Friday, 23 June 2017

Scottish wanderings - part 2

Friday 16 June

Today we had a lot of driving to do. We were travelling from Inverness through to Durness, which is near the north west tip of Scotland.

Some of the seagulls we came across today were huge
 With Jen at the wheel we headed off. The navigation system had a number of idiosyncrasies which were to cause us the odd problem until we worked them out. If the road we were on went around a bend the system still showed the directional status as straight ahead. The result was that we sometimes took the straght ahead road which was the incorrect one. That is exactly what happened as we were attempting to leave Inverness. Still, it was not all bad. We saw bits of the city we would not have otherwise seen. The port was interesting and not originally on our schedule.

The bridge leading out of Inverness was impressive. It spans the Moray Firth.

Having successfully left Inverness we headed up the coast on the A9 which was not a really big road even tough it had a low number.

Our first stop of the day was at Dornoch which boasts a church with some impressive stained glass windows.

In the church yard was a stone that dates back to the mid 1500s and was used as a tailor's measure.

The tailor's measure is in the bottom right of the photo
The village has a connection to an Irish evangelist who came to convert the local heathens around 600AD (I think).

After a refreshing cup of coffee it was on the road again.

We did stop at Golspie intending to have a quick look at Dunrobin Castle but decided that the price was not right and we still had a long way to go for the day. Externally it was a pretty castle.

The were a heap of visitors to the castle as this line of motor homes attest.

Our lunch stop was in the town/village (don't ask me how to determine if a place is a village or town) of Helmsdale. We actually ate in a cafe that is listed as on of the six top fish and chip places in Britain. We didn't have fish and chips as all we really wanted was a sandwich.

On leaving Helmsdale the navigation system decided to send us along the A897 as the route to our next target. By the time we determined that it was not going to put us on the more major road along the coast we were well on our way to the north along a one lane road. Once we worked this out it was rather interesting. The one lane roads have lots of passing places and most can be seen in advance as they have sign posts announcing them as passing places. It turned out to be an interesting drive once we got used to dodging and weaving our way along the road. We had to contend with motor cyclces, bikes and cars.

There was a surprising amount of traffic. The road meandered along a valley with a waterway which appeared to have quite good fishing as there were quite a few people playing with rods. From time to time we also came across shelter were people were lounging around.

The scenery was quite pretty even if the windscreen wipers were getting a workout. It just kept on raining! Sometime the rain was a light drizzle. At other times it was heavier.

We also had to contend with sheep. Often there was no fencing along the road. There were cattle grids to stop the sheep moving from one farm to the next but they were free to roam along and across the road.  As there were a lot of lambs around we were constantly slowing for ewes and lambs to get off the road.

We also came across cattle wandering down the road.

Apologies for the windscreen wiper in the middle of this photo
We had seen a train line running along the valley and we came to on of the stations serviced by the line.

The the track crossed the road there were boom gates and warning signals.

The station house has been taken over by a conservation project that overseas the Forsinard Flows, one of the last great natural landscapes in Britain. The blanket bog is one of the world's rarest habitats. It has taken some 8000 years for the deep peat soils to grow. We spent some time chatting with the ranger on duty comparing these peat bogs with those I had seen in Yorkshire.

When we hit the north coast we were west of Thurso and decided not to visit the Scottish home of the Queen Mother. Instead we headed west towards Durness and our overnight stop.

There were some stunning views along the coast and some lovely white sand.

We were staying at the Balnakeil Craft Village which was just beyond Durness. The weather was atrocious so apart from doing a quick walk around the village and having the most decadent hot chocolate that I had had in a very long time we decided we had had enough bad weather for the day.

Fortunately the village boasted a restaurant and it was right next to where we were staying so our food needs were well catered for.

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