We are starting today by heading a few miles north back in to Scotland (they can’t keep us away). We will then spend most of the day continuing our drive back in England, along the Northumberland coast before ending the day in Newcastle.
Photo of the day
The Tour of Britain Cycle Race arriving in Bamburgh.
Starting our day just north of the Scottish border at the quiet fishing village of St Abbs.
Rocky views past St Abbs Harbour.
English & Scottish border
Crossing the border back into England.
The Royal Border Bridge spanning the River Tweed. The railway viaduct was opened by Queen Victoria in 1850.
I remember these parking discs as a kid, and didn’t realise they were still in use.
The simple but neat lighthouse at the end of the Berwick-upon-Tweed breakwater.
Crossing over the causeway to Lindisfarne (AKA The Holy Island).
We better be quick, in fifteen minutes the tide is coming in, and we won’t be able to get back to the mainland until the evening.
In case you get stranded as the tide returns, there’s a handy refuge hut to escape the rising tides. Your car might get a bit wet though.
Tour of Britain Cycle Race (coming into Bamburgh)
As we drove along the country lanes towards Bamburgh we suddenly found ourselves on the Tour of Britain Cyle Race route. A complete surprise. Perfect timing.
So we parked up on the verge, a few minutes later the police and race marshals arrived…
…quickly followed by the ‘Eye in the Sky”…
… then the race leaders came charging through….
…followed by the main group. Ten minutes later we were back on the road again after this nice little interlude.
Stunning views over the freshly plowed fields to the huge Bamburgh Castle.
And even more impressive close up.
The Farne Islands
Just passed Bamburgh Castle, the view over to The Farne Islands and Inner Farne Lighthouse. The islands are famous for their seals and wide variety of seabirds.
Kite Surfing on Beadnell Beach.
Embleton & Newton Links
Jarno doing some more beach graffiti at the National Trust managed Embleton & Newton Links. In the distance you can also spot Dunstanburgh Castle.
A little bit of colour as rain clouds rolled in over Craster Harbour.
Dunstanburgh Castle that we had seen earlier from Embleton & Newton Links. Now viewed from the south, walking across the fields from Craster. A bit hazy due to the rain…
The seat of the Duke of Northumberland, at our final castle of the day, Alnwick Castle, just outside the picturesque market town of Alnwick.
The tiny Coquet Island and its lighthouse viewed from Amble Beach.
Low Hauxley Beach. Just a bit further along the beach a two-hundred meter long ancient forest has been uncovered by the sea cutting through the sand dunes.
An interestingly arty and industrial coastline as the light faded passing through Blyth.
St Mary’s Lighthouse
St Mary’s Lighthouse across another causeway, at Whitley Bay.
Ending the day with delicious fish tacos on the beach at Riley’s Fish Shack. We then headed inland to Newcastle for the night.
We started today by heading back east to the coast at Crail, as we’d run out of sunlight yesterday evening after leaving St Andrews. From Crail we then looped back west along the coast, crossing the Firth of Forth before continuing along the coastline to Berwick upon Tweed.
Photo of the day
A telescope at North Berwick.
A quiet Sunday morning on Crail seafront.
Fishing boats gathered in Pittenweem Harbour.
A modern lighthouse on the headland at Elie Ness.
A statue of Alexander Selkirk mounted on a house in Lower Largo, the inspiration behind Robinson Crusoe.
Colourful bollards on the Lower Largo seafront.
Just outside Kirkcaldy, the quaint Dysart.
And an interesting coastal art installation by Donald Urquart just by the harbour. The 9 huge vertical beams painted to represent the colour of the sea under different light.
Yep, no idea either, but we seemed to be enjoying ourselves at Historic Scotland’s Aberdour Castle.
We weren’t sure what this building was on the terraced gardens that lead down to the castle orchard. Anyway, it turned out to be an unusual beehive shaped doocot.
And inside the doocot, looking to the sky.
Firth of Forth Bridges
Crossing over the Forth Road Bridge. It was really busy, with lots of police and tourists around, then we realised it was the opening week of the new Queensferry Crossing bridge.
From South Queensferry, looking back to the Forth Road Bridge, and the new Queensferry Crossing behind.
The Queen would be visiting to officially open the new bridge tomorrow. In the meantime the bridge was open for pedestrians to cross.
And the equally impressive Forth Rail Bridge sitting opposite the other two bridges. OK, enough bridges for the day…
Royal Yacht Britannia
As we skirted around the north of Edinburgh we decided to make a stop at the Royal Yacht Britannia, one of the highlights of our day.
In service from 1954 to 1997, and now kept as a museum piece. A fascinating insight into the royal life on the seas.
The Royal Roller kept on board for visits to local Kings and Queens.
Having a royal beer in the royal pub with the royal corgi. Love the bar name 😉
So The Queen likes a game of Operation! Good for her.
Royal washing machines in the royal launderette.
North Berwick in the shadow of the Law hill. A lovely little town and harbour.
Colourful doors in the harbour boatyard.
A handy telescope to view Bass Rock, 3 miles out to sea in the outer part of the Firth of Forth.
White from bird life. Thousands of gannets visit the island every year, and as many as 150,000 in high season! Poor lighthouse, bet that needs repainting quite a bit!
