Andante Update

UPDATES (20 December, 2012) :

Donations from:
Robin & Denise Addison
Pat Anderson
Rosa Atherton
Sheila Austin
Yvonne Baker
Simon & Maggie Baynes
Sue Behrens
Cherry Bratkowski
Katherine Browning
Burnley Symphony Orchestra
Anthony & Lesley Chadwick
Ros & Martin Clayton
Helen Coleman
Richard Cox
Ann Dangerfield
Jane Dobson
Peter Dodson
Christine H Dunstan
Peter Dykes
Tony & Freda Dykes
Chris Elsworth
Peter Elsworth
Liz Enthoven
Ruth Ferguson
Derrick & June Fielden
Elizabeth Fletcher
Joy & Charlie Fletcher
Richard & Chloe Fletcher
May Fores
Bernard & Tom Foster
Steven & Yvonne Foster
Clare Glenister
Irene Graham
Angie Harrison
Robert Hart
Helen Heard
Annie Hodgson
Christine Holgate
Jonathan Home
Gill Howard
Roland Howitt
Laurence Hughes
Howard Hull
Katie Jarvis
Derek Jeary
Dewi G Jones et fam.
Knaresborough Pro Musica
Marian Krasner
Nick Lawrance
Jane Lomax
Jacqui McDonald
Morag McDowell
David Manford
Robert Metcalfe
Brian Milligan
Charles Monck
Roger Montgomery
Peter Moore
Nick Morgan
Robina Morgan
Anne Norton
Stephen & Sophie Orton
Alexia & Dave Owens
Helen Patterson
Howard Pelling
Laura Piplica
Andrew Powell
Adam Precious
Fran Pybus
David Quarmby
John Ramsden
Doreen Reynolds
Owain Roberts
Brian Robinson
Simon Robinson
Alice Robson
Richard Russell
Paul Sandford
Margaret Sawyer
Andrea Scott
Andras Sebestyen
Peter Shellard
David Simpson
Ian Smyth
Elizabeth Spearman
Mick Stanley
Sarah Stratton
Debbie Stuart
Morvah Stubbings
David Sutton
Martyn Swain
Henry Thompson
Tom Verity
Michael Waiting
Michael Walton
Helen Warry
Jean Watkins
Deana & Roger Webb
Wheatsheaf Inn, Woodplumpton
Katie & Weem Whitaker
Malcolm Whittaker
Sue Yates
Bay Owl clientele

Fellow Walkers:
Joanne Atherton
Dave Bathgate
Eleanor Cooke
Ann & Peter Dangerfield
Howard Haigh
Katie & Tom Jarvis
Jane Lomax
David Manford
Mike Revell
Bea Schirmer
Andras Sebestyen
David Sebestyen
Alexia & Dave Owens
Brian Robinson
Alice Robson
Ian Tate
Tom Verity

Supporters in kind (and other practical help):
1 to 1 Computers Ltd, Wellington
Jo Atherton & Parents
The Baron of Beef, Bucknell (and Dave, for the lift!)
Dave & Julie Bathgate (et fam.)
Jackie & Peter Beesley
Leona & Pauline (Cardrona Village Store)
The Bason Bridge Inn
The Bath Arms, Cheddar
The Beambridge Inn, Whiteball
The Blackbird Inn, Nr Wellington
Roger Clark
Comrie Hotel (June)
The Countryman Inn, Pool
Ann & Peter Dangerfield
Bill & Ellie Forrest
The Fox & Hounds Inn, Lydford
The Halfway House, Nr Bodmin
Nick Jennings (Eskdalemuir Community Hub)
Katie & Tom Jarvis
Scott Jarvis
Phil Jones
Jane Lomax
The London Inn, St Neot
Fay & Ced McIlwaine
The Merry Monk Inn, Monkton Heathfield
Laura Piplica
Max Puller
Brian Robinson
Martin (Samaritan) from Tushielaw
Andras Sebestyen
Moira & Rodney Smith
Moss House Farm Camp Site
Sam & Emily Stables
Tibbie Shiels Inn (Alistair & Selina)
Treverven Camp Site
Tushielaw Inn (Gareth & Wendy)
Mike Trowski
Michael Waiting
Wheatsheaf Inn, Woodplumpton
Wrington Memorial Hall

Musicians met & consulted:
Joanne Atherton (Violin)
Gemma Bass (Violin)
Simon & Maggie Baynes (Llanfyllin Music Festival)
Charlie Bird (Oboe)
Bristol Cathedral Players
Kevin Buckland (Sax)
Burnley Symphony Orchestra
Roger Clark (Horn)
Clitheroe Concerts Society
Lorna Cook (Clarinet)
Eleanor Cooke (Violin)
Andy Crick (Cello, RNCM)
Teresa Crick (Violin)
Matt Crossley (Horn)
John Davenport (Conductor)
Mike Denman (Violin)
Susie Denman (Violin)
Peter Donohoe, CBE (Piano)
Tony Dykes (Folk Musician)
Becky Else (Violin, RNCM))
Exeter Music Group
Ofer Falk (Violin, Allegri String 4tte)
Emily Farren (Clarinet, RNCM)
Arisa Fujita (Violin)
Claire Garnett (Peebles Orchestra)
Fenny Gill (Viola)
Howard Haigh (Guitar)
Danny Hammerton (D Bass, RLPO)
Sam Haywood (Piano)
Anthony Hewitt (Piano - Olympianist!)
Emily Holland (Violin - Benyounes Quartet)
Katie Jarvis (Viola)
Phillip Knighton (10 Radio)
Lesley Law (Cello)
Blyth Lindsay (Trombone, RLPO)
Jane Lomax (Bassoon)
Vanessa Lucas-Smith (Cello, Allegri String 4tte)
David Manford (Tenor, Co-Opera Company)
Marcus Moon (Guitar, songwriter)
Chris Morley (Horn, RLPO)
Peter Moore (Bassoon & Conductor)
Jules Munro (Manager, RLPO)
Annie Nethercott (Presteigne Festival)
Novar Arms Hotel Folk Musicians
Alexia Owens (Oboe)
Peebles Youth Orchestra
Marjolein Pelling (Oboe)
Laura Piplica (Viola)
Dave Pigott (Horn, RLPO)
Mike Revell (Horn)
Owain Roberts (Trombone)
Brian Robinson (D Bass & Singer)
Alice Robson (Violin)
Martin Roscoe (Piano)
Andras Sebestyen (Horn)
Bea Schirmer (D.Bass, Halle)
Charlotte Scott (Violin)
Victoria Simonsen (Cello)
Graham South (Trumpet)
Richard Sowden (Trumpet)
St Cecilia Orchestra
Ellen Stratton (Violin)
Ian Tate (Piano)
Gillian Taylor (Violin, ACE)
Jon Thorne (Viola, Badke String 4tte)
Rafael Todes (Violin, Allegri String 4tte)
Mike Trowski (Conductor)
Thurso Live Music Association
Marilyn Tucker (Artistic Director, Wren Music)
Vacation Chamber Orchestras
Tom Verity (Clarinet, RLPO)
Dorothea Vogel (Viola, Allegri String 4tte)
Andra Vornicu (Violin, RNCM)
Dave Wesling (Cello)
Joanna Wesling (Viola, RLPO)
Paul Wilson (Music Director, Wren Music)
Marion Wood (Conductor)
Wren Music

Places to see, eat, visit or stay (recommended):
The Auld Smiddy Inn, Pitlochry : 
The Baron of Beef Inn, Bucknell :
Bay Owl Restaurant, Dunbeath, Caithness :
Beeches Farm Campsite :
Belgrave Arms Hotel. Helmsdale, Sutherland :
Brockweir Inn :
Birch Bank Farm Camp site, Cheshire : via 
Black Rock Caravan Park, Evanton :
The Cairn Hotel, Carrbridge :
The Cairngorm Hotel, Aviemore :
Comrie Croft Hostel :
Comrie Hotel : 
The Countryman Inn, Piece, Redruth :
The Courtyard Restaurant (Mains of Taymouth), Kenmore :
Creativity, Kingussie : 
Dalraddy Holiday Park :
Dandy Dinmont Caravan Park :
Dunrobin Castle, Golspie :
Fox & Hounds Inn & Camp Site, Lydford :
Gamlins Farm Caravan Park, Greenham, Wellington :
Grantley Court Caravan Site, Llandrinio :
The Hare & Hounds, Levens :
The Hawes Inn, South Queensferry :
Honey Cottage Caravan Park : 
InDulge Cafe, Auchterarder :
The Innis Inn & Camp Site, Penwithick :
Inver Caravan Park, Dunbeath, Caithness :
The King's Arms, Paul :
Karelia House Crafts and Coffee Shop, Nr. Kenmore : 
The Laird and Dog Inn, Lasswade : 
Levens Hall and Gardens :   
The Logan Rock Inn, Treen :
Moss House Farm Camp Site, Wrightington : via
The Moulin Inn and Brewery, Nr Pitlochry : 
The Novar Arms Hotel, Evanton :
The Old Crown Inn, Hesket Newmarket :
The Old Station, Spean Bridge, Nr Fort William :
Ossian Inn, Kincraig :
The Portland Arms Hotel, Lybster, Caithness :
The Powis Arms Hotel, Pool Quay : 
The Punchbowl Inn, Llandrinio :
The Inn at Rodney Stoke :
Rosslyn Chapel and Roslin Castle : 
The Rowan Tree Country Hotel, Alvie :
The Smith's Arms, Lea Town, Preston : via
The Swan Inn, Kington :
The Tibbie Shiels Inn : 
Treverven Caravan Park :
The Turk's Head, Penzance : 
The Tushielaw Inn: www.­tushielaw-­inn.­co.­uk
The Victoria Inn, Rainhill : via 
Warton Old Rectory : via
Whaligoe Steps & Café, Ulbster, Caithness :
The Wheatsheaf Inn, Woodplumpton, Preston :

Progress Report  : Scroll down to the bottom and read upwards!

