I would walk five hundred miles. / And I would walk five hundred more… – The Proclaimers, ‘I’m Gonna Be’
Wednesday saw us back on the road after our break to let the bad weather clear. We had an early start, catching a lift with Dan who was going into Inverness to work. Then followed a long journey on a stopping train which wiggled its way back and forth for three and a half hours until it dropped us off at a request station, Altnabreac.
It was a station in the middle of nowhere, and as far as we could see had no roads leading to it at all. Instead there was featureless moor, sunlit and with a stiff breeze. Who is it that this station serves?
The estate track was easy to follow. It took us through a break in the plantation, a wide swathe of grass and saplings. It felt brilliant to be back out walking; the air had that clarity of a long, almost cloudless summer evening.
A golden-banded dragonfly sped away up the track in front of us, off the dark pool he had been hunting above. I wish I could have got a closer look. They are so fast.
The plantation ended and there in the middle of nowhere was Loch Dubh, the black lake, looking gloriously blue, and a simply enormous house with a turret and a telescope in its top window. The window frames and gables were freshly painted a smart scarlet. The whole thing looked most unlikely.
There were tennis courts, a single helter-skelter slide and a pedalo pulled up onto the jetty next to a rowing boat.
The track followed the black lake around to its far end
and then on out into the moor again, mountains in the far distance. The vertical shoots of the native pines stood up like cactuses, making it look like some North American frontier.
It was a beautiful early evening. The sun and the breeze kept the midges away and the track simply unwound through the light and air. It was clear there had been a good deal of rain over the last couple of days: huge peaty puddles stood in the middle of the sandy path, an extraordinary dark tea colour against the blue of the sky reflected in the water.
We picked our way around the edges, until we came to another odd house, this one abandoned and falling into ruin.
On a little hill above it was a tiny walled graveyard, a cairn on an adjacent hill,
and a clearly-inhabited estate house where a pump was taking water out of a pool and filling a tank, and a kennelful of dogs were barking their heads off. The whole atmosphere was slightly sinister and we crept on by as quickly as we could.
The flat moor continued, broken in the distance by a windfarm and the edge of a loch which we might reach tomorrow. We kept one eye on our surroundings, looking for a place to camp, and the other on the GPS watch.
And then we were there. A thousand miles. We had walked a thousand miles to this spot. Larks were singing, swallows diving. We could hear a snipe drumming away amongst the tussocks of moss. There was a small disused gravel pit just above the track, creating a sheltered curve around a flat centre for us to pitch the tent for the last time. Moss and grass had grown over the gravelly ground making it soft. It was perfect. It was just a little walk, to knock the edge off tomorrow’s distance, but it was enough to get us out into the landscape, and enough to get us to our very own imaginary Proclaimers gig.