We tried to zoom in, this is about as close as we could get. You can just about make out the thousands of gannets hogging every bit of the island and circling in the sky.
The red sandstone Tantallon Castle, as we drove east out of North Berwick.
Another regular along our trip, every few days passing a coastal power station. This time Torness Nuclear Power Station, peeping over the blurred fields as we drove past along the A1 to the Scottish border and Berwick upon Tweed.
Wow, another beautiful day in Scotland. We will spend the morning in Aberdeen, before following the coastline down to Dundee, then across to St Andrews, before cutting slightly inland for the evening at Glenrothes.
Photo of the day
Scurdie Ness Lighthouse.
Exploring some street sculptures in Aberdeen centre, here the trumpet like ‘The Listener’.
The Scottish knight Sir William Wallace, with the dome of St. Mark’s Church in the background.
St. Mary’s Cathedral, a service was in progress, so we didn’t go in.
Jarno viewing his empire. OK, just checking out the view over Aberdeen and the River Dee from Torry Point Battery.
A ship leaving the bustling Aberdeen Harbour past the South Breakwater.
And the same ship in the distance as we drove south along the coast road out towards Cove. A road, railway line and footpath all following the same coastal route out of Aberdeen.
The remains of the medieval Dunnottar Castle perched on near vertical cliffs over the North Sea. It was super busy this Saturday lunchtime. As we had a long way to travel still, we didn’t stay long, continuing on towards Stonehaven.
The almost perfect arc of Catterline Bay, with Todd Head Lighthouse peeking over the headland in the far distance.
Just past Montrose we parked up at Ferryden, then walked along the South Esk River to the old nautical navigation beacons.
Then around the corner we arrived at Scurdie Ness Lighthouse.
As we walked along we were followed by a pod of dolphins playing in the South Esk.
They seemed to be having great fun.
Checking out the remains of Arbroath Abbey. We’ve really had our fair share of castle, cathedral and abbey remains along this trip 😉
Arbroath Signal Tower Museum on the sea front.
The McManus, Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum.
A cartoonish character in a funny hat, and Desperate Dan.
The evening light on St Andrews’ Castle (yes, another ruin).
As it was late in the day, the castle was now closed, so we wandered around the outside of the castle and the charming St Andrew’s lanes.
All was quiet, now that most of the tourists had left for the day.
A typical stone cottage on the way back to our car. Next stop Glenrothes for the night.
The weather was superb for day twenty-seven of our trip, what a difference a bit of blue sky and sunshine makes (especially for the pictures). We made full use of our Historic Scotland membership today too, saving quite some cash on the three of their properties we visited.
Photo of the day
Rolling fields of golden wheat in the late afternoon Scottish sunlight.
Our first Historic Scotland visit of the day at the 12th century Elgin Cathedral. Some great exhibitions in the towers, quite a labyrinth of passageways up steep stone stairs.
Looking down on part of the remains from the lookout at the top of Spynie Palace.
Yay, more lighthouses today, starting at Covesea Skerries Lighthouse, just west of Lossiemouth.
Good timing, we were just getting hungry when we spotted Baxters visitors centre on the map!
A mug of Baxters soup for lunch, despite it being a lovely day (not really soup weather really), we had to try the local delicacy.
The Mannie statue of a fisherman by Correna Cowie….
… keeping careful watch over Findochty Harbour.
Views west over the rugged coastline from Portknockie.
Canoeists dwarfed by Bow Fiddle Rock, which looked more like an elephants head if you ask us.
Hundreds of seagulls picking between the pebbles on Cullen Beach.
The quiet harbour at Portsoy, apparently often used for filming and commercials.
A jumping dolphin sculpture by the artist Carn Standing in the harbour.
The impressive Duff House at Banff. Again we seemed to pick a good time to visit. We were the only visitors this afternoon, so we had the helpful Historic Scotland guides all to ourselves.
Just a little taste of the restored interiors. Actually there was a fab Picasso on display (Les Soles, 1940), but sadly no pictures allowed (other than personal use), so Google it 😉
The views over the golden fields near Silverford (along the B9031), breathtaking in the late afternoon sunlight.
So we ended up taking just a ‘few’ pictures, here are a selection…
The locales enjoying the fresh hay bales.
And a solitary wind turbine, nature and technology in harmony.
The tiny fishing village of Crovie clinging to the waters edge. No space for cars, just a small access path along the front.
Then just a little further along at Pennan, we could make it down the tiny coastal lane into the village, just.
No back gardens, so everything happens on the seafront….
..including hanging out the washing.
The phone box made famous by the film ‘Local Hero’ (staring Burt Lancaster), actually we haven’t seen the film.. but will do now.
Another dove house, we seem to be making a habit of this.
Two lighthouses at Fraserburgh’s Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, one old and one new.
And a collection of disused brightly painted Buoys.
Our final stop of the day, as we tried to get closer to Rattray Head to view the lighthouse. However, the track became increasingly narrow and bumpy and we weren’t sure if we were now on someone’s private drive. So we took some photos, somehow managed a U turn in the tightest of spaces, then continued our drive down to Aberdeen.
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.