Of the three (known) campers, I’m the last to pack up and leave. But it doesn’t matter: today I will reach the coast and should do it comfortably, even in my enfeebled state. The day is pleasant, albeit grey and cloudy. It’s a little cooler than recently and I struggle to find the right clothing balance. I meander down the track and leave the main bulk of the forest behind. I’m now into farmland, and with this comes the connection to the outside world.
It’s a weird feeling when you finally let yourself acknowledge that you’re going to achieve a successful Crossing. Unwell as I am, it’s not a feeling that I would let myself even contemplate having until the last day. In fact I’m virtually in sight of the coast before I’ll let myself recognise I’m going to make it. The only question is how and when ? I scan the horizon and there ahead of me lies Stonehaven. A straightforward road walk away. Somewhere to the right lies Dunnottar, the finish point per my route card. Even though I can’t see it, and even allowing for being not 100%, I know I can get there in good time – too early indeed to set up camp there, as was my plan. I start to think in terms of not camping at Dunnottar and instead, finishing the walk and getting a B&B in Stonehaven.
This idea rapidly gathers force, and I use my newly acquired phone signal to see what’s available. A B&B is booked and paid for in minutes. Now as I set off again along the gorse-lined lanes, I think to myself ” Why do I need to go out of my way to Dunnottar and then walk to Stonehaven ? Why not just go straight for Stonehaven”. So this is what I do.
It’s early afternoon and I walk down the hill into Stonehaven, past where my B&B is and am soon standing on the shingle of the beach. Now it hits me that I’ve done it and last year definitely wasn’t a fluke. Although it’s not my first Crossing, the challenges I’ve faced this time around make it feel just as hard fought, if not more so.
So I go to dip my feet and get the thing formally finished.
I don’t linger long on the beach, as it’s not really beach weather, and retrace my steps back into the town centre and round to my B&B. In theory I’d have time to get to Montrose and even attend the dinner, but that’s really not my bag. Last year I found it too raucous and much preferred the more laid back nature of Friday. And I really don’t want raucous, I’m not really up to it. I settle for dinner in the Queens Hotel, which on entry appears a typical town centre Scottish pub. The barman reels of a list of horrendous McBeers, so I have cider, Swedish cider. I have low expectations of dinner. Imagine my surprise then…..
The duck is a surprise, but better yet is to come. The rhubarb cheesecake not only confounds the “Rhubarb Rule”** but is quite possibly the finest portion of cheesecake to ever pass my lips. It’s almost worth the walk across Scotland just for this.
I retire to my lodgings where Dunnottar Castle attempts to taunt me about where I could have been sleeping from the wall of my room. But I’m not having it – I sit back and congratulate myself on having made the right choices on this Crossing.
**The Rhubarb Rule states that any rhubarb dish will never live up to the promise of how it is described. ie. idea good, reality usually a disappointment.