A day full of contrasts as we drove south from Invergordon to Elgin, again a beautiful coastline, but dotted with off-shore oil & gas rigs. We would have loved to have seen the coastline prior to the North Sea oil & gas finds, but appreciate it also greatly supports the locally economy (clearly evident).
Photo of the day
The local birdlife taking advantage of the freshly mown fields near Boath Doocot.
A typical sight along this coastline, oil and gas rigs, set against the rolling Scottish coastline and countryside.
Storehouse of Foulis
Synchronising watches old school style at the busy Storehouse of Foulis. A local museum, shop and restaurant (busy for breakfast).
The Cromarty Lighthouse, no longer working, and now used by the University of Aberdean as a field station for the University’s School of Biological Science.
And as we walked around the quaint little streets of Cromarty, we came across this bush full of life with tens of butterflies…
…and busy bees.
Hugh Miller’s Cottage, the birthplace of the Scott famous for his early geology, writing and social justice. The cottage, museum and garden is maintained by the National Trust for Scotland. It was very quiet, we seemed to be the only visitors this morning.
Pottering around the Cromarty streets.
The view over Cromarty Firth, again such a contrast from the idyllic Cromarty.
How cool is this?! Never seen one of these before, an egg vending machine on road side. Looked a bit like Febo – the Dutch will understand ;-).
Pop your money in, and pick-up some fresh eggs.
Heading over to the Moray Firth, and crossing yet another golf course, we arrived at Chanonry Point. Seemed to be super busy for a lighthouse. Then we realised that everyone was waiting to spot Bottlenose Dolphins, and sure enough they turned-up, check-out the video at the bottom of the blog. One of the best viewing places in the world!
The remains of Fortrose Cathedral, at its peak, twenty-one Canons and five vicars served here.
The chapter house at Fortrose Cathedral, the only section that was still in one piece.
Inverness was a bit of a surprise to us, on the map it looks so remote, but when we arrived we could have been in any decent sized bustling British market town. Julian got a haircut, then we had a quick look at the castle. We stocked up on socks (35 days on the road requires a lot of socks!) and sunglasses for Julian, replacing a pair lost somewhere in the highlands (yay – no more squinting in selfies). We contemplated heading inland to go Loch Ness Monster spotting, but then decided to not get distracted and keep to the coastline…
A drawbridge at the huge Fort George. Unfortunately we arrived just before closing, and as it is still a working army base they were strict on closing times, so we made do with our own tour around the perimeter grounds.
So many walls!
Looking back over the Morray Firth to the crowds gathered at Chanory Point, on the lookout for Bottlenose Dolphins.
To be honest, not the most interesting thing, but along our route to Elgin so we made a quick stop. A dove house atop a 12th century castle (now just a mound).
But great views over the fields south of Nairn.
Today we will drive 107 miles on our journey along the North Sea down to the Dornoch and Cromarty Firths. Probably one of our shorter journeys, but still we have a lot to see, so let’s hit the road!
Photo of the day
A patient chauffeur, waiting at Dunrobin Castle.
The sun rising in the sky over the cosy Lybster Harbour.
Views south from Latheron along the rugged coast to Dunbeath Bay.
Laidhay Croft Museum
We stopped by the Laidhay Croft Museum (keys from the coffee shop next door). Absolutely packed with antiques and household goods from the crofting era.
All that remains from this tiny clearance village at Badbea.
The unspoiled views over the cliffs out to the North Sea. Fine on a calm day like today, but must have been rough living at the top of these cliffs on a stormy day.
The church tower peeping through the tree tops in Helmsdale.
The Scottish coast was littered with Golf courses, all with stunning views.
An amazingly well preserved Iron Age broch at Carn Liath (a round house), just a couple of minutes north of Dunrobin Castle.
The extravagant Dunrobin Castle, the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland.
The impressive French influenced gardens viewed from the castle.
We stopped by a fun falconry display in the garden.
Patiently waiting for Cruella De Vil in the castle car park.
What a great idea at Dornoch Beach, encouraging visitors to a 2 minute beach litter clean. Dornoch itself was a beautiful village. Clearly the locals were looking after the area.
After all the yellow and white lighthouses we’d seen along our coastal road trip, it was refreshing to find a lovely red and white stripey one at Tarbat Ness! 😉
Driving along the coast of the Seaboard villages we arrived at the Mermaid of the North atop ‘Clach Dubh’ (black rock) at Balintore.
