get over it, get on with it.

Team Manager tracks me down and we sit on the scruffy beach as I wait for things to settle. After a couple of hour’s, tidal things are starting to draw to a close and I think I can see things improve a little. I zip the suit up again, under the unpleasant stare of a family who have just arrived at one of the waterside cottages, ready for the weekend. They ignore our wave and just stand and stare at us, the clock ticks – it's a bit of a Deliverance moment.
I launch and head out, it’s ok. Another ‘corner’ looms a day or two ahead and I want to make as many miles as possible to get into position to be ready to ‘hang a louie’. The remainder of the day plan is not complicated: ‘as far along the cliffs as poss.’ But as I progress I find I'm struggling once again, after an hour I head towards the small harbour at Dunbeath, things settle a little as I approach but that's enough all the same - Game Over. 
I head in – a little confused and unsure of what the day was all about. Was it me? Or the water?

My mind wanders as we sort the kit out and discuss events, under the watchful eye of a group of people stood in the road in front of the harbour-side houses. The place is clad in ‘Vote Yes!’ flags and political party signs. A racing go-kart buzzes speedily up and down the road. We get stares from cars driving along the small road but nobody returns a wave or a smile. It’s uncomfortable time once again - we move on.

It’s a short drive up the hill to the small but almost perfect campsite, our host recommends that we try the nearby Bay Owl Inn for food. It’s late now but nothing is too much trouble for the friendly lady and we are served some excellent home-cooked food.

It’s a relaxing finish to a shitty and slightly strange day, as I sit and talk to the cows peering over the fence. They don't say much, I think they are more interested in golf.