The statistics :  A total of 123 days walking.  Total distance calculated at 934.25 miles - an average of 7.6 miles per day.  Total climbing estimated at 20,245 metres - an average of 164.6 metres per day.  (The amount of money raised will be posted at a later date, when donations have finished coming in.)  If you haven't donated yet, there is still time!
Many thanks to everyone.

The next day : (21 October)  Andras and family met us in Penzance and we all went together in the minibus to Marazion.  We did a final bit of filming with St Michael's Mount in the background, then all had a coffee and a snack at the Godolphin Hotel.  David and I went for a walk along the seashore and then met the others back at the bus.  We took them back to their car and said our thanks and goodbyes.  Jane and I then drove to the maternity ward on Yeovil, where Jane's daughter-in-law, Emily, had just produced a son, Alfie.  Then, after visiting time, back to Jane's son Sam's home near Charlton Musgrove for a lovely meal with friends Lyn and Cliff.  Next morning, Jane stayed down in Somerset to do the "granny" thing and I drove back to Ripon.  Up to date!

Day 123 : (20 October)  The big day!  And was it a glorious one!  Andras and son David met us at the camp site and then drove us to Porthgwarra.  We did a little bit of filming, then Jane, David and I walked the last wonderful stretch along the coast, while Andras went back to fetch Katie and Bence, meeting us at Land's End.  After being totally gobsmacked by the scenery and the views - we could actually see the Scilly Isles - we duly arrived at LE and filmed all the scenic stuff around the rocks.  We wanted a celebratory pint at the pub but it was closed for a private wedding function - criminal!  So, we did a bit more filming, then Andras took Jane back to fetch her car while we waited. We then all drove to Minack Theatre and enjoyed this stunning place while filming more footage for the video.  Then we drove to the pub at St Buryan, where Andras and family had a meal, then they went back to their hotel in Hayle and Jane and I went to have our celebratory meal at the Logan Rock.  Quite a day!

Day 122 : (19 October)  More brilliant coast - though it was a bit cloudier today.  Jane dropped me at Penberth and then met me at the Minack Theatre.  We didn't go in but we did negotiate to visit the next day with Andras to do some filming for the video clip.  Carried on a little further to the fabulous little cove at Porthgwarra.  Jane walked back to meet me and we had a lovely pastie at the cafe.  Back to the Logan Rock in the evening.

Day 121 : (18 October)  Jane parked at Raginnis and walked the first bit of coastal Path with me, then she went back, I carried on and she met me at the cafe at lovely Lamorna Cove.  She then walked a bit more with me before returning to find she'd got a parking ticket.  I carried on to Penberth.  A glorious day with fantastic visibility - superb walking, even if it is a bit strenuous with ups & downs and tricky bits to negotiate.  Found a brilliant pub in the evening - the Logan Rock, in Treen.

Day 120 : (17 October)  Still sunny but very windy!  Jane dropped me in Penzance and I battered my way against the wind round the seafront to Newlyn and on to Mousehole - the last bit on a lovely bit of coastal path.  Jane walked back from Raginnis to meet me and we stopped for refreshment by the harbour in Mousehole.  A really pretty harbour village, with very narrow streets and lovely old houses.  Then we legged it up the steep hill to Raginnis - the last bit of road walking before Land's End.  Moved to our final camp site at Treverven - a cliff-top site with superb views.  Windy night in our "rocking minibus"!

Day 119 : (16 October)  We both walked from the camp site into Marazion, across the causeway and visited St Michael's Mount.  Really an amazing place, especially on a warm sunny day like this - well worth a visit, though it is a stiff climb up to the castle on top!  After a coffee in the cafe, we both walked along the beach into Penzance - getting wet feet in the process.  Walked up into old Penzance, past the Admiral Benbow Inn and the Turk's Head (the oldest pub in Penzance) to find a specialist tobacconist - a brilliant shop, where we bought two new pipes for me!  Then we had a lovely drink in the beer garden of the Turk's Head before catching the bus back to Marazion.

Day 118 : (15 October)  More country lanes and another warm and sunny day.  Parked the minibus at the car park in Marazion and then Jane dropped me at the junction.  Gradually, the sense of nearing the end got stronger as I approached Marazion and the south coast.  Jane walked back to meet me from Marazion and we sauntered through this cute little town and stopped for refreshments at the pub and to buy pasties from the local shop.  Moved to a new camp site just on the edge of Marazion, then drove round to have a look at Prussia Cove - and it started raining again!  Drove to have a look at Mousehole and then enjoyed a good pint at the King's Arms in Paul, where the landlady kindly gave a donation.

Day 117 : (14 October)  A sunny day, and quite warm!  Jane dropped me in Redruth and went shopping and sight-seeing.  I walked the main road from Redruth to Camborne, which was a bit grim but some interesting mining ruins to brighten up the scenery - then, bliss, onto the back lanes again and heading southwards.  Stopped for lunchtime refreshment at a pub called the St Michael's Mount in the weirdly named village of Barripper!  Then pushed on to a litle road junction just south of Reawla (spelled incorrectly on the map, as Realwa)!  Jane met me there and we went for a drive down the the Lizard and then on to see Helford - very pretty!  Then back to the camp site and to the Countryman for some good food and some live music!

Day 116 : (13 October)  Ended up being quite a long walk - a good 9 miles into Redruth.  Jane was rejoining me late afternoon for the last stretch so I left the minibus at Marazanvose and just kept walking until she got there.  The first half was, again, all along the A30. Then it was back onto the old A30, but still quite busy - past Smokey Joe's Transport Cafe (brilliant Bacon Butty) and then a drag along the road into the old mining town of Redruth.  Jane arrived about 40 minutes after I reached the Railway Station, where I'd decided I'd had enough for the day.  We then both enjoyed the hospitality at the Countryman!

Day 115 : (12 October)  Glorious sunshine again!  Parked the minibus at the tiny hamlet of Marazanvose, on the A30, and then caught the bus to Truro.  Had a quick look round the centre of this fine city, with its lovely Cathedral, then caught a bus to Mitchell.  The map showed a track beside the A30 for the first couple of miles but it was blocked by a padlocked gate covered with barbed wire!  I found a farm track the other side of the main road but this petered out into a field - at the end of which I had to clamber over a fence and through a bramble forest!  After the next field I could climb over another hedge and back onto the road.  After a couple more miles of A30 with no footpath I could take a back-road through the village of Zelah, with a nice pub called the Hawkin's Arms, then walk down an even smaller lane to the end.  Moved to a new camp site - the Lanyon Holiday Park, at Four Lanes, near Redruth.  Just after arriving I was treated to thunder, lightning and really heavy rain.  Found a superb local pub, the Countryman, 5 minutes down the road - with Wifi, which was useful because dongle reception at the camp site was poor.

Day 114 : (11 October)  Logistics dictated a shorter stage today.  Parked the minibus at the Plume of Feathers Pub in Mitchell, then got a bus back to Fraddon.  Rain between the pub and the bus-stop but the a dry but grey and dull day.  At least I managed to find some stretches of back-road to walk on - and there was a decent pint at the end!  Again, the Innis Inn was empty in the evening - I do hope they get more customers soon because it's a lovely place!

Day 113 : (10 October)  It is quite amazing that there are no buses along the A30 between Bodmin and Redruth - they all go along the minor roads, mainly north-south from Truro, Falmouth or St Austell to Newquay.  So, I parked the minibus at the stage end in Fraddon, got a bus to St Columb Major, then another bus back to Victoria and then did the walk. A fair and warm day, starting along the Old A30, which then becomes a pleasant track through a nature reserve, past a Screech Owl Sanctuary, then back onto the old A30 through the strangely named Indian Queens (all to do with the name of an old pub) and on the the village of Fraddon.  Got the first views of the sea on the north coast.  The Innis Inn was empty in the evening but they kindly cooked me a meal.  Horrendous rain in the night!  The drive took me through a place called Roche, which aptly, has a very striking big rock in the middle - rather picturesque!

Day 112 : (9 October)  Another grey day.  Also, being on my own, I had transport problems for the next few days.  Found a place to park the minibus at the garage in Victoria and caught a bus back to Fraddon.  After a little bit of main road, I managed to find a minor road that took me from Lamorick, up onto the tops and along, past a strange holiday camp and back onto the old A30 into Victoria.  Then moved to a new camp site - the Innis Inn at Penwithick, quite near the Eden Project.  No dongle reception but the pub has free Wifi.

Day 111 : (8 October)  On my own again!  Left the minibus at the campsite, walked down to the main road, caught a bus into St Neot, walked the 8.5 miles to Bodmin, then caught the bus back to Doublebois and walked up to the campsite.  A very grey and misty day - which was actually rather fun because it showed Bodmin moor at its most spooky!  The last bit into Bodmin was a bit grim but the town centre is lovely, with a very nice pedestrian "shambles", a fine cafe where I could get food and coffee, a beautiful church and in impressive "Shire Hall" with a useful (for a change) TIC, right next to the bus-stop!

Day 110 : (7 October)  Jane had to leave today to go back to do some work - so we set off early, parked the minibus at the pub in St Neot and she then dropped me near Minions at the end of yesterday's walk.  I walked the track down to a village called common moor, carried on along a little path by a stream then, coming to a bridge with a stile, managed to slip and fall very heavily!  I really thought I'd damaged by back badly and wouldn't be able to finish - it still hurts when I twist - but, after I'd picked myself up and done a few recovery exercises, it didn't seem to hurt too much and I could still walk!  I carried on to the Golitha Falls car park and then along the little back lane to St Neot.  I arrived (as planned) in time for the Sunday Lunch Roast, which was very pleasant.  The pub is next to the rather famous church and the minibus was completely hemmed in with other cars.  Fortunately, enough of them had moved by the time I wanted to leave!

