Last nights meal was superb! Of course, I had to go back to "La Mirage" again because what's good enough for Clarissa D.W. is good enough for me. According to the advert in the window, she rates it in her top 5 fish restaurants. Which is why, remote as Helmsdale is, this place is always humming.
I reluctantly checked out of the B & B, never to know if I was going to miss a great party. From hereon it was onwards and downwards. Today, at least, was going to be a mere stroll of 11 miles to Brora, and as the beginning of the end of the tortuous A9 it should have been a good day. So why, for goodness sake, did it seem so tediously long? Probably because the only highlight was a plaque which marked the spot where the "Last wolf was killed" I was puzzled. How could they be so sure? Did a wolf hold up his forelegs and say "Please don't kill me, I'm the last one!" I doubted it.
Plodding on, what kept me going was the thought that a) I'd be in Dornoch tonight and b) this long trek on the A9 was coming to an end. I may well be trying to promote walking for health, but the only people walking on this road are going about 1000 miles in either direction, and with the locals being ever so keen to leap out and tell you about whose ahead or behind you it's slightly annoying when you never ever actually get to meet them.
The boredom of it all must have slowed my pace because on reaching the outskirts of Brora I had to race to catch the bus to Dornoch. No easy feat with a heavy rucksack on an unusually warm day.
Bathed in the late afternoon sunshine, Cathedral Square, was a photographers dream. Busy snapping away, I was enjoying the peaceful idyll, when from across the road wafted the dulcet tones of an East End oik, bellowing down his mobile phone "It's *******brilliant 'ere mate! I'm just off to the boozer to sink a couple of pints, and when you get 'ere. we'll 'ave a few *******more and get absolutely*******blathered! Supposing he was a builder drafted up from the south to work on one of the many new developments sprouting up here, he may have ruined the moment, but at least I knew not to eat at the Dornoch Inn tonight.
On arrival the B & B was as immaculate, as the owner. I guessed, correctly, he was a golfer, because, along with the pressed trousers and the "Pringle" draped around his shoulders, he had that lightly tanned chiseled Andy Williams look about him. How is it that Golfers seem effortlessly able to pull off that "smart but casual" look, and also somehow get away with wearing pink or yellow sweaters on or off the course?
Horrified, when I related my Wick B & B experience, he said "But didn't you check it's star rating?" "Err, what stars? He shook his head like I was a complete dimwit (true) and proudly informed me he had, until recently, been "The only 4 star B & B in the village"
It was almost a sacrilege to empty the contents of my rucksack into this show home of a bedroom, but I needed a shower (en-suite-of course) and food.
And what a disappointment the alternative pub was. Sticking to the fish theme, I selected "Salmon with a white wine and dill sauce". Putting in my complaint, the waitress stormed off through the swing door to the kitchen "Chef, table number 5 complaining about the sauce" The sauce, or lack of it, was the problem. Too tired and hungry to send it back, we called a truce. I paid up and she didn't get her tip..