On our way to Invergordon for the evening, hazy evening views across the countryside near Arabella. Wind turbines became a really familiar sight whether on land or off shore along our journey.
Great weather on day twenty-four as we set-off to the most northeasterly point of Britian. Plenty of lighthouses and a few castles along the way.
Photo of the day
Castle of Mey, previously the Queen Mother’s Scottish pad.
After heading east out of Bettyhill we made our first stop of the day at Armadale, where we found this small bay hidden at the end of a farm track beyond Reismeave. There was a winch and basket down to the bottom of the steep cliffs, we assumed for fishing.
At the top of the cliff there were these great masts, at first we thought it was some kind of radio aerial, then we realised they were for hanging and drying the fishing nets.
First of many lighthouses today at Strathy Point.
Actually, no longer a working lighthouse, but holiday lets.
The view back west along the coast towards Armadale Bay.
Very choppy waters!
Waves crashing against the rocks.
At Strathy Beach the waters were calm, quite a contrast from the rough waters around the corner at Strathy Point.
A small quiet cove at the far end of Portskerra.
We were going to stop at Sandside Beach for a picnic, and wondered why no one else was around…
… then we got some clues from this sign, we moved on.
St Mary’s Chapel
The 12th century St Mary’s Chapel on top of cliffs near Crosskirk.
The remains of a windmill at the Castlehill Flagstone Trail, with Dunnet Head in the background.
So we’ve visited the most westerly point of mainland Britain at Ardnamurchan Point, and now we’re at the most northerly point at Dunnet Head. Plus another Lighthouse as a bonus!
On the way back to the main road we caught these views looking east towards Scarfskerry.
Castle of Mey
A royal stop on our tour! Castle of Mey, previously owned by The Queen Mother as one of her private residences. Fascinating to look around. Although grand, it also felt surprisingly homely with many grandma type knick-knacks here and there. The guides were great, very enthusiastic and informative, clearly they were very proud to work there.
Lots of colour in the walled garden
Full of blooming flowers.
Such tourists! Yay, made it to John o’Groats in the northeastern corner of Scotland. To Jarno’s delight, named after a Dutchman John de Groot.
Just a few miles east of John o’Groats, we arrived at Duncansby Head Lighthouse. In the distance you can see Muckle Skerry, with the Pentland Skerries High and Low Lighthouses. Three lighthouses in one picture, bargain!
Then looking back south we could see over to the spectacular Stacks of Duncansby.
We spotted Ackergill Tower whilst looking for Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. Now a hotel, but looked very neat on the waters edge so stopped for a quick photo.
Our final lighthouse of the day at Noss Head, just north of Wick.
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
Just to the west of Noss Head, we took a short hike down a track to the remains of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. Actually two castles (15th and 17th century) merged into one. Perched precariously on rocks over Sinclair Bay, it was great that we could ramble around the remains, but it did somehow feel that it might collapse at any minute!
A final look back at Castle Sinclair Girnigoe as the sun started to set, before continuing on to Wick and then Lybster for the night.
We got up early today to catch the small passenger ferry across the Kyle of Durness, and then on to Cape Wrath via minibus. However, due to poor weather, the ferry was not operating today. So we’ll have to leave that adventure for another trip 😉 As we now had an extra half day on our hands, we decided to continue our journey to Bettyhill, arrive early and have a well deserved afternoon relaxing.
Photo of the day
The empty A838 over the Moine.
Well that’s where we were meant to be sailing on the ferry to the other side of the Kyle of Durness. You can just about make out the ferry landing through the rain… if not, use your imagination.
Not sure why we are looking so happy, actually we were a bit gutted that we couldn’t visit Cape Wrath today.
The beaches were again remarkable, fine sand, clear waters, just a shame it was a bit cold and wet for August!
And just a minute or two east of Sango Beach we arrived at Ceannabeinne Beach, equally beautiful (and rainy).
Photo of Jarno filming a phone box… OK, so there wasn’t so much to see.
A great view looking down on Ard Neakie in Loch Eriboll, connected to the mainland by a sand spit.