Day 109 : (6 October)  Now skirting round the edge of Bodmin Moor, in glorious weather with superb views, we finished just past the old mining town of Minions.  Jane walked back to meet me from Minions and we had lovely coffee and cake at the cafe there - then I walked on another mile or so to the start of next day's walk - an "off-road" section!  Nobody knows where the name Minions comes from.  Today we got the first views of the sea on the south coast!  It was such a nice day that we went and had a look at Golitha Falls (pretty but no so impressive), drove up to Colliford Lake (rather bleak) and then popped down to St Neot to suss out the pub there, the London Inn, which was to be the end of tomorrow's walk.  Lovely pint, sitting outside in the sun!

Day 108 : (5 October)  A grey day and bit of a slog along the road into Launceston - but it is a pretty town with a superb castle - then more slog until attractive South Petherwin, where Jane met me and we sheltered from heavy rain for about 30 minutes.  Starting to get a bit hillier now but, having skirted Dartmoor, we were now approaching Bodmin Moor!  Walked on to a place called Congdon's Shop - then we moved on to our new camp site at Doublebois.  Found a nice, friendly pub called the Halfway House - half-way between Liskeard and Bodmin I suppose.  we spent a happy hour or two being entertained by landlord and locals with ghost stories!

Day 107 : (4 October)  Quite a long 8.5 miles in warm, sunny weather, all along the old A38, through Portgate and Lifton, eventually stopping just across the River Tamar near Launceston RFC (now in Cornwall!).  Went back for our final night at the Fox & Hounds via Lydford gorge.  This time it was open and we wandered around this superb natural phenomenon - a bit like Howstean Gorge with knobs on and a superb waterfall too - very well worth a visit!

Day 106 : (3 October)  Up the big hill (via a back lane) with Jane, then on to the services near Sourton (where we had a coffee) and then along the old A30 to a pretty place called Coombebow - where I think I remember stopping during the bike ride 25 years ago!  Then we drove back via Lydford gorge - but it was about to shut so we couldn't go in.  Terrible rain in the night!

Day 105 : (2 October)  Jane started with me, walking out of North Tawton and picking up the "Tarka Trail" - a footpath alongside the River Taw where the story is set.  She went back, I carried on - didn't see any otters - and we met in Okehampton, where we had a nice coffee in a cafe whilst waiting for Paul Wilson (from "Wren Music") to arrive.  This he soon did and we had a very useful and friendly chat with him and several of his staff in their offices in Okehampton.  A very interesting and go-ahead organisation, doing great things for music in that part of the world and elsewhere - pretty impressive!

Day 104 : (1 October)  More peaceful country lanes, from Morchard Bishop to North Tawton.  Fair weather but nothing eventful - Jane walking the odd stretch with me then meeting me at the end.  Back to our site at the Fox & hounds - right on the edge of Dartmoor - fine, friendly pub with good beer and food.

Day 103 : (30 September)  The walk stated with a steep downhill track, over a river, then up the other side.  We had no idea if there would be any bridge at the bottom!  Jane walked down with me, thankfully we found the old bridge, then she walked back to the car and I carried on.  The rest was on little country lanes.  Jane walked a bit in the middle, we met again for refreshment at the Black Dog Inn and then she met me at the end in Morchard Bishop where, sadly, the pub was closed!  Pretty, rolling countryside and fair weather - very peaceful.  We didn't like the camp site at Sourton so we moved to the Fox & Hounds at Lydford.  Much better.

Day 102 : (29 September)  Jane was joining me tonight so no transport worries - but a short stage because I had to finish early to do a radio interview.  Parked at Blundell's, walked through  Tiverton (nice place), had a long chat with the lady in the TIC (who used to teach music in a primary school), had a good, leisurely lunch (Pint and a burger) at a pub near the bridge over the River Exe called the Whiteball Inn (now run by Weatherspoons) and then walked very slowly up the long hill towards Withleigh.  Jane arrived when I was halfway up!  She went on to meet me at the end and then we waited for Phillip Knighton (from 10 Radio).  he arrived with wife and we all drove back to Blundell's to do the interview in the minibus.  Very good interviewer and very knowledgeable - I look forward to hearing it sometime.  Nice guy too!  Then we drove on to a new camp site at Sourton, near Okehampton.  Whiteball?  The Inn sign showed me that it was the full moon!  On the drive back, we saw exactly that - a full moon, precisely opposite a setting sun, looking like a great white ball hanging in the sky.  Quite remarkable!

Day 101 : (28 September)  Still using buses, parked outside Blundell's School in Tiverton then walked there from the Whiteball bus-stop.  Crossed the border into Devon and - delight - onto little, peaceful country lanes instead of the A38.  Managed to burst a blood vessel in my right leg early in the walk - quite painful and I thought it might be serious but it seemed to ease as I went on.  Had a half pint and crisps for lunch near the end at a pub in Uplowman and then carried on past Craze Lowman (weird place names) before arriving at Blundell's.  Impressive rugby pitches - I wonder if their music department is as well resourced!

Day 100 : (27 September)  Road all the way again - but this time I had the incentive of a good value lunchtime carvery at the Beambridge Inn, which is situated just before the end of the walk at Whiteball.  Walked very slowly up the hill to the minibus afterwards.  Whiteball? I'll tell you about it later.  Drove to Exeter to visit the Exeter Music Group in the evening.  Met Ellen Stratton (sister of Sarah, ex-VaCO member) and Gill Taylor (ex-Stockport YO member) and others.  got diverted halfway round Somerset because of road works on the M4 - got back after midnight!

Day 99 : (26 September)  More buses - this time to a pub called the Blackbird, just outside Wellington.  Again, mainly walking along the A38 but I did go through Taunton, catching a view of the "Sir Ian Botham Stand" at the lovely Cricket Ground.  Nice place, Taunton, but a slog along the road.  Fair weather, but the rain, forecast for about 2 pm, started exactly then, just as I reached the pub.  Got drenched going from pub to car park!

Day 98 : (25 September)  Drove to Monkton Heathfield and parked at the helpful Merry Monk Pub, then got a bus to Bridgwater and walked back. Fairly uneventful - all along the A38 road - but I did get a nice bacon butty at a road-side cafe as well as a nice pint in the Merry Monk at the end.  Thankfully the Beambridge Inn had free Wifi because I had no dongle reception at Gamlin's Farm Campsite.

Day 97 : (24 September)  Sorted the transport problem - drove to Bason Bridge, walked to Bridgwater Bus Station, then caught two buses back, got the minibus, then drove to a new campsite at Gamlins Farm, near Wellington.  The walk was fairly uneventful - started in light rain, went through nice village of Woolavington then over The Knowle (nice views back to the Mendips) then slogged it along the road, in ever improving weather, to arrive at Bridgwater (basically, a shopping centre).  Nice new campsite at Gamlin's Farm and a friendly nearby pub, the Beambridge Inn - my dual "homes" for the next few days!

Day Off! : (23 September)  Pouring with rain, no transport and no buses to/from Bason Bridge on a Sunday.

Day 96 : (22 September)  Managed to persuade a friendly fellow-camper to drive with me to Bason Bridge, where I parked the minibus, then drive me back to the start at Cheddar.  Fairly easy 9.5 miles, all along the flat, but tiresome roads near the end.  Good pint at the Bridge Inn but a quiet night (for me) at the Rodney Stoke Inn because it was closed for a wedding!.

Start of Stretch 18 (The Last Leg!):  Having got the summer VaCO Course (Somerset, end of August) and the big  St Cecilia Gala Concert (15 September) out of the way, it took a few days to get everything sorted before driving down to finish off the whole walk between 22 September and the 20 October.

End of Stretch 17: Well, I must be getting fitter!  135 miles and 5015 metres of climbing in 16 days.  Some really fantastic scenery, some good company, some good music - and I'm still well on schedule.  Absolutely loved some of the Offa's Dyke stretch - even though I'd done it before. (About 25 years ago!)  The total so far: 750.25 miles and 16,085 metres of climbing.

Day 95 : (19 August)  Arranged to leave the minibus at the Bath Arms in Cheddar - and then Sam & Emily Stables kindly met me and drove me to the start in Wrington.  After about 2 miles, I encountered the worst overgrown path yet - called Copthorn Lane and marked as a bridleway on the OS map.  I managed to avoid most of it by walking through nearby fields but I couldn't avoid the last 200 yards, which took me nearly half an hour!  Thank goodness I had a walking stick to use as a machete!  Then the climb up and over the Mendip Hills.  Sadly, it was very misty, with low cloud, so not much in the way of views.  Eventually, after struggling through bogs and then meeting up with a nice group of DofE Awarders, I got to the top of Cheddar Gorge and the sun came out.  Fabulous place to begin with but, as you descend, it becomes more and more ruined by cars and tourists.  Fought my way through the crowds and made it to the bus - then set off on the long drive home.  Final problem - my mobile stopped working!

Day 94 : (18 August)  Parked the minibus in the Memorial Hall car park in Wrington, then Jane took me to the start point before driving back to Ripon.  I walked the quite long stretch over the hills to Wrington - again having to detour because of blocked and overgrown paths.  It was dry but very hot and humid. Quite hard work really - I certainly needed those several pints of excellent beer at the Rodney Stoke Inn! (Lovely waitress!)

Day 93 : (17 August)  Rain at first!  Parked the minibus near Gordano Services then Jane took me back to the start.  I set off in the rain but it soon cleared as I walked along the shore of the Severn Estuary, under the New Bridge and on through heavily industrial Avonmouth (hideous) and over the Avonmouth Bridge to find the bus at the end.  Some of this route was designated as the "Severn Way" but bits were quite impassable with nettles and brambles.  I even walked 200 yards along the railway line and then had to do another detour to avoid this.  Jane then met me at our superb new campsite, at the Rodney Stoke Inn, near Cheddar.

Day 92 : (16 August)  Started fine!  We dropped the minibus off near the Severn Bridge in Chepstow, then back to the start and Jane walked the first little bit to Wyntour's Leap and back again.  I carried on (now in very heavy rain) into Chepstow and on to the Minibus.  Jane met me there and we had a quick snack.  Then Jane drove over the bridge to the finish point and started to walk back over the bridge towards me - while I set off to walk the bridge the proper way.  Thankfully, the rain had cleared by now.  We met half-way and swapped keys, then I carried on to the end and Jane brought the minibus across and met me at the end.  We both just missed the next, heavy shower.  Stayed the night with Alice Robson in Bristol - and went to hear her play in a very pleasant and enjoyable concert in Bristol Cathedral.

