As Scotland starts to emerge from just over 100 days of lockdown, the whole nation is looking forward to seeing more than their own four walls (or the local 5 mile area, as the COVID-19 lockdown guidelines have instructed).
From today, (3rd July 2020) the limited 5 mile distance to travel for recreation and leisure has been lifted and self catering accommodation (with no shared facilities) opens up, as part of the Phase 2 route map. However, rural areas are trying to balance the need to reopen, whilst protecting small and fragile communities which are two very difficult things to balance effectively.
However, I’m thinking that instead of heading to the shops, the best place for body, mind and soul to be is outside in the glorious Scottish countryside. Today I’m rounding up some of my favourite leisurely walks on the east coast of Caithness If you live further afield and you’re aching to visit this area or complete the North Coast 500, you can bookmark this post for when you’re ready to visit. The beauty of Scotland is that the scenery is going absolutely nowhere, and locals will be delighted to welcome you when there is a lower risk of COVID-19 infection to communities.
The first walk I’m sharing is actually well within my own 5 mile radius and one that I’ve enjoyed in all seasons – Newton Hill Croft, which is just south of Wick. A level gravel path winds around a newly planted community woodland, with wild flowers, a dipping pond and some wooden obstacles for kids to hop, skip and jump over.
Not open to the public is a lovely stone croft (it’s normally available to hire by the Friends of Newtonhill Woodland), but do take a look at the adjoining garden and allotment to see what’s growing. It’s a popular spot for dog owners as there is also a securely fenced field for canine pals to let off some steam.
Now we’re in height of Scottish summer (which let’s face it, can be a hit or a miss!), it’s hard not to want to take a long walk on a sandy beach, and the longest on this side of the county is Sinclair’s Bay, which sweeps between the communities of Keiss and Reiss, north of Wick.
Apart from at very high tide (check the tide times online!) you can walk along the sand (you can also walk on the dunes, but ensure you don’t disturb the golfers on the course which runs parallel to the beach. Views go across to Noss Head Lighthouse (read about my stay at the Lighthouse Keepers Cottage in January) and the 15th century Sinclair Girnigoe Castle.
The beach looks different every time we visit, with ever changing light and big sky formations. It’s one of our favourite places ever, and particularly so during these COVID-19 times!
A place that incorporates both inland and coastal aspects is Dunbeath Strath. There’s also some fun suspension bridges to cross, and historical elements too – a heritage trail which includes a short detour to Dunbeath Broch, and in the harbour, a statue commemorating local author Neil M Gunn who wrote popular Scottish novel The Silver Darlings. We went here one autumnal day and spotted fellow walkers harvesting hazelnuts but I am looking forward to going here over summer! Walk Highlands have a helpful walk guide for the Dunbeath Strath route, and you can just either add on the harbour section at the end, or park down at the harbour and start there.
Fore even more posts, check out this page for other ‘hidden gem’ walks in Caithness (and across the border into Sutherland) I have written about!
(Please keep up to date with the national COVID-19 guidelines as they are updated – you can do so on the Scottish Government website) and be responsible as you travel – keep the recommended 2 metre distance from others who are not part of your household, and wash or sanitise your hands as much as possible. Please also note the new compulsory instruction that from the 9th July, masks covering your nose and mouth should be worn within shops.