As we drove across the Moine along the A838 the land became quite flat all of a sudden. If you look carefully you can see some coloured bags to the left of the road. It turns out this was a peat bog, and peat was being dug and bagged.
A shipwreck along the Melness Coast at Talmine Bay. The Kyle of Tongue and the Rabbit Islands in the background.
And yet another beach cow… this is getting weird. She didn’t look too impressed to see us.
Across on the east side of the Kyle of Tongue we tried to find our way to Castle Varrich, but without a detailed map, and no mobile reception we struggled. As we’d already had our fair share of castles over the last few weeks, we decided to move on.
Yay! Suns out again as we reached Bettyhill and Torrisdale Bay.
Just east of Bettyhill we found the Strathnaver Museum, housed in the old parish church. A great little place full of local artifacts and explanations about the clearances, with friendly helpful volunteers on hand.
And the view from our Bettyhill hotel as the sun set over Torrisdale Bay.
Today we are driving up to Durness, as far northwest as you can get by car on the British mainland, and we’re probably going to some of the most remote areas of our road trip so far.
Photo of the day
Heading past Locha Chairn Bhain on the scenic B869.
The intriguing Globe rock sculpture by Joe Smith at Knockan Crag. Just down the path behind us there was also an excellent information hut explaining about the geology and history of the area.
Jarno managing a straight selfie photo… finally 😉 Behind us the ruins Ardvrek Castle on Loch Assynt, originally the 15th century seat of the MacLeods of Assynt.
How cool is this?! Can’t imagine there are many fish delivery trucks painted like this.
A cute little red house near Rhicarn.
One big surprise as we drove north were the beautiful clean white beaches, with crystal clear waters. Clachtoll Beach was typical of the many beautiful beaches we saw.
In the beach car park the jaw and skull of a Fin Whale that had got stranded on Raffin Beach in 2007.
There maybe trouble ahead.
I’m not sure who was more concerned, us or the cows, anyway the road ended up being (just) wide enough for all of us.
Stoer Lighthouse, and it was for sale! Interesting…
The steep cliffs below Stoer Lighthouse.
Locha Chairn Bhain
The craggy coast around Locha Chairn Bhain and Eddrachillis Bay was stunning.
The snaking road continued alongside Locha Chairn Bhain then on to Unapool.
..and we did just that, on this bench by the road just above Unapool.
Bright green grass on these mini islands on Gleann Dubh near Kylesku.
Magnificent views back over the Assynt region (Norse for rocky ridge) to Quinag and Sail Ghorm.
The final stretch north to Durness as we passed Cranstackie. Despite the A838 being an ‘A’ road it was single track most of the way, reminding us that we really were in a remote location.
Kyle of Durness
Looking back along the Kyle of Durness from Keoldale.
At Keoldale we decided to stop and check out the ferry times to cross to Cape Wrath the following morning. But the ferry didn’t run today due to the weather, so we’ll be back in the morning to check if it is crossing then…
We carried on to Balnakeil Bay, and wow what a beach. Again we hadn’t imagined that the beaches would be so perfect or the water so clear, but it kind of makes sense seeing there are so few people to pollute them.
Then before stopping in Durness for the night we continued a little further east to Smoo Cave.
Inside Smoo Cave there was this little stand where tours could be arranged, but not today, again due to the weather.
However, despite no one being around, you could still enter the walkway into the first chamber…
… to view the Smoo Cave Waterfall. A nice little surprise to finish the day.
Day twenty-one will be full of lochs as we meander around Loch Gairloch, Loch Ewe, Gruinard Bay (not technically a loch, but almost), Little Loch Broom and finally Loch Broom.
Photo of the day
We ended yesterday with a sunset view from our room. Then this morning we woke to this beautiful view of Longa Island in Loch Gairloch.
Kicking the day off with a few more reflections along the road to Redpoint, first near Eilean Horrisdale.
Then these rather tired boats at Badachro, but still so picturesque.
Heading over to Poolewe passing the small Loch Tollaidh.
And another sinking boat…
Inverewe House in the Inverewe Garndens, now managed by the National Trust for Scotland (so we got our free entry). Actually this was the second house built here, the original burnt down in a fire just over 100 years ago.
We arrived just as it opened, nice and quiet, great, until a coach load of tourists arrived, fortunately there were plenty of garden paths for all to get lost in.
Flowers! Time for some close-ups.