Day 91 : (15 August)  Raining in the morning!  Katie & Tom set off back to Ripon, leaving the tent for us to take down.  Eventually, the rain stopped, we had lunch at the Brockweir Inn and then Jane took me to start walking at Bigsweir.  She then walked back to meet me from Brockweir.  The Offa's Dyke path passes very close to the campsite so she then drove back, while I did the steep climb.  Unfortunately, mobile reception was poor and we lost both contact and each other at the meeting point!  Eventually she found me and we walked on to the "Devil's Pulpit" (superb view down to Tintern Abbey).  Jane then walked back, I went on to Netherhope Lane (near Woodcroft) and she picked me up at the end.  Then we managed to take down the tent before it rained again!

Day 90 : (14 August)  Katie drove us all to Monmouth.  I set off on the walk and they walked back to meet me from half-way, at Redbrook.  Then I carried on up the very steep hill and they walked back to meet me from near the end.  Tom and I walked together down the last little bit to the end at  Bigsweir.  After a refreshing pint, we all went to have a look round Tintern Abbey, then back to the campsite before going out for an evening meal at the Brockweir Inn.

Day 89 : (13 August)  Jane took me to the start and I walked to Monmouth - getting quite wet in the process.  Jane went to meet Katie & Tom, who were joining us for a couple of days, and we then moved campsite to the superb Beeches Farm, above Brockweir, in the Wye Valley.  Had fun putting up Katie's tent and stopping young Tom from creating mayhem!

Day 88 : (12 August)  Alice and I walked from Pandy to White Castle, where Jane joined us to walk down to Llantilio Crossenny.  A bit of rain to start but very warm and sunny later.  Sadly, the pub at the end of the walk, like so many others, is now closed!  Alice went back to Bristol, while we moved campsite to Monmouth - a very busy and noisy site.  Watched the closing ceremony of the Olympics on Jane's iPad - genuinely a horrible experience!

Day 87 : (11 August)  This was the long walk!  Jane climbed up to the Beacon and a bit further, then walked back to her car on Hay Bluff.  I carried on, all along the Black Mountain and Hatterall Ridge and dropped down to the finish at Pandy - a good 13 miles.  Sadly, the weather was warm but a bit cloudy and hazy, so no great views.  Lovely Alice Robson (ex-VaCO violin) came out from Bristol and joined us for the evening at the Rising Sun.

Day 86 : (10 August)  Another glorious day!  The two of us just did the short walk (but stiff climb) up from Hay to the bluff, just below Hay Beacon.  Then Jane went shopping and I spent a couple of hours just looking at the fabulous view!  Then we drove down the incredible little road, past Llanthony Abbey, to our new campsite at the Rising Sun Inn in Pandy.

Day 85 : (9 August)  Jane walked the first stretch with me, to the foot of Bettws Dingle, then I did the last bit on my own and met her in Hay.  Had a nice Ice cream, went back to the campsite, then went to a meeting of "Philosopher's Cafe" at Hay Globe in the evening.  Met some interesting people and debated "the meaning of love" for an entertaining couple of hours.  Weird experience!

Day 84 : (8 August)  Jane & I walked the beautiful Hergest Ridge from Kington to Gladestry, in glorious weather - and met some interesting people on the way, including Steven & Yvonne Foster (who's 5 children all went to Chetham's School of Music - we knew several people in common).  Had lunch with them in the pub at Gladestry, then I walked on to Newchurch while Jane found us a new campsite in Hay-on-Wye.

Day 83 : (7 August)  Parked in Annie's yard at Discoed and then walked to Kington.  I then had to kill about 3 hours waiting for Jane to arrive from Ripon - which passed quickly in good company at the Swan Inn.  Then we drove to a new campsite, arrived after dark, couldn't find a hook-up, got both vehicles stuck in the mud and spent the night in the middle of the field.  The farmer towed us out with a tractor in the morning!

Day 82 : (6 August)  Parked at Knighton and walked the lovely leg to Discoed - a pretty little village.  There, I visited Annie & John Nethercott at their fabulous house. He works in wood, she is a singer and cellist and manages Presteigne Festival.  Had a good chat (it turned out she was on an ESSYM music course with me in Salzburg in 1969) and then she kindly drove me back to the start.

Day 81 : (5 August)  Dave (customer at the pub) very kindly drove with me to leave the bus at Knighton and then ran me round to the start at Lower Spoad. Good weather and a lovely walk - then back to the Baron of Beef for food, drink and a pleasant evening.  Met a guy called Ken who was cycling LE-JOG. He coaches youth sport at a high level - and we agreed on just about every aspect of modern education!

Day 80 : (4 August)  Drove down to Newcastle (Clun Valley) and waited for Mike Revell and Eleanor cooke to arrive - but they were delayed because of Clun Carnival.  Eventually, they arrived and we decided to leave a car at Lower Spoad.  Drove to Brompton, waited for a heavy shower to pass and then set off.  Quite a hard walk but at least the weather improved.  finished too late to get food at most pubs but, when I arrived at my campsite (at the Baron of Beef in Bucknell) they very kindly cooked me a meal - at 10.30pm!

End of Stretch 16: All we could find time for in July - but we've made very good progress and I'm still on target.  Offa's Dyke really is a superb walk - and some of the best bits are coming up soon.  The total so far: 614.75 miles and 11,070 metres of climbing!

Day 79 : (16 July) Left the bus at the end, then Jane took me back to Forden before setting off back to Ripon.  I walked (in the rain), mainly across fields and along the Dyke, past Montgomery, to the Blue Bell Inn at Brompton.  Lots of high grass, wheat fields, hedges, bushes etc. so I got extremely wet.  Rain pretty well all day, sometimes heavy, but it cleared near the end.  Pub closed, so I just changed and drove home for the St Cecilia AGM that night.

Day 78 : (15 July) Much better weather today and superb visibility! I did the first bit on my own, from Pool Quay to Buttington Bridge and then Jane joined me halfway up the big climb to Beacon Ring.  Again, fantastic vies as far as Cader Idris!  Then a long and gentle descent (apart from a sharp climb up some steps in the woods above Leighton Hall) to Kingswood and the main road at Forden.  Sadly the pub was shut!

Day 77 : (14 July) Started on my own for the climb up to Llanymynech Golf course and down past the cliffs - then joined by Jane and David Manford (Tenor from Co-Opera Company) for the walk along the Montgomery Canal to Four Crosses.  Heavy rain for some of this and Jane stopped where we'd left the minibus on the Llandrinio road.  David and I carried on over fields and along the banks of the River Severn and then back up to the canal at pool quay, where Jane met us at the Powys Arms.

Day 76 : (13 July) Walked with Jane all day, along the old racecourse, then down to Tyn-y-Coed, up to Trefonen and up again to the top of Moelydd - a superb viewpoint! Finished at the main road in Porth-y-Waen.  Cool and showery but good visibility.

Day 75 : (12 July) A surprisingly strenuous leg, from the S end of the Aqueduct, up and over to impressive Chirk Castle, then down and up again to Craignant and on along the Dyke to Oswestry old Racecourse. The odd shower but mainly fine, with good views.

End of Stretch 15:  Three stages squeezed in between concerts and other bits of work during a rather busy June!

Day 74 : (8 July)  Old Sontley to Pontcysyllte - more of the same, including a bit of Wat's Dyke that is totally impassable, then through Ruabon and by road to Telford's magnificent Aqueduct at Pontcysyllte, carrying the canal over the valley.  Spectacular views and an amazing piece of engineering. Total is now 575 miles and 9650 metres of climbing.

Day 73 : (7 July)  Holt to Old Sontley - fairly uneventful walking through farmland, ruined by overgrown and blocked footpaths, broken stiles, impassable hedges, lousy signage, out-of-date maps, roadworks, nettles, brambles etc.

Day 72 : (10 June)  Managed to squeeze an extra day in on the way to check our cottage in Wales.  Walked about 8 miles through lowland Cheshire farming country from Waverton to Holt.  A couple of the footpaths, clearly marked on the map, were completely overgrown and almost unwalkable - but made it to the River Dee, the Welsh Border and the Peal O' Bells pub in Holt - more good beer!  The cottage was fine too - if you fancy a holiday in magnificent Snowdonia, we offer "mates-rates" to all musicians - check it out on 

End of Stretch 14: (26-28 May)  Another three-day stint, in fantastic weather, and lots more musicians and old friends encountered along the way.  Another 25.5 miles covered, crossed the Mersey and the Shropshire Union Canal and soon be crossing the River Dee.  The total is now 549.5 miles done, with 9420 metres of climbing.  Still going strong!

Day 71 : Joined by Bea Schirmer (D. Bass in the Halle) and Tom Verity (Clarinet in the RLPO) for a really enjoyable, pretty and gentle 9.5 mile walk, taken very "andante" - with two good pubs on the route - finishing at Waverton, just 3 miles SE of Chester.  Then we drove home via Manchester, meeting lots of old & new friends at a gathering at the Horse & Jockey in Chorlton.  got home well past midnight!

Day 70 : Ann & Peter very kindly helped with transport and walked with me through Runcorn (not as bad as I'd feared) and then alongside the River Weaver to the old swing bridge (needs a new coat of paint!).  Then I walked to the Bear's Paw pub in Frodsham, where Jane joined me.  This is the start of the rather pretty "Sandstone Trail", along which we walked - through very pretty woods with lovely views - to the road at Commonside, near Alvanley.  Went into Liverpool to hear the Youth Orchestra at the Phil. in the evening - an ambitious programme, bravely tackled, but they really are struggling with such a small string section!

