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Friday 16th September 2011

Up for an excellent full Scottish (full English) breakfast. Marion agreed that we could unload the car into her hall and that Mum could stay a while while Dad and I went and sorted the car out - despite the fact that she was going out.
Found the tyre place easily enough and left them to it for an hour. Did a quick bit of shopping and filled up with diesel to use the time rather than waste it. Back for the tyre - it wasn't a puncture, it was the valve/wheel seal - job done for 11.
Back for Mum, loaded the car and on the road about 1130. Headed north and stopped first at Duncansby Head which overlooked some nice sea stacs to the south. Very windy and quite overcast and rainy today - blowing like mad up on the head.

Then onto John O'Groats, wind still howling around. It's a grim and featureless place. Took a few photos and left.

Up the road a bit and stopped quickly at Castle Mey - the old Queen Mother's favourite haunt.

Back on the road and west along the north coast a bit to Dunnet Head - this is the true furthest north point. Wind stronger than ever - just a couple of photos and some warming soup/tea/coffee before we got going again.

We got going west properly at this point making good progress on the excellent roads - superb driving roads again. Scenery all around was terrific - down to the beaches - up over the cliffs - inland a bit into the mountains - back to the cliffs, twists and turns and up and down, etc. Took a few detours up some narrow sideroads to get right down to the coast and just explore a bit. The coastline is fantastically rugged and the sea was quite rough in places due to the high winds. Stopped for more tea on a causeway across one of the sea loch inlets and kept stopping for photos and quick walks to look around. All very interesting - great scenery yet again.

Rolled into our target "town" Durness about 7pm. It's a very quiet and spread out place - more a village just spread out to the size of a town. Found a very nice B&B (20 each for a single room with double and single beds) and went to the Sango Sands Inn for dinner, Gammons for Mum and I, Lamb Shank for Dad - all very nice and just 44.
Great day again. Car was fixed quickly and cheaply, did the essential JoG, and made good progress covering nearly all of the north coast taking in great scenery all the way. Weather was pretty poor most of the day, very windy and raining on and off, but it didn't matter today - we spent most of the time in the car, and this rugged coast is suited to bad weather - sunshine wouldn't look right here!

151 miles today: 1243 miles total

Saturday 17th September 2011

Another good breakfast and on the road about 10am. Weather looking better again today, the wind's dropped and the sun is shining. Went off to have a look at the nice sea stac we could just see from our bedroom at the B&B. Down to the coast - no sign of it - that's strange. Must be the other side of the headland - round the headland - no sign of it - that's even stranger! Eventually found it by driving out onto a point 2 miles down the road - it was tucked in by the headland and out of sight from nearly all angles.

Drove south a while past stunning scenery that I shan't even try to describe - look at the pics.

Then took a little side road west out towards Oldshoremore. Stopped at Oldshoremore for a cuppa and went for a walk out on the point to see the nice beach. Astonished to find there were cows on the beach!

Walked and climbed out to the end of the point and took yet more pics.

Drove to end of the road and down to a tiny harbour.

Turned back from the road to nowhere and back onto the road south.

And then west again up a very narrow and twisty and up and down lane.

Stopped for a soup and Dad thought he spotted a stag through his binoculars on a distant crest. It sure looked like one but it didn't seem to be moving . . we thought it must be a bit of tree or something, it was right at the limits of bins and cameras. Had some soup, and occasionally peered at it - and it finally moved - it was a stag!

On down the wild road and more photos along the way.

Took a detour off the current detour and found a very quiet little cove. Not much to see so started to turn the car round when old eagle-eyes (Dad) spotted something in the bay - seals. They were playing quite close to us and stayed for 10-15mins.

Took yet another detour to Stoer Head where we thought we might se the "Old Man of Stoer" rock - but it turned out to be an hour's walk away and we don't have time for that. The weather had worsened over the day and now at nearly 6pm it was looking like it might get dark soon. Nice lighthouse and loads of cormorants on the rocks down by the sea.

We got back onto the initial detour road and headed down into Lochinver. It looked like the only place for miles with any civilisation so we opted to stay here. Quick look around and straight into a B&B again with no problem. Very nice house with a very nice lady - 32.50 each for a double and single room - my room's actually a massive family room so I did very well. Out for dinner in Lochinver Bistro which is apparently famous for it's pies - you can buy them on the web and they'll post them to you! Dad and I decide to sample the Beef Stroganoff pies except that there was a communication error and we just got Beef Stroganoff - it was very nice though.
And another great day. You can't get bored with this scenery - it blows your mind and it's difficult to know where to look as it's fantastic in all directions. Nice bit of wildlife too - the stag and the seals. And some very good grub and an extremely comfortable B&B to wrap up the day. This is the life.

