The penultimate evening of the walk was spent in Dunnet Bay, waiting for the rain to stop so that we could emerge from the tents and drink whisky on the sand, looking out to a misty silky sea, the line of the horizon indistinguishable as lone herons crossed the grey and lone fishermen drifted (first photo).
The final day began in bright sunshine and continued so as I felt myself walking faster and faster. It was a kind of involuntary reaction to the anticipation. We reached John O'Groats just after midday, in sun and with huge views of the Orkney Islands and Stroma, and seals in the bay. Photos by the sign were taken and after a good break the final mile and a half up to Duncansby Head felt like the proper and stunningly beautiful end it had promised to be. The Stacks of Duncansby were crystal clear surrounded by glimmering water and the sea birds circled to welcome us. We sat and watched the view, with whisky, and silently were grateful for being alive in that moment. No orcas unfortunately, even though I looked very hard!
Camping by the edge of the sea in JOG campsite we were treated to seals swimming about in the bay, a rainbow following a passing shower, lighthouses as the sun slowly sank and the most vivid colourful sunset.
And now we are in busy Moffat, half way back south. I am still trying to believe I walked over 1200 miles, in 81 days (that doesn't include rest days and injury days!). I've written a journal every night and maybe that will be written up more fully. There are thousands of photos. And more memories and people and gratitude. I have survived quite lightly, for which I am thankful! My feet are fine. My knees now keep me awake at night though! They're fine if I'm walking but otherwise the pain is pretty unbearable! And one day I may get the feeling back in my shoulders ...!
Having walked the length of Scotland and today travelled fast (ish) back south through it, it is still a place of mystery. We chose a slightly different route in the end to stay sane, and safe. But again and again I was silenced by the vast wildernesses.
To travel in slow motion over such a distance is to see places and people in a completely different light. I hope it's changed me, in good ways. And I hope one day soon I'll be able to put that into words.
I am also immensely grateful for the support of friends and family and for all those who have donated to BASR. I have had the freedom to do this, which in itself makes me more privileged than billions of people. And the people of Bethlehem and Palestine need solidarity more than ever. So, thank you.
For now, sleep, travel, and then life will become different again.