Day 69 : Very pleasant start, south from the friendly Victoria Pub in Rainhill, past Blundell Hill Golf Course and over the M62 to Cronton.  Then it started to get grim, wandering through Widnes and along the road to the Runcorn Bridge.  Very hot but enough breeze to make it bearable.  The Bridge itself is quite spectacular, with superb views of the Mersey estuary.  Stayed with friends Ann & Peter Dangerfield in Liverpool and went to the Phil. in the evening to meet up with old friends in the RLPO.

End of Stretch 13: (19-21 May) Three days of gentle and fairly uneventful walking, mostly along roads but a few relieving sections of footpath.  Some good pubs!  Nearly 26 miles in 3 days, making a grand total now of 524 miles done and 9205 metres of climbing.  Nice to be well past half way!

Day 68 : A shorter stage today, to leave a nice first stage next time out.  Brilliantly sunny and warm - wandered through pleasant countryside until I reached the East Lancs Road and the outskirts of St Helens.  St H wasn't as grim as I'd expected and soon got through it and back to fields - then along the road to Rainhill Station. (The scene of the triumph of "The Rocket"!)  Much needed drink at the Victoria Pub - then home for a rest.

Day 67 : Ian Tate joined me again, this time with his folding bike (so that he could get back to his train!)  Carried on down through Appley Bridge, over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, through Orrell and under the M58, then cut off across gentle hills to a bizarre place called "Promised Land Farm", which looked more like a building site cum scrap heap!  Then along lanes past Kings Moss to Crank, to finish at a nice pub called the Red Cat.  Jane met us there, having just got back after a gig in the Isle of Man.  Good meal at the Robin Hood Inn near Eccleston.  Weather gradually getting warmer and sunnier.

Day 66 : Fay & Ced McIlwaine (parents of former pupil Yvonne) very kindly met me at the end and drove me to the start at the now famous "Sod Hall Lane"!  Walked over the moss then climbed over the only hill in the area (Harrock Hill" - nice views) and finished near Wrightington. Camped at nearby Moss House Farm - lovely, quiet and friendly site!  Good meal at the White Lion in Wrightington.

End of Stretch 12: (11-13 May)  Only 3 days, but we managed 30 miles from S of Lancaster to S of Preston.  Mainly sunny but still cool - mostly along canal towpath, footpath, cycleway or little minor roads.  Very enjoyable but a bit footsore!

Day 65 : Joined by old friend and walking companion Ian Tate (piano), we set off from the Wheatsheaf Inn in Woodplumpton, where they had kindly agreed to let us park the minibus.  Ian led us on a green and pleasant route through Preston (yes - nearly all parkland and hardly any road) with a visit to the massive old harbour and the estuary.  Ian has to leave us in Preston but Jane & I managed to complete the 9.5 miles to New Longton, finishing at the wonderfully named "Sod Hall Lane"!

Day 64 : On my own again - so I legged it along the road through Garstang and rejoined the canal until the last bit of road into Woodplumpton, where Jane met me with the minibus.  Dined at the Smith's Arms in Lea Town - excellent pub - good beer, good food, superb service and the most luxurious covered and heated outdoor smoking area you could imagine!

Day 63 : Jo Atherton (violin) joined me for a 10.5 mile stretch of the Lancaster Canal - and, just as we started, Howard Haigh (guitar) rang to say he wanted to walk too!  Eventually he caught us up and enjoyed a good chat and a very pretty walk.  Lots of wildlife and trees just coming into leaf.  We started in light rain but it soon cleared and the sun was out by the end.

End of Stretch 11: (25-28 April)  Four good and very varied days in some very good company

Day 62 : After the compulsory visit to Carnforth Station, a lovely stroll along the Lancaster Canal, with fine views out to Morecambe Bay.  Through Lancaster and across the Lune Estuary to meet the canal again on the southern outskirts.  A gentle but most enjoyable day's walking, made even better by the company!

Day 61 : A surprisingly pretty walk, again mostly along limestone ridges, bypassing Milnthorpe, then past the lovely village of Beetham,  through the grounds of impressive Dallam Hall, through Cringlebarrow wood, past Yealand Manor, through Hyning Scout Wood and down to Warton.  A quick visit to the old Rectory there, then across fields to Carnforth.

Day 60 : Fabulous Scout Scar (some 2 miles of limestone escarpment - always worth a visit if you have a moment en route to or from the Lake District), then the descent past Sizergh Castle to Levens Hall and finishing at Heversham.

Day 59 : Quite a long but very attractive and varied stage from Kentmere, over the high road to Staveley then across rolling countryside past Crook to Cunswick Scar and the Scout Scar car park.

End of Stretch 10: (12-14 April)  Three wonderful days in the Lake District - only sorry that more people couldn't join us for this lovely section!

Day 58 : One of the hardest stages of the whole walk!  Along the Coast to Coast route from Patterdale, via Angle Tarn and the Knott, then up the Roman Road over High Street to Mardale Ill Bell and Nan Bield Pass, then down Kentmere valley.  Several hail showers and pretty cold wind on top, but some sunshine, good visibility and glorious views!  Quite a day  - 10.5 miles and 850 metres of climbing - but well worth the effort!

Day 57 : Gloriously sunny - and Laura & I set off from Wallthwaite and we slogged it over the boggy terrain up to the old coach road.  Jane joined us at Dockray and we all walked down past Aira Force and along the shore of Ullswater to Patterdale.  Everything looking post-card perfect in the sun.

Day 56 : Started in a hail storm - but it cleared up later and Laura Piplica & I enjoyed a gentle stroll along the road to Mungrisdale and then the pretty climb up Glendaramackin to the fabulous viewpoint above Mousthwaite Combe, just E of Blencathra.  Jane met us at the end (Wallthwaite) and we had a fine pint and meal at the Old Crown Inn in Hesket Newmarket.

End of Stretch 9: (22 - 27 March)  Six superb days, with the most ridiculously sunny and warm weather for the end of March!  Made really good progress, with much help from Jane.  The vital statistics: now walked 404.5 miles and done 7051 metres of climbing.  Must be getting fitter!

Day 55 : Just a short stage to finish this stretch - from Sedbergham, into the Lake district National Park, finishing at High Row, just 4 miles north of Mungrisdale.  Stunningly beautiful scenery and the route ahead looks delightful.

Day 54 : All along the River Caldew.  The first bit, to Dalston, is mainly cycle track but, after that, it is one of the prettiest riverside walks you could imagine, past Rose Castle and on to Sedbergham.  Really lovely day.  Met Moira and Rodney Smith for lunch in Dalston after the walk - and found a superb pub in the evening - the Old Crown Inn at Hesket Newmarket - highly recommended (with its own brewery)!

Day 53 : More good progress and a few nice stretches of riverside walking, spoiled by the approaches to Carlisle and much of the City itself.  Stopped for lunch at the Turf Inn but it was too busy and the muzak was hideous!  The area around the Castle and Eden Bridge are nice enough, and the Cathedral precinct is quite attractive but the rest of Carlisle is pretty grim.  I suppose we must be charitable, remembering the floods.  Finished at Cummersdale Mill.

Day 52 : At last - crossed the border into England!  Note that the first pub in England doesn't have real ale - but cross the Esk estuary and there is a good pint to be had at the newly re-opened Metal Bridge Inn.

Day 51 : Good progress again, mainly along minor roads through rolling countryside - almost made it to Chapelknowe.  Went in to Carlisle to meet the RLPO but couldn't afford the ticket prices at the Sands Centre!  Great to meet up with old friends in the orchestra though!

Day 50 : A lovely amble down the west side of Eskdale, via Castle O'er and Baileshill, then a bleak moorland stretch, lovely in the superb sunny weather but probably quite grim in worse conditions!  Jane walked the first bit and then got blisters!

End of Stretch 8:  (8 - 12 March) Really, one of the loveliest sections so far - and certainly one of the most strenuous.  The two stages of Souther Uplands Way were magnificently impressive - great walking on good tracks through fabulous scenery - and the mixed weather made it even more exciting.  The tally so far:- 353.3 miles and 6510 metres of climbing.  More than a third of the route done - and I'm still not out of Scotland!

Day 49: On my own again, but I felt I needed to get to Eskdalemuir before going home.  took the minibus to Eskdalemuir Village and parked outside the Village Hall.  Luckily Nick Jones (project manager for the Upper Eskdalemuir Development Group) was there and he very kindly offered to take me back to the top of the valley.  A lovely day and a nice, mainly downhill stroll.  The upper valley is beautiful, with wide open views.  The road passes the Seismology Centre (a curious anomaly in such surroundings) before reaching the flat farmland in the valley bottom.  Just before the village is an amazing sight, the Samye Ling Nepalese Monastery and Visitor Centre - almost indescribable but strangely  not inappropriate in this setting!  Finished the walk, then drove along the route of the next stage - along the back roads to Chapelknowe (very pretty at first, then bleak, before softening again as you descend to Gretna).  Stopped at Gretna to try to buy some new boots - the old ones are disintegrating - but they didn't have my size.  Then back to Ripon.

Day 48: Took the minibus up to the top of the road between Ettrick and Eskdalemuir, where Martin met me and drove me back to the start.  Glorious weather and a very pretty and fairly gentle walk all the way up, mainly through forest to the top.  Superb views over Eskdale at the end.  Back to Honey cottage and to the Tushielaw Inn, where they very kindly opened up on Sunday night just to give me a meal!  Lovely, historic pub - but it's up for sale!  Let's hope they find a good buyer who manages to keep it open!

Day 47: Took the minibus to Ettrick, then Jane dropped me at St Mary's Loch and went off to the Lake District for a concert at Brantwood.  Pretty walk along the S shore of the loch, arriving at the Tibbie Shiels in time for a soup & roll.  Then onwards, a big climb up the Southern Uplands Way to Earl's Hill, then a big drop and an even bigger climb up onto Pikestone Rigg.  Wonderful views!  A bit further on, the OS map shows a clear route to Ettrickhill (in fact it is signposted by the Scottish Rights of Way Society) but there is no path at all, just 2 miles of very boggy terrain - absolutely horrible, soggy, energy-sapping splodge!  Eventually it becomes a path and drops down to a pretty Kirk and the birthplace of James Hogg.  Then it's a short trundle along the road to Ettrick.  This was one of the most strenuous days so far, but well worth the effort!  Spent the night at the Honey Cottage Caravan Park and had a nice beer and meal at the Tushielaw Inn, where I also met Martin, who kindly offered to help with transport the next day.