Cove, at the the north western tip of the entrance to Loch Ewe, was littered with World War II Anti-Aircraft Battery. Although unsafe to enter, it’s amazing that the concrete of these batteries has lasted so long. Such a sharp contrast to their surroundings.
A secluded beach on a small peninsula along the road between Cove and Inverasdale.
Although many of the coastal roads in Scotland are single track (like the road between Poolewe and Cove), most have plenty of passing points, so we never had any problems.
A stream bubbling down to Gruinard Bay, with Gruinard Island in the background.
Views over Gruinard Bay and Jarno.
Before heading down into Corrieshalloch Gorge, we stopped to take in the very green views down the valley to Loch Broom.
Unfortunately the bridge over Corrieshalloch Gorge had been closed a few days earlier for safety reasons, so we couldn’t get to the main lookout point.
Trying to look down into the gorge… but we couldn’t see much.
Along the gorge path Mushrooms or maybe Toadstools?
We started the day with a bright blue sky, and ended the day with a bright blue sky! This was our view across Loch Broom as we sat on the pebble beach at Ullapool eating our fish and chip dinner.
A long drive today, about 150 miles, so we made an early start… and a good job we did. So much to see as we headed from the Isle of Skye back on the Scottish mainland.
Photo of the day
Slioch reflecting in Loch Maree
After first stopping at Glen Brittle Bay we headed back to the Fairy Pools, got on our waterproofs and headed out… we were going to get VERY wet in the driving rain.
Stepping stones along the hike to the the Fairy Pools.
I’m not sure what was wetter, us or the rocks.
Despite the pouring rain the tiers of waterfall were still hypnotising to watch.
Heading back on to the mainland we looped around Loch Carron on the A890, and managed a few pics at the South Strome picnic stop, before the clouds descended again.
Another waterfall along the side of the road, just past Loch Carron heading to Kishorn.
Pass of the Cattle
The start of the small windy road over the Pass of the Cattle (AKA Bealach na Bà), more waterfalls!
For the next hour our so the scenery was so dramatic, and the clouds somehow added to that.
Looking back down the east side of the Pass of the Cattle, you can see the road we had just come up, snaking its way down to Loch Kishorn in the distance.
Reached the viewpoint at the top. Today the only view was the thick dark clouds. Our fellow road trippers seemed to be mainly made up of motorbikers and people trying out their new sports cars, as we pootled along in our SUV.
And heading back down the west side towards Applecross and the Inner Sound.
Driving north from Applecross, Lonbain and Callakille the coastline turned flatter, with gentler slopes down to the sound.
As we drove along we could glimpse the east side of Raasay and South Rona (plus its lighthouse), and in the far distance The Isle of Skye that we’d only left this morning.
And the scenery changed again as the road hugged the steep mountainside near Kenmore…
…and more of Loch Torridon came into view. The roads were so so quiet too… lovely.
The calm bay of Ardheslaig.
Shieldaig was a surprise, with some smart properties and even a posh coffee shop (perfect timing for an afternoon pick-me-up).
We then headed inland to Loch Maree, as there was no way (by car) to continue along the coast at this point. Our journey inland took us straight through the heart of Glen Torridon and the magnificent Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. The area is know for wild cats and golden eagles, though we saw neither (maybe next time).
Time to reflect along Loch Maree.
Slioch towering over Loch Maree. I read after that this is a very typical calendar shot, and there we were thinking we had that one in a million shot… 😉
A tranquil evening at Gairloch Harbour.
We seem to get lucky with our hostal room views, this time sunset over Loch Gairloch.
Heading northwest on our second full day on the Isle of Skye today. Then looping up to the Waternish peninsula, across to Neist Point, before heading south to Glenbrittle and the Cuillin Hills.
Photo of the day
Views along Waternish Peninsula.
Views from Treaslane over to Loch Snizort. Love the tree shadow on the grass in the morning sun.
At the foot of the Waternish Peninsula with Loch Snizort in the distance.
The Fairy Bridge entering the Waternish Peninsula.
The odd burst of sunlight through the dark cloudy sky gave a moody feel to the landscape.
Another day, another castle! Since the 11th century Dunvegan Castle has been the seat of the chiefs of the Clan Macleod. Unfortunately not a National Trust for Scotland or Historic Scotland property so we had to pay for a look around.
