Scottish Coast • Day 18 • St Cyrus Nature Reserve to Inverbervie

St Cyrus Nature Reserve to Inverbervie
Monday 20 June 2022

15.38km • 5h 30min (including a long beer break in Gourdon)
lowest: -2m • highest: 63m • total ascent 300m

See the route on OS Maps

Despite the lovely setting and fair weather, I slept poorly. I wonder if I’ll ever consistently sleep well in a tent or if this cycle of a few nights of exhaustion leading to one night of sleeping like the dead and then back to insomnia will ever end. I hope so, but I suspect not.

It had been too cloudy in the middle of the night to see any stars, but I did watch the lighthouse and the random lights out at sea for a bit. A few hours later I woke up way too early, but at least to the sound of the sea and the birds. If you have to have a terrible night’s sleep, I recommend doing it on an obscenely beautiful beach.

I took the tent down and brought everything out to the sand to make tea and eat breakfast. There were already dog walkers about at 6.30am. I put my feet in the sea and debated going for a swim. I really wanted to, but I was incredibly tired and there were a ton of massive dead Lions Mane jellyfish around, so I decided I didn’t have the energy for a potential nasty sting first thing in the morning.

I headed up the steep path at the northern end of the beach already very aware of the massive blister on the bottom of my foot. At the top of the cliff, there was a sign about the path being closed and dangerous. I wish I’d risked it because I was later told by a local it was definitely fine, especially in good weather, and it was a gorgeous, dry day. Going out to the road was a bit soul (and foot) destroying. I think I missed quite a nice bit of coast, and if it got hairy I could have always turned back. But low energy really impacts your risk-assessment capabilities, so I opted for the road and got it over with as quickly as possible before cutting back down a farm track. It was a relief to be along the sea again.

A bit after the caravan park I had a chat with a guy out walking his dog (the one who told me I’d have been fine on the cliffs). He thought it was a shame that the cycle route is in way better shape than the paths are. I then hobbled on towards Johnshaven where nothing was open but the public loos. So no coffee and cake for me. I had a snack and pushed on to Gourdon. It was a long, shadeless path, but the sea was glittering. I took it very slow. I was covered up as much as possible to protect myself from the sun. I already had some crazy bits of sunburn. I suspect I looked like an absolute wreck.

When I got to Gourdon, the Harbour Bar pub was happily open. Not serving food yet, but crisps and a pint were in order, as I had some decisions to make. I sat outside in the shade and took a very long break debating what to do. The original plan was to camp in Inverbervie that night, then on to Stonehaven and Aberdeen in the next two days. I already knew I wouldn’t make it to Aberdeen in that time, but the problem was that the next day was a rail strike day, so if I stopped in Stonehaven I’d either have to stay the night or take a very long coach back to Edinburgh. My foot was also not voting for another mile, let alone another day. I deliberated for far too long. I still needed to walk the rest of the way to Inverbervie regardless, so I decided to decide on the way based on what my blister was shouting at me.

I had a brief amble around the harbour in Gourdon first because it was very nice and had a cool free library box, then I continued on the very sunny path to Inverbervie. It wasn’t very much further, but between the direct sunlight and the total exhaustion, I decided to head home once I made it there. It was a hard decision to make, especially because I knew making it to Stonehaven would have made it much easier to pick back up again. But there’s no use destroying myself for the sake of it.

I caught a bus back to Montrose from the high street in Inverbervie and booked myself onto the next train to Edinburgh. It turned out that first class was only about £10 extra because it was another LNER train, so I treated myself and had hot food, wine, and a brownie as part of the deal.

When I got back to Edinburgh I went straight to Boots to get a pile of aftercare for my sunburn and blisters and dried-to-fuck hands. Then I ended up walking all the way down the hill once again because the buses were so diverted from the tram works that it would have taken longer to find one and wait. It’s amazing what you can get yourself to do when you know your bed is at the end of it.

I didn’t plan on it being so long before I went back to pick the walk back up, but a few days after I got back, Covid finally got me. Then I had quite a busy summer with fun stuff, an intense few months of work running up to Christmas, and a long trip to the US. Since then it’s been bloody freezing. I was supposed to be doing the next bit right now as I finish writing this, but I’ve moved it to April because less than two weeks ago, it was snowing and bitter and horrible.

The route is much further away now so it takes more time and planning to get back. I’ve also (hopefully) learned a bit more about pacing and listening to the sensible voice in my head that tells me to get on with the Compeed. In any case, I miss the walking and I miss the sea, and I hope to have at least 2-3 trips this year.

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