Day 4, 04 July 2016 – Inverness – Durness
I started my NorthCoast 500 tour in a cloudy Inverness and headed out east towards Ullapool. I’ve traveled this road and area twice before, so for this trip I had planned to not make too many stops but to drive all the way up to Durness in one day. Which I might re-consider if I ever do this trip again. Even though it’s only 125 miles / 200 km, it’s still a long drive, because of the small roads and speed limits and the urge to stop every few minutes because the view or the landscape or anything is just so amazing.
My first stop was Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach, where I spent about one hour walking the whole loop and got back to my car just before the drizzle/rain started. Most memorable of the drive to Ullapool probably was the radio news of Nigel Farage resigning. Crazy times! Unfortunately it kept raining slightly even in Ullapool, so after a quick stroll along the harbour and lunch in a cafe I headed on up north. Luckily it started to clear up and once I had reached Loch Assynt, it looked promising. Which was wonderful news, because Ardvreck Castle at Loch Assynt has been one of the reason for me to return up to this part of Scotland in the first place. I just love this place and I can’t really explain why. It’s just a small ruin of the corner of a castle.
Until that day Ardvreck Castle has been the farthest up north I’ve been in Scotland, so I drove on with equal parts excitement and trepidation, because it gets kind of lonely on the roads. But also oh so beautiful. Up and down through hills and glens and along or across lochs. Kyelku Bridge and Loch Cairnbawn was pretty impressive in a way. Well, the sun did help in that moment.
When I’m travelling I always like to learn historical stuff, I didn’t know before. Here it was brought to my attention by a Memorial cairn next to the bridge: In WWII the Royal Navy used small X-Craft submarines, with a crew of only 4 men, in the attempt to sink German warships. These submarines were based here at Loch Cairnbaun, and “guarded by the local people of this district, who knew so much and talked so little”.
Some time later after another beautiful drive I reached Durness, a tiny settlement on the North Coast, where I had booked a room for two nights in a lovely B&B. After dinner I went out and walked the few minutes to Sango Sand Bay and explored the village a bit further, very much looking forward to a day of rest there…
Day 5, 05 July 2016 – Durness
The day of rest started with a yummy breakfast after a very restful night, but also with a lot of rain. Maybe not in quantity, but it just didn’t let up in the morning. After spending an hour reading in my room I decided to head out after all, hoping the rain would stop soon anyway. It didn’t. So it was a rather wet walk over and down to Smoo Cave, which I explored for a bit. I didn’t want to wait 30 more minutes to take the boat ride further into the cave, so I headed back to my B&B to change my clothes and get dry. I admit I was a bit frustrated at that point.
But luckily a while later it did clear up and the sun came out and the rest of the day was wonderful. I took the car over to the Balnakeil Crafts Village to stroll around a bit, but mostly because I wanted to sample some chocolate and Cocoa Mountain. And sample I did. Yummy! I somehow didn’t seem to take any photos of the village. But it was lovely, with various different crafts on display or in little shops. I also had a lovely chat with the lady driving the Highland Library Bus. Of course I had to think of Jenny Colgan’s “The Little Shop of Happy Ever After” right away.
I ended that afternoon with a drive down to Balnakeil Beach and it was bliss. Long stretch of white sands, a view of the bay, rocks to just lounge on and look out towards the sea… heaven! After a trip back to Durness for some dinner, I came back down here to see the sunset and that was just as impressive. I’ve got 50 and more photos to prove it ;-)
Here are some more photos from those two days…