107 miles today: 1350 miles total

Sunday 18th September 2011

Up for a lovely breakfast. Scrambled egg with smoked salmon for a change - very civilised. Shared the one big breakfast table with 2 Canadian ladies and a very chatty English bloke. The ladies had had a puncture the previous day in their hire car and weren't sure what to do about it. Helped them out a bit with some phone calls to the AA and Hertz.
On the road about 11am after doing the good Samaritan thing, continuing down the little single track road along the coast - straight into photo territory again. Weather looking good - lots of blue sky.

Stopped to enjoy the view of a nice peak across some water and Dad spotted a very big hawk of some sort right on the peak. This is really zoomed in - it was a long way away. We toyed with the idea that it might be an eagle, but decide not.

More lovely views, just driving along.

And some wierd Scottish animals - more amphibious cows and some stretched ducks.

Got off the single track road and back onto the main road south. Meandered down the terrific road, stopping a couple of times in scenic laybys for tea. Predictably, the views were outstanding all the way - just outstanding.

The road took us back to the coast again into the lovely bay and harbour of Ardmair.

Then into Ullapool which was quite busy as there is or has been a music festival here. Just a few shots of the good honest working boats in the harbour.

A few miles after Ullapool we took the A382 going north west back to the coast - yet another great road. Soon after the turn off we stopped to see Moirlach (??) Gorge and waterfalls. It had started raining quite heavily so we sat in the car and had a cuppa to see if it would stop. Of course it did - it always does for us - we've been incredibly lucky with the weather. Walked down a nice footpath to the gorge and to the "wobbly suspension bridge". I wasn't sure if Dad would be up for this, it was a surprisingly deep gorge - a good 100m down - and the bridge did wobble a bit, but we all went across. Great views of the falls and the gorge, and a cloud of mist just hanging there. Down the path the other side to a viewing point that jutted out into nowhere - with a very transparent steel mesh base - right up Dad's street! - but out he went. Threw a few stones into the river and waited several seconds for them to splash. Back over the wobbly bridge - the mist cloud had completely vanished - and down the other side and around and back up to the car. A good walk and a lot of climbing - needed another cup of tea to get going again!

Back on the road and it soon started raining again - it could hardly be timed better - it soon stopped again anyway. More great views as we drove through and over the mountains back to the coast.

Stopped to admire the view over Loch Ewe. This loch was used to shelter and fuel the Arctic convoys during WW2 - "it was black with ships and you could walk from one side of the loch to the other without getting your feet wet".

Went through on through Poolewe which looked very nice and very quiet . .

. . and decided to stop at the next decent-sized place - Gairloch - to find somewhere to stay and eat. It's Sunday - don't want to leave it too late.
Got to Gairloch and took a couple of photos from the high approach road. Down and through Gairloch - loads of B&Bs, tried a nice-looking one and got 2 very nice rooms for 35 each. The last photo here is the view from the front of the house, same view as from Mum and Dad's room. I didn't take a photo of my view - seen one shed you've seen them all.

Quick scrub up and out for dinner. Decided on the Moorcroft Hotel which was near-deserted and had great views over the bay. Haggis, neaps and tatties for Dad and me, Pizza for Mum. Very nice it was too - quite heavy and rich for my tastes but very edible. 60 for that lot with drinks, and we had sweets tonight too.
Back for a cuppa in Mum and Dad's room and caught the news for the first time for several days - same old news I saw last week!
And another near-perfect problem-free great day. Everything seems to be going fantastically well. We're seeing loads and loads and stopping every 5 minutes for photos, by no means rushing, yet we're making reasonable progress each day - we're definitely on schedule to do all the things we want to do. The weather's much better than the long-term forecasts were predicting. We're seeing a fair amount of rain but it nearly always stops when we want to get out of the car, and often starts again when we're done. B&Bs are plentiful, easy to find, very nice and a bit cheaper than we expected. It might be getting a bit dearer down the west coast but, to be fair, the last couple of nights have probably been the best places we've stayed in so it might not be a fair comparison. Aiming to get near the Isle of Skye tomorrow . . .

107 miles today: 1443 miles total

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