It has been a long road to Cape Wrath, but this coming Sunday I will be – at long last – on the Cape to conclude my hike across Britain that started on the Pier at Bognor Regis on the 1st of May.
As far as I’ve been able to investigate by scrolling through searches on Google, Facebook and Twitter, I’ll be the first person ever to connect one end of The Bryson Line with the other on foot. There has been one other party, but they walked the equivalent of the Line’s length – at its core the same idea, but entirely differently executed. Coincidentally, both walks took place at the same time, but regrettably, no meet-and-greet took place – even when the opportunity, location-wise, arose – as the other party had apparently vowed to ignore the guy walking the other way.
Today I arrived in Durness on a 17-seater bus that runs once per day, the only passenger. The next three days (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) I’ll be walking sections of the void between the towns of Lairg and Durness before embarking on the ferry to Cape Wrath this coming Sunday. It’s the summer holiday, families are vacationing, and hotels in this area are scarce. That’s why I travelled ahead and will be going south on that little bus’ morning ride to cover said sections.
I stood on the coast today, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It was a weird sight: Britain ends. For almost 2.5 months I’ve been able to walk north, talk to people with a multitude of accents, see hills turn into mountains and become flat again; I’ve seen rivers and creeks raging and birds flying off in all directions; all the cities and villages on this landmass made it seem so big and important and worldly – but at the other end of it, it really was just an island. The hills become cliffs and drop into the ocean. Merciless.
All the while I’ve been taking notes and collected material for a book about Britain. Paul Theroux wrote in The Kingdom by the Sea that a foot journey like mine is merely a travel stunt, as the foot traveller is looking at his feet and not around at the landscape. I felt he was right on many days, but also that he was totally wrong on so many others. And since nobody wants to read about a trip verbatim, it’s up to me to craft a fine travel story out of all these wonderful experiences.
With the Brexit being on the news almost daily, the slowly transforming landscape, my many encounters with the British (from being given the finger for walking on the side of the road to being given a hug for taking on the challenge of walking across Britain), the historic sites I’ve visited, misleading tour guides and distrusting locals, the mental journey, and the many anecdotes, the material is plentiful and very promising. The title is probably going to be In Britain: The Long Path to Cape Wrath.
But first I’ll need to get there.