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The Penny rolls through Caithness


By David G Scott

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CHARITY walker Karen Penny has gone through six pairs of boots on her mammoth charity walk around the British Isles and will probably wear out a few more by the time she finishes.

In her bid to raise awareness of Alzheimer's disease the selfless 55-year-old pushed on through to Caithness from Durness last week and is currently in Orkney before returning to the county and travelling down the east coast.

While in the county she was joined by various local people and even a TV celebrity who was visiting on a filming assignment.

Two well-wishers joined Karen for part of her four-year walking challenge. From left, Angela Williamson, Karen Penny and Isobel Mackay.
Two well-wishers joined Karen for part of her four-year walking challenge. From left, Angela Williamson, Karen Penny and Isobel Mackay.

Isobel Mackay and Angela Williamson run bespoke tours in Caithness through their company Above and Beyond Tours (ABT) and were there to greet Karen as she crossed the county line from Sutherland.

Isobel said: "We also walked with Karen from Castletown to Dunnet Head and arranged for friends to accompany her on other parts of her journey. Andrew Mackay, owner of the Castletown Hotel, put her up for the night."

While walking together the trio of women met TV presenter Ben Fogle by chance on Dunnet beach and Isobel managed to get a snap of Karen with him.

Karen said she was delighted with the local hospitality and remarked how friendly the Caithness folk were.

Karen met Kenneth McElroy of the Caithness Broch Project and got a short history lesson on the ancient towers.
Karen met Kenneth McElroy of the Caithness Broch Project and got a short history lesson on the ancient towers.

She also met up with Kenneth McElroy from Caithness Broch Project thanks to the ABT women who made every endeavour to show Karen the highlights of the county.

Karen says she is on "the adventure of a lifetime" – a continuous walk circumnavigating the 19,000 miles of the British and Irish coastline, and 20 of the largest islands.

"It's a feat never achieved by a woman, least of all by one on the wrong side of 50," she said.

"Basically, I set out a year ago on January 14 from my home in Wales and just walked out the front door. There was a lot of media coverage with BBC, ITV and Sky when I set off."

She says she is trying to avoid walking along main roads but sometimes it is necessary.

"I was about two miles out on the way to Dounreay the other day, during that horrendous weather, and you have no idea how many people stopped and asked if I wanted a lift."

There is a huge flag attached to her backpack with "Alzheimer's Research" written on it.

Karen met TV presenter Ben Fogle while walking in Caithness.
Karen met TV presenter Ben Fogle while walking in Caithness.

"Many people have preconceptions about dementia, and often it is only when someone is personally affected that they begin to find out about it," she said.

Dementia has had a huge impact on Karen herself as she has lost two close family members to the disease.

​"I am devoting the next four years of my life, leaving family and friends and my cat Bilbo behind me, to raise a target of £100,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK."

Karen says she welcomes people to join her for part of the walk or just come and say hello.

Her charity page for donations is www.justgiving.com/Thepennyrollson


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