We visited the village of John O’Groats, the most northern inhabited part of the United Kingdom. The harbour area was a dreary collection of souvenir shops and cafés, although the local hotel had been refurbished in a colourful manner and was being used as a natural retreat complete with strange looking accommodation pods set on the hill above the harbour. It was chilly and there were few visitors; didn’t linger long.
We drove south along the coast towards Inverness, passing Wick, Brora and Invergordon. The rain had hardly stopped all day and driving was tiring. We stayed overnight near Banff at a secluded site in Gamrie Bay, 15 minutes outside the town.
The owner was the local prawn fisherman and his wife, Linda. She came to say a friendly hello and stayed chatting with us for half an hour, telling us she had been born and brought up in the area. She was so enthusiastic about her local village of Gardenstown, she said that most of the villagers had the surname Watts or West (she was married to a Watt). She had a girlfriend whose surname was West-Watts until she married a West! She laughed and said she supposed they were all related. A lady happy in her own skin, she was a joy to meet.
Blue spot – Gamrie Bay
We continued our journey east following the meandering coast road around the shores of Loch Eribol before the terrain softened as we took the causeway over the Kyle of Tongue. We drove on to Scrabster and then parked at the seaside town of Thurso to pick up fresh supplies from the high street. We were hoping to find a good fish restaurant but the town seemed rather run down so we drove on a few miles to Dunnet Bay, a site on the beach with a pub ten minutes’ walk down the road, where we had a pint of beer and some beautiful fresh fish.
The House Today
The House In 1999
A fellow traveller recommended that we stop at the croft of a sculptor, Lotte Glob, who in 1999 had purchased 14 acres of.land in a desolate spot over looking Loch Eribol. She created a garden, planting over four thousand trees where trees were known not to thrive. Today the garden was lush and green and anyone was welcome to stop and explore the area, have a picnic and discover the many sculptures set around the garden.
The campsite at Durness was in a stunning situation overlooking Sango Bay. At last it had stopped raining and lots of people were enjoying the beach. Most were swimming and surfing wearing wet suits although there were a couple of girls (from Czech Republic) who were swimming in bikinis (no photo provided!)
Our Campsite Overlooking The Beaches
We returned from Stornoway on the ferry to Ullapool and then headed north along the coast road towards Durness. The road often narrowed to single track with passing bays but the traffic was light and, in spite of the occasional rain shower we enjoyed a beautiful drive.
Stornoway is the Blue Dot
The Outer Hebrides was a chain of about two hundred islands lying in the Atlantic Ocean to the west of Scotland. They stretched for 130 miles from the north at the Butt of Lewis to the south at Barra Head. The ferry journey from Ullapool to Stornoway took just over two hours.
Our campsite was just outside Stornoway and the next morning we drove south to the Isle Of Harris – home of Harris Tweed – didn’t buy anything. There were few trees and the terrain was grassy peat bogs surrounding hundreds of small lochs. We saw lots of sheep and even a few cattle and, had the sun been shining, the scenery would have been beautiful in a wild way. Everywhere were thick carpets of wild flowers bright against the greens of the grasses, interrupted by huge granite boulders scattered over the landscape. The colours were rich and varied, even on that dull day.
We returned to Stornoway for lunch before driving north to the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis, reportedly the windiest coast in the UK. The day’s drive was little more than a hundred miles, we kept to the main roads and the route had very little traffic – although a large proportion of these vehicles were other motor homes.
Butt of Lewis
Butt of Lewis
The Skye Bridge
We crossed back to the mainland using the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh and headed north. The drive was scenic as we drove through glens and moors, past lochs and pine forests. In places the road was so narrow you couldn’t pass without using one of the numerous passing bays. We saw what looked like a white flower growing prolifically by the road side. We stopped to have a closer look and it was not a flower but resembled a cotton plant and turned out to be bog cotton, common in those parts.The journey took a long time and we were relieved to reach our destination of Ullapool, a harbour on Loch Broom, opening into the Minch, the channel dividing the mainland from the Outer Hebrides. Our campsite at Ullapool overlooked the Loch and we watched the ferries making their way to and from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
Sunset At Ullapool