Occumster to Wick, 27km (No 75 bus and boat)
I looked out of the window this morning and saw … nothing. Visibility might have been 100m if the faint black blobs that are cattle in the field count as visibility. Fog. I waited until 10am while conditions further deteriorated and then took the bus. My farm house B&B was as close to the cliff top as I was prepared to go today. It was just as bad in Whaligoe so I stayed on the bus to Wick.
At first sight, a day in Wick seemed over generous. I found the John O’Groats trail down by the harbour, drank a cappuccino in the Wickers World cafe and then started walking south along the trail. However, I only turned the corner when I saw a small group of people putting on full waterproofs. A sign said “Caithness Sea Coast Exhilarating Sea Tours”. I signed up and was soon in the rigid inflatable twin engine boat, speeding out of the harbour, south to Whaligoe. If I couldn’t walk it, at least I wouldn’t miss the scenery.
And what an experience it was. There is no better way to see the Caithness coastline than from the sea. We raced the gulls, ventured into caves and around sea stacks and inspected the geology of the cliffs. I learnt that Cormorants don’t live near the sea so those black birds are shags and they hang their wings out to aid digestion rather than to dry them. We saw arctic terns and I learnt a lot about all the birds, their nesting and dietary requirements but of course I’ve now forgotten it all.
After that I spent an hour in the Wick museum learning about the herring industry which occupied this coastline and the millions of fish caught and processed every day for more than a century until, eventually, none remained. And I saw the sad little memorial garden on Bank Row near the harbour where a lone Nazi plane dropped two bombs on 1 July 1940, believed to be the first daytime air raid in Britain. They landed on a group of very young children playing in the street and their names and ages are recorded.
So the day turned out well and I’m on track for my Sunday afternoon ferry to Orkney. It will be two more days of walking, come rain or shine and the forecast is for the former.