Day 46: Along the Southern Uplands Way from Traquair Kirk to the E end of St Mary's Loch.  A wonderful walk, starting with a long uphill section onto Blake Muir.  Very windy, occasional showers and plenty of sunny spells, so some beautiful rainbows!  Managed to reach the shelter of a forest when a bigger shower set in - and by the time I'd got down to Blackhouse Tower, the sun was out again.  Then a 3 mile up-&-down section to the East end of St Mary's Loch, where Jane met me in the car.  Collected the minibus then back to the Tibbie Shiels Inn - which was now open for the week-end.  Good beer, food and chat and a cosy night at this amazing spot.

Day 45: Just a gentle stroll after the drive up - from Cardrona to Traquair Kirk.  Passed Traquair House but no chance to stop for a beer - and it was closed by the time I got back.  Many thanks to Leona and Pauline from the Cardrona Village Store for their help with transport back to the minibus - and a nice bacon roll!  Stayed the night in the Tibbie Shiels Inn car park.  The pub was closed for refurbishment so had an early night!

End of Stretch 7:  (14 - 18 February)  Four days walking - one day rained off - but some fabulous views and, generally, pretty easy walking.  Now completed about 318 miles and done 5,510 metres of climbing.  Nearly a third of the way done!

Day 44: I had to drive home today, so I  just did the little trundle alongside the River Tweed, footpath then  another old railway line, along to Cardrona.  Then I drove home along the next bit of the route - up to St Mary's Loch then over into Ettrick and Eskdale.  A beautiful drive but, thankfully, I won't be walking along the road but along the Southern Uplands Way instead, over the hilltops.  Hoping for good weather!

Day 43: The weather was much better so Dave and I did the 9 mile walk from Waterheads to Peebles.  A very fine route with exceptional views, most of it using old drove roads - but the OS need to re-survey some of this area.  The map doesn't conform with reality in places!

Day --: Jane went home to do some work (shopping and suchlike) and Dave and I set of to try to walk the next bit - but the weather was foul, so we had a pint at the Leadburn Inn (dire) then visited Roslin Chapel (famous from the "Da Vinci Code") and Roslin Castle (beautiful and very romantic).  Nice to have a day off and have time to catch up with Dave after so long.

Day 42: First of all, we went into Peebles to consult with the TIC.  I wanted to find out if the old, disused railway running south from Penicuik was walkable - they were very helpful but they didn't know - so I said I would try it and report back.  Then we needed to find some affordable accommodation.  I'd managed to find an old telephone number for my ex-brother-in-law,  Dave Bathgate, so I tried it and, lo and behold, he was still there, living near Rosewell.   Dave is a top mountaineer and climber, veteran of countless expeditions, including Everest!  I hadn't seen him for about 40 years but he and his wife Julie very kindly agreed to put us up for three nights.  Anyway, we then did the walk.  I started at Penicuik and tried the railway line - which was fine, if a bit soft underfoot - but there were a couple of barbed wire fences to climb and two burns to cross, one by a bridge that had almost collapsed and the other where the bridge had been completely removed.  So, this involved clambering down a steep bank, jumping the stream and climbing up the other side - quite scary really at my age!  The line was blocked just beyond Howgate, so I had to do 2 miles of road to Leadburn, where Jane met me with sustenance!  She then joined me for the next section - now quite easy along the old railway line to Waterheads - but, at the end, we were met with another disappeared bridge, a fence to climb, and embankment to descend and a rather vociferous, horsey woman who didn't like us invading her privacy because she said it would offend her dogs!  What Ho!  Went in to Peebles again to listen to the Peebles Youth Orchestra - great to see such enthusiasm but they are a bit short of numbers! Then back to see Dave and enjoy a pint in the Laird & Dog in Lasswade - a fine pub!

Day 41: Drove up in time for Jane & me to do the lovely stretch over the Pentland Hills from Harlow Reservoir.  On the way, (quite by chance) we bumped  into Lesley Law, a cellist from St Cecilia Orchestra!  Jane picked up her car at the Flotterstone Inn while I walked on to Penicuik. A lovely day!  We stayed the night in a very cosy B&B in Winkston, booked for us by Claire Garnett of the Peebles Orchestra - a comfortable, if rather expensive (for us) night.

End of Stretch 6:  (26 - 30 January)  It feels really good to have crossed the Forth Bridge and to be well south of Edinburgh.  Apart from crossing the Bridge, this wasn't the most inspiring section, pretty well all along roads, but really looking forward to the next section.  Again, very few musicians encountered - we can only hope to meet more as we get further south.

Day 40: A good sleep and a good breakfast.  Jane's birthday today so we took my car to the end and she then just dropped me at the start point and drove back to Ripon!  Thank God everything was frozen because the first mile or so were along a very muddy (well, cow shit really) track!  Then road to Balerno and on to the Car Park at Harlaw Reservoir.  A really beautiful spot to finish - and ideal to start the next stage, over the Pentland Hills to Penicuik.  The drive back to Ripon is less than 4 hours now - must be making progress!

Day 39: Sadly, a rather grim day - and a rather grim and unattractive stage.  Jane went shopping and walked the Forth Bridge again.  I slogged it through Kirkliston and then along the old railway track to Ratho (at least this was peaceful, apart from the incessant road noise) and then on across some muddy fields where the path marked on the map didn't exist - to reach the A71 near Wilkieston.  Not very inspiring but good progress, resulting in an easier day tomorrow. Jane's birthday also coming up tomorrow - which was a good excuse to abandon the camp site and spend a night in the relative luxury of the Hawes Inn at South Queensferry.  A delightful old hotel, with comfortable rooms, good food and (rare in Scotland) good ale!  Managed a pint or three.

Day 38: Another cold but sunny day, perfect for walking.  Jane dropped me at Dunfermline Cathedral and I walked to the Forth Road Bridge on my own.  Such a lovely day that we decided to do the Forth Bridge together this afternoon instead of tomorrow.  Fantastic views and a real sense of achievement as we crossed this significant landmark.  Went to have a look at South Queensferry (like N Queensferry, a very pretty, quaint old town, with great views of the bridges) and we had a pint or two at the famous Hawes Inn, right under the Railway Bridge.  Thankfully, this was to be our last night at Woodland Cottages Camp site!

Day 37: Had breakfast at Tesco, then Jane walked with me from Cleish Hill End, past Knock Hill Motor Racing Circuit to the B914 road.  Lovely day and fine scenery and views.  Jane then left me to do some shopping whilst I legged it down into Dunfermline.  She met me at the Cathedral and we then drove to have a look at North Queensferry - fine views of both forth Bridges in the evening sunlight.  Then back to the dreaded campsite! 

Day 36: Drove up from Ripon to the excellent Tormaukin Inn at Glendevon, then set off to do this first stage in snow!  Gradually it turned to intermittent rain but, even though it was all along the road, quite a nice walk through Yetts O' Muckhart, Rumbling Bridge (impressive gorge), Powmill and then a climb most of the way up the Cleish Hills.  Jane drove up later and met me at the end, took me back to collect my car, then we drove to Inverkeithing to spend our first night at the amazing (but not to be recommended!) Woodland Cottages Camp Site.  A cold night!

Start of Stretch 6:  ( 26-30 January)  Past that significant and impressive landmark - the Forth Road Bridge - and south to the edge of the Pentland Hills.  Not the most exciting scenery, apart from crossing the Firth of Forth, but some very attractive bits and, fortunately, some cold but fine weather.

End of Stretch 5: (12 - 15 January)  After collecting the car from Cloan, we drove to Leith to meet musician friends Peter Moore (conductor & bassoonist) and his wife Lorna Cook (clarinettist) who were visiting from Australia.  Both played with orchestras in Edinburgh and Glasgow earlier in their careers before moving to Perth (WA).  Lovely to see them again!  Then a very frosty drive home through freezing fog.

Day 35: Another really lovely day's walking - over the Ochills.  We took a pleasant track along the burn-side just below Cloan, which rejoined the dead-end road just before Coulshill Farm.  Then uphill along a good (fortunately frozen) track to the top of the Ochills.  Really peaceful and, had visibility been better, the views north would have been magnificent!  There is a big wind farm at the top and, whilst I'm not a fan of these monstrous structures, I have to say they gave a stark and striking character to these very pretty but rather featureless and bare hills.  There was virtually no wind but just one of the blades moved occasionally, giving a rather spooky and disconcerting groan.  The views down into a white and frosty Glendevon were lovely and it was a delight to enjoy tea & biscuits at the very welcoming Tormaukin Hotel at the end of such a beautiful day.

Day 34: Jane arrived last night, which made things much easier - but it got very cold!  My feet were pretty sore but we did a useful little "link" walk through Auchterarder (where we had a lovely lunch at a cafe called "Indulge".  We finished the day just below Cloan - a very stately pile in the foothills of the Ochills.  Cold, misty, cloudy but atmospheric!

Day 33: Has originally intended to reach Auchterarder this day but decided to shorten it a little - road walking is so hard on the feet!  On the map, this looked like a fairly dull stage along minor roads but, with beautiful weather and excellent visibility, it proved to be a real delight.  Left the car at Kinkell Bridge and Andy drove me to Buchanty.  Icy roads were a slight hazard but hardly saw any cars and the views north to the Highlands and south the Ochills were fantastic.  Saw a massive salmon jumping in the river Earn at Kinkell Bridge.

Day 32: Left the car at Buchanty and June (Comrie Hotel) drove me up to Amulree.  A beautiful, clear day, with superb views down the "Sma' Glen" and Glen Almond.  There are quite a few sections of General Wade road along this route but the ground was rather soggy so I just kept to the road.  A nice little waterfall at Buchanty to finish the day.