A somewhat brutal looking castle, but impressive none the less.
The view from the castle down Loch Dunvegan.
In contrast to the rather grey castle the gardens were in full bloom…
…full of colourful flowers.
Thumbs up from Jarno at Neist Point. Despite the pouring rain we put on our waterproofs and hiked down to the lighthouse.
Dramatic views north.
Neist Point Lighthouse coming into view.
Looked good from a distance…
… but up close it was clearly in need of some love and care, and almost felt abandoned, despite it still being in use (operated remotely).
Lush green coastal valleys surrounding Loch Harport on the way south to Glenbrittle.
Wow, this was the view from our hostal room window for the night. No mobile signal or wifi … but who needs them when you have a view like that!
Today we’re doing a loop clockwise around the northern tip of the Isle of Skye. The weather will be on our side today too. So excited to start exploring the island.
Photo of the day
A shaggy coated Isle of Skye Highland Cow.
Views over Uig Bay and beyond to Loch Snizort.
Captain Fraser’s Folly (AKA Uig Tower), built as a show of wealth.. not for defence.
Towards the most southern tip of the Isle of Skye, we stopped by the fascinating Skye Museum of Island Life. A great introduction to croft living on the island, really well maintained with good explanations.
And the local sheep chilling in the sun (yes the sun came out!).
Views south from Duntulm Castle.
Duntulm Castle perched on the cliffs above Loch Snizort, previously the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacDonald of Sleat.
Exploring off the beaten track down hidden coastal lanes.
Stopping every minute to take yet another photo…
As we drove along the coast to Staffin, an old sailing ship was following us along the same route out at sea.
Staffin Bay, and the Sound of Raasay in the distance.
Another beach cow!
Kilt Rock Waterfall gushing over the pillars of rock that form this coastline. By this point we seemed to have hit a tourist hot spot, the busiest place on the island. Tourists like waterfalls….
And the view south over the cliffs that formed 55-61 million years ago!
The north east side of The Storr dramatically towering above a farm house.
Looking back to The Storr accross Loch Fada.
And a bit further south along the road some Highland Cows were kindly posing for photos.
Boats anchored in Portree Bay, with the Isle of Raasay in the background. As the sun has been out for most of the day we treated ourselves to our second ice cream of the road trip 😉
Glamaig, Sligachan & The Cuillin Hills
What a perfect way to end our first full day on the Isle of Skye. Stunning views towards Sligachan.
The A87 with the The Cuillin Hills in the background.
Sligachan Bridge and the cone like (from this angle) Glamaig.
And the final view of the day from Sligachan Bridge looking south to The Cuillin Hills.
Exciting day today. We’re on our way to the Isle of Skye, which we have wanted to visit for many years. But we’ll start the day heading west, before continuing north.
Photo of the day
So tranquil, along the road to the Aird of Sleat.
On our way to Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point on the British Mainland.
Quick photo stop.
And we arrived!
…and despite being literally on the edge of the land we could have charged our electric car (handy, if we had one).
Mingary Castle, we couldn’t visit as the ruin was under renovation.
Yay! Another lighthouse. Of course we couldn’t visit this most westerly point without dropping by on Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. The only Egyptian style lighthouse in the UK. This one was open to the public and had a small museum, we had a little look around before realising that we were meant to pay…
Driving back east we came to this little bay near Ardslignish, and look.. cows sunbathing on the beach.
Scottish cows do seem to enjoy the beach, well why not?
Beautiful views along the country lanes.
Doing a bit of marketing, however absolutely no one else around at the secluded beach near Ardtoe, so not sure who we were marketing too… 😉
Views down Loch Ailort. After a very quiet morning (which we loved), all of a sudden it started getting busier as we joined the rest of the road trippers heading to Mallaig to get the ferry over to the Isle of Skye.
Mallaig to Armadale
A bit of a chilly sail over to Armadale on the Isle of Skye.
But what dramatic scenery looking up the Sound of Sleat.
Aird of Sleat
Along the road to the Aird of Sleat, the most southerly point of the Isle of Skye.
Loving the Isle of Skye already, and only been here 15 minutes! Next stop Broadford for the first of 3 nights on the Isle of Skye.
In a hostal tonight, so we treated ourselves to baked beans on toast 😉