Of course, the lighthouse at Cape Wrath was a psychological beacon and a must reach for us, but a Pannier Tour is about the journey more than anything, so our arrival at the lighthouse was always going to be something of a non-event. Following a special morning at the bothy, originally woken by the roaming sheep (evidence of the ruined crofting hamlet in the bay still exists) and crashing waves, we were all far too content to not set off early doors, choosing to brew coffees and cook breakfast on the outside fire as we overlooked the sunlit Stack Clò Kearvaig. Eventually the four of us tore ourselves away from the special bothy location and finished riding the main track with the sun beaming behind us, sparkling blue ocean to our left, desolate moorland around us, and remotest of lighthouse complexes ahead of us. The lighthouse was designed and built in 1828 by Robert Stevenson, for the Lighthouse Commission who needed to signal such a significant point: the most north-westerly point on the British mainland and some of the most dramatic coastline / highest cliffs on the isles, some of which rise to 281m above sea level. The amazing Cape Track was originally built to serve the lighthouse and since, additions to the lighthouse complex – a Coastguard and Logging station for monitoring passing ships & cargos – have been built; both brutal structures that still survive yet lie derelict around the white lighthouse buildings.
Apart from the canteen-style cheese and pickle sandwiches, hot instant coffee, the fact they still served Wagon Wheels, and several interesting conversations with walkers who had just completed journeys along the Cape Wrath Trail, there wasn’t a lot to report from our vacuous end point and so we finished up at the Ozone Café and were all set out to honour our promise
to John (the ferryman) that we’d be back for a lift at 2.00pm. We liked John.
Landing back on the eastern shore of the Kyle of Durness meant we were effectively on the final leg back to Lairg, but we had one more off-road stretch in mind – heading off the main road and up into the Dionard Valley to find a spot to wild camp in the middle of nowhere on our last evening. We backtracked to Durness to stock up on a few supplies, including food and some firewood chunks, thanks to a local who understood our lust for a campfire and offered us some from his personal store. From there, we were back on the North Coast 500 route but, while clocking up some kms on the smooth tarmac, the grey skies rolled in and cast an eerie tone over the valley we were heading into; this was the Scotland I was more familiar with. After pursuing a modest campfire and good laugh in the drizzle, Will and I set ourselves for a no-less-enjoyable damp, chilly night in the bivvy bags whilst Jordan and Luke shared the relative luxury of the Hubba Hubba tent.
The adverse weather continued all night, and into the morning, so we struck camp quick****, and headed off early on the 80kms-ish ride back to Lairg for the train to Inverness, and ultimately our sleeper train back to London on Sunday night. With more time to spare, we would have taken in some of the forestry track detours, but the ‘direct’ route that hugged the loch shores still made for a special ride.
Back at Lairg station, we cracked open the bottle of Pannier Route Beer I had carried and saved for this moment. Boy did it taste good; even if it did signal that our journey was all but over…