Start of Stretch 5:  (12-15 January)  The last bit of the "Highlands" - still very pretty scenery all the way to Glen Devon - in fact it's fine scenery all the way almost to Dunfermline!  Stayed at the Comrie Croft Hostel for this stretch - very comfortable and friendly - and many thanks to June (landlady of the Comrie Hotel) and Andy (fellow guest) for help with transport during the first two days.

End of Stretch 4: (19-22 November)  Well, I had planned to do one more day, down the "Sma' Glen" from Amulree to Buchanty - but the morning brought wind, rain and horrid, low, black cloud, so we both decided discretion was the better part of valour and set off back to Ripon.  Total so far:  228.5 miles and 3895 metres of climbing - not bad for 2 months - just about a quartet of the whole walk - and still well on target.

Day 31: Not quite the longest but certainly the hardest day so far!  Luckily, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, with hardly a cloud in the sky and fantastic visibility.  Took the little back road up a steep and long climb from Kenmore over to Glen Quaich.  White mist rising out of the valleys and stupendous views all the way up, especially of that fine mountain, Schiehallion.  Jane met me just near the top and, after the compulsory Mars bar and banana, I set off on the steep downhill section - which was even harder than the uphill bit.  Loch Freuchie came into view and the map showed a good track and footpath down the north side of the loch, avoiding the road to the south.  Sadly, what was marked as a footpath turned out to be an almost impassable swamp and, once I'd got out of it, emptied boots, wrung out socks and made it to the next section of "track" - the track itself turned out to be horribly muddy and hard going! (Mainly due to work-in-progress replacing transmission lines, quite a feature of these last few days.)  Jane had driven on to the end and walked back to meet me - and by the time we'd found each other and walked to the end (the closed down hotel at Amulree) it was getting dark and we were both knackered!  What was a truly brilliant day spoiled by actually following the map!  However, if you are ever in the area, do take the drive from Amulree, up Glen Quaich and over to Kenmore and Loch Tay - it is well worth it!  On the other hand, I have to say that Crieff is something of a "real-ale desert" but, eventually, we found a decent pint and an excellent meal at the Crieff Hotel.

Day 30: A longer stage today - a good 10 miles with quite a big climb at the start - and Jane not feeling so good so I did most of it on my own.  Also, it was raining at the start but it soon cleared up and the sun came out, making the uphill section rather hot work.  Beautiful views of Loch Kinardochy near the top!  Then it started raining again but Jane met me with the car (providing food as well as shelter) and eventually it cleared again for the long walk down Glengoulandie and the very deep and impressive Keltneyburn gorge.  Good views of waterfalls.  Eventually, after calling in at a local craft shop and supplying me with more food and coffee en route, Jane met me on the Tay river-side walk, having parked the car in Kenmore and walked back.  Kenmore is a really pretty town, with a big castle, nice church, the oldest hotel in Scotland (so it says) and a lovely bridge with grand views of Loch Tay.  Then we drove on (through heavy rain) to the new camp site in Crieff.

Day 29: Having almost reached the top of the hill yesterday, it was good to start with a downhill section to Trinafour.  New views opening up all the time, including the Errochty Dam.  Trinafour itself is a cute little village with a bit of General Wade track, including a fine bridge, and a small hydro-electric power station.  Then quite a big climb before a long downhill section to Tummel Bridge - which has an even better General Wade bridge and a much bigger hydro-electric power station!  Weather still mild and calm but threatening black clouds made it even more dramatic.  Good meal at the Auld Smiddy in Pitlochry - but decided to move camp south to Crieff tomorrow to save both fuel and money!

Day 28: Starting at Dalspinadal, the Sustrans track alongside the A9 provided easy walking to Dalnacardoch - then we cut off down the minor road towards Trinafour.  Fine weather, mild, very little breeze, sunny spells - and doing the big climb at the end was well worth the effort for the magnificent views back over the Cairngorms.  It also helped to make the next day's walk a lot easier!

Start of Stretch 4:  (19-22 November)  We certainly looked forward to this stretch because went through some of the most beautiful country in Scotland - and not along the A9!  Camped at Blair Atholl Caravan Park, which was hideously expensive but the only one open.  Had a lovely meal and a good pint at the Moulin Inn, a pub and hotel with its own brewery, just outside Pitlochry. 

End of Stretch 3: (10-12 November)  So that's done - over the top of the highest point, with very little trouble and still remarkably good weather most of the time.  Many thanks to my old friend and conducting colleague, Mike Trowski, who kindly helped with transport at the start of each stage.  Thanks also to Kingussie Golf Club for letting me have a spot on their Caravan Park.  Now done nearly 192 miles and 2735 metres of climbing - more than a fifth of the whole thing!  Well on target.

Day 27: Back to glorious weather, with plenty of sun, great visibility and fantastic views.  However, it was pretty windy so I decided to walk this stage backwards!  Dropped the minibus off at the top end of Dalwhinnie and then Mike took me on to Dalspinadal - one of the great viewpoints on the A9, just south of Drumochter Pass.  A surprisingly gentle stroll really, considering the surroundings.  The Sustrans Cycle Track runs all alongside the A9, but rarely so close that it becomes annoying - and there is very little up & down on the whole section between Dalwhinnie and Dalnacardoch.

Day 26: Not such a good day!  Weather started off fine and took time to have a look at the falls - pretty cute - then it was road all the way, which makes feet rather sore!  Windy from the south and threatening black cloud - so walking up the hill through Dalwhinnie wasn't great fun.  I know the distillery produces one of the finest malt whiskies but, apart from that, Dalwhinnie hasn't got a great deal going for it - and the disappointment was compounded by the fact that the Loch Ericht Hotel (where I remember staying in the early 1970's) is now closed, so no chance of a pint or even a bowl of soup.  By the time I got to the minibus, parked at the top of the road, it was blowing a hooly in my face and more than drizzling!  Quite a grim day - even though it was sine and sunny back in Kingussie.  Met up with old friend Susie Denman and husband Mike (both fine violinists, now living in Kingussie) in the evening.

Day 25: Kingussie to Falls of Truim (via General Wade Military Road).  Good weather and great visibility.  The start was a bit convoluted but once I got onto the Wade Track, this rates as one of the best "shortish" walks I've ever done!  Magnificent views all around, real peace and quiet and a tremendous "middle of nowhere" feel about it all.  Most of the time you couldn't even hear the traffic on the A9!  Past several beautiful little Lochs.  Then the awful bit at the end - finding a way to get across the A9 to the Falls of Truim car park.  Great to meet up with Mike and Albin Trowski again - and friends Bill and Ellie Forrest.

Start of Stretch 3:  (10-12 November) One of the most attractive and spectacular stretches of the whole walk, yet surprisingly un-strenuous!

End of Stretch 2: (15-29 October)  A longer stretch this time, with slightly longer average stages, mostly done on my own.  Again. remarkable luck with the weather!  By the end of this stretch, I've completed more than 170 miles, in 24 days, with about 2430 metres of climbing - and I've only had to don a cagoule 3 or 4 times - and then only briefly.

Day 24:  On my own again!  Walked early from the camp site to Kingussie.  Arrived with time to spare so had a coffee at the Duke of Gordon Hotel (where they were amusingly preparing for a Halloween night!) an then caught the 12.30 bus back to Dalraddy.  Set off home at 1pm and got back to Ripon at about 7.30.

Day 23:  Jane had to drive home today so she dropped me at the cemetery and set off south.  I walked through Aviemore. (This place really is the pits!  Just what you don't want to see in such a magnificent setting - all concrete and garish shops, food outlets and rip-off joints etc.)  I quickly carried on to enjoy a very good pot of coffee at the Rowantree Hotel, just before the pretty Loch Alvie, and thence back to Dalraddy camp site.  I finished the walk by 12.15 - Jane didn't get home until after 7pm!  Stayed on the camp site eating up leftovers, doing sudoku puzzles and reading.

Day 22:  Left Jane's car in Carrbridge and drove the minibus back to Slochd summit.  Walked together down to Carrbridge and had very good soup & sandwich at the Old Bakery there.  Carrbridge is a very pretty little village with a quaint old bridge (hence the name).  I then walked on alone for a further hour or so and Jane picked me up at the Laggantygown Cemetery, just north of Aviemore.  Had a very good evening meal at the Ossian Hotel in Kincraig - a strange, old-fashioned hotel that needs to do some publicity - expensive but good quality and atmosphere.

Day 21:  Parked the bus at Slochd Summit (another major landmark) then Jane took me to the junction near Moy and I walked, mostly along the Sustrans track to Tomatin, passing the famous distillery.  Jane met me at Tomatin village hall (where they have an impressive sports facility) and we did the surprisingly gentle climb to Slochd Summit together, first crossing Strathdearn by the famous and rather odd-looking Findhorn Bridge.  We then moved to a very nice camp site at Dalraddy (near Alvie).  To kill some time in the evening, we visited Kingussie and, while there, made enquiries about Albin Trowski (artist, father of conducting colleague Mike Trowski) who still lives there.  We then went to have a look at the very impressive Ruthven Barracks, then drove the back road via Insh, stopping for a pint at the very smart Watersports Centre at Loch Insh.  Ate in the evening at the Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore - which was very good value and very friendly - probably Aviemore's only saving grace (apart from the brewery)!

Day 20:  Quite a gentle day!  We both walked along the back road to Moy (or just past Moy - the road junction with the A9).  Then drove to Aviemore to consult the TIC.  Not much luck - all the camp sites seemed very expensive - but we ended up at the site in Boat of Garten.  A dump - and far too pricey - not recommended!  Went back for a good meal and good beer at the Cairn Hotel in Carrbridge.

Day 19:  Jane Drove me to the start point in Inverness and then did some shopping.  I walked south, out of town and up the old "General Wade" road to Milton of Leys, where Jane met me.  We then walked together, through Daviot Wood and up to the top of Daviot Quarry, then all the way down to cross the River Nairn by a rickety and bouncy suspension bridge (memories of New Zealand) and then trundled up the hill to finish at our camp site.  Quite a lot of climbing!  spent most of the evening driving around looking for food.  Tried the Culloden House Hotel in Balloch but it was far too posh!  Culloden Moor Inn was no good (chef's night off) so we ended up at the Highlands Food Stop near Nairn.  Quite good value but a weird place.

Day 18:  Only one bus (Sunday) from Inverness to Munlochy.  Parked at Munlochy, walked nice back roads to North Kessock and then crossed the Moray Firth (another major landmark) to Inverness.  The only bus back was at 4 pm so wandered around Inverness, looked at the Cathedral, tried to gatecrash the SNP party conference and then caught the bus.  Drove to new camp site at Auchnahillin (Daviot East).  Jane arrived early evening.  Quite a nice camp site but only one big problem - miles from anywhere to eat!  Eventually, we drove to Carrbridge, to the Cairn Hotel, where they had finished serving meals but the barmaid made us nice toasties.  Very good (CAMRA) pub!

Day 17:  A problematic day for transport!  Drove to the TIC at N Kessock to find out about buses - no luck!  So drove to Munlochy (the end of the stage) and tried to get a taxi - but the only driver was away on holiday!  Eventually persuaded a very kind man in the local cafe to give me a lift back to Cromarty Bridge.  Sadly, he went the wrong way so had to drive about 15 miles!  Again, I hope he emails me because I would like to thank him and keep in touch.  Anyway, eventually started and crossed the Cromarty Bridge (another big landmark) and then the long climb up through Culbokie (where I met a couple of cyclists from Stockport) and over the top of the Black Isle to Munlochy.  The Black Isle is actually very green!  Nice day, warm, peaceful roads - and Munlochy is a cute little town well worth a visit.  Last night at the Novar Arms because Jane is joining me and we move camp site tomorrow.

Day 16:  Quite a nice walk from Alness, through Evanton (stopped at Novar Arms for soup & roll) to the Cromarty Bridge (N End).  Most of the walk along Sustrans Cycle track and a minor back road past Foulis Castle.  Dry and mild, very little wind.

Day 15:  The longest stage so far - 12.5 miles from Tain to Alness - all along a minor back-road (the Scotsburn Road) through lovely forests, with nice views, and several very smart houses!  Drizzle for the last 3 miles.  Rather footsore at the end but really enjoyed the peace and quiet.  Met 3 very interesting guys in the pub that night, all high-powered industry workers in Invergordon.  Murray from Invercargill in New Zealand, Tony (ex fleet Air Arm) from Hartlepool and ? (ex chauffeur for Halle Orchestra!) from Tomintoul.  Hope they email me because it would be good to keep in touch.  Fascinating conversation.

Day 14:  Short walk to the Dornoch Firth (a major landmark and beautiful views from the bridge) then up the road past the Glen Morangie distillery to the ancient town of Tain.  Brief shower but mostly fair.  Kept today short because of longish stage tomorrow.  The lady at the TIC in Tain said there was very little music in that area - a pity, because they have a couple of churches that make excellent venues.

Day 13:  Started fine, with the long climb up from Loch Fleet.  It then started to rain so, after a quick shelter, legged it along to the Trentham Arms Hotel and stopped for soup & roll and to let the weather clear.  Eventually it did so finished fairly dry at the Dornoch junction in Evalix.

Day 12:  A great start to the day - fair weather and a lovely coastal path past the amazing Dunrobin Castle.  Then rejoined the main road at Golspie for a grim 3.5 miles to the beautiful Loch Fleet.

Day 11:  Loth to Doll (yes, there is a place called Doll).  Caught the bus OK this time.  Mostly sunny today, which was good because much of the walk was along the beach near Brora Golf club.  Also passed Clynelish distillery, where they produce little-known but excellent whisky!  Enjoyed a folk music gathering in the Novar Arms in the evening - almost 20 local musicians, led by Mike, playing a vast range of instruments.  Good fun, pretty accomplished and very friendly.

Day 10:  Planned to park in the lay-by near Loth and catch the bus to Helmsdale - but I missed the bus!  So I drove to Helmsdale, did the walk, then flagged a bus down at the end to retrieve the minibus.  Camped at the Black Rock site in Evanton and ate at the Novar Arms Hotel most evenings of this week.  Met a music teacher called Mike in the pub - also some other campers who knew an organist from Ripon!

Start of Stretch 2: (15-29 October)

End of Stretch 1: (1-9 October) 54 miles, which is more than 1/20th of the whole thing!  Not a bad start.  Most amazingly, we hardly encountered any rain at all whilst walking – but plenty of it the rest of the time!  It was very warm and still to begin with but got progressively colder during the week, especially at night.  Quite a lot of wind, especially on Day 4.

Day 9:  Took both vehicles over to Helmsdale and left the Minibus in the pub car park.  Jane drove me back to the Badbea car park and I set off walking, while she wandered over a small rise and then down the cliff to see the historic Badbea Clearance Village.  Jane then drove to the top of the hill above Helmsdale (the “Ord of Caithness”) and walked back to meet me.  After a snack in the car, she drove on to Helmsdale and I wandered down the long hill to the pub to meet her for a bite to eat.  Then we set off for the long drive home, nearly falling asleep before coffee at the House of Bruar, getting lost on the Perth ring-road, just making it to Annandale Services for more coffee – and finally getting home at about 11.30pm.

Day 8:  Drove both vehicles over to the very pretty village of Berriedale, left Jane’s car and brought the Minibus back to Castle Hill Farm.  We both walked to Berriedale, had a snack at the car and then we both walked up the big hill towards Helmsdale.  At the top, Jane walked back down to get the car and I carried on for a couple more miles before she met me at the Badbea car park.  Then we picked up the Minibus on the way back to Dunbeath.  Had a look at the harbour, showered and changed, then to the “Bay Owl” for our last night in Dunbeath.  Raised another £13 in donations from the locals.  Such a friendly pub and such generous people – certainly worth a visit!

Day 7:  Jane drove me to Latheron Wheel and we both walked back to the camp site at Dunbeath.  I then took her back in the Minibus to collect the car and, after a brew, I carried on for another 3 miles (up the hill) to Castle Hill Farm, where Jane picked me up.  Called in at the village shop and at the “Bay Owl” for a quickie, then chilled out for the rest of the afternoon.  The usual good food and chit-chat at the pub in the evening.

Day 6:  Jane drove me to Lybster and I set off walking while she did some shopping.  Later, she joined me for a bit of the walk and then rescued me from the rain just as I was coming into Latheron Wheel.  We then drove back up to Ulbster and found the Whaligoe Steps – one of NE Scotland’s hidden treasures!  Superb coastal scenery, spectacular steep steps (360 of them) down to a secluded cove – and a superb café at the top.  A real “must” to visit if you are ever in the area!  Refreshed (and knackered from the climb) we then drove up to look at Duncansby Head, had a coffee at JOG, then drove on West, passed the Castle of Mey and Dunnett Bay to Thurso.  Had great fish & Chips from “Robin’s” and then went to a concert at Thurso High School.  Organised by Thurso Live Music Association, this featured Arisa Fujita (violin) and Sam Haywood (piano) playing Bach, Brahms and Beethoven.  Excellent programme, very well played – and we had a good chat with various members of the committee and audience as well as with Sam.  A good audience too but, sadly, no young people at all – and we discovered that there isn’t even a music teacher at Thurso High School, which is disgraceful.  Too late to go to the pub when we got back to Dunbeath.

Day 5:  Took the Minibus to Lybster, then caught the Bus to Ulbster and walked back to Lybster.  I tried to find the famous Whaligoe Steps at Ulbster but couldn’t – so I just got on with the walk, finishing where I’d parked the minibus – at the Portland Arms in Lybster.  A grand old Hotel, with friendly staff and an amazing “ballroom” – but they don’t have many concerts there!  However, I did meet a real character called Marcus Moon – a local crofter who is also a songwriter, singer, guitarist and horse-lover.  Drove back to Dunbeath and enjoyed yet another meal and good “crack” in the “Bay Owl”.  Jane had left Ripon late afternoon and she arrived at about 11.30.  A warmer night!

Day 4:  The wind was blowing a hooly from the south today so I got a bus to Ulbster and walked the stage from there to Wick “backwards”, then got the bus back to Dunbeath.  Another good meal and great evening in the bar of the “Bay Owl” – meeting amateur guitarist Ben (from Spean Bridge).  Generous donations from Ben and other locals raised £25 (plus free sandwiches from landlord Trevor!).

Day 3:  I was now on my own.  I walked from the camp site into Wick and did some shopping, then hitched a lift to Reiss and walked the short stage back to the camp site – picked up the Minibus and drove south to a new camp site at Dunbeath (Inver Camp Site – very good spot!).  That evening I also discovered the “Bay Owl” – a superb pub and restaurant in Dunbeath, with great views and very friendly people.

Day 2:  Andras had to drive home in the evening so he spent most of the day filming and I did the stage on my own.  Nybster to Keiss (pie for elevenses) then on to Reiss.  Andras picked me up and we went to look at the beach of Sinclair Bay and a couple of nice castles and harbours.  Back to the camp site at Wick and then Andras set off home.  3 hours later he rang me to tell me he’d left his computer in the Minibus – 3 hours later he was back to collect it – and I think he got home at about 4am.

Day 1:  We (Andras & I) began on Saturday 1 October at John O’Groats, having driven up the day/night before.  JOG is a bit of a dump but good coffee at the café – then we slogged it up the road.  The first stage is surprisingly hilly but we made it in good time to Nybster, where we’d left a car in the school car park.  We went back to collect the Minibus and called in at the Sea View Hotel, where you can register to join the “JOG-LE Club”.  The service was appalling and it cost £1.50 to register – so we just walked out and drove back to the camp site at Wick and a pint and some Haggis, Neaps & Tatties at Weatherspoons (friendly service and good value!).  There was going to be some “live music” that evening but, in spite of my determination to be open-minded, the racket was so hideous that we left as soon as it started!

Start of Stretch 1: (1-9 October)