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Loch Ness, Urquhart castle and to the northern Highlands

Home -> Europe -> Scotland -> Travelogue Scotland -> 07 & 08 July 2000

Friday 07 July, Loch Ness, Urquhart castle and to the northern Highlands

Today is our Loch Ness day. Via Inverness we drive southwards, along the west shore of the lake, up to Drumnadrochit. First, we visit one of the Loch Ness Monster Exhibitions. There are two, the 'Original' and the 'Official'. We take the northern one, but they must be a bit the same, according to the travel guides. We leave the exhibition with great doubts on the existence of the monster, but we keep on looking for it.
Urquhart CastleCastle Urquhart looks very nice when you walk towards it. It is a ruin as a ruin should be, or at least, that is what we think.
There is also a bagpiper, the first we see in Scotland. Elisabeth still wants to know if they wear anything underneath. Within 2 weeks she will know the answer...
Bagpiper at Urquhart Castle The tower of Urquhart CastleThe castle is build in the 14th century to defend the Great Glen in the war of independance against the English. It was blasted in 1692, but one can still see it must have been a mighty fortress, not easy to be conquered.
View on Loch Ness View on Loch NessAnd, of course, part of the fame of this castle originates from the infamous monster. Most pictures of it have been made close to the castle, in the bay of Urquhart. We don't see it, but we keep on looking.
But, according to us, this place doesn't need a monster to attract tourists. The ruin and the gorgeous location are enough attraction for tourists. The high pound and the expensiveness of the country are the only things that keep the tourists away.
After visiting the castle, we drive on towards Fort Augustus where we go to the opposite side of the lake. It is a single track road but big tourist coaches take it as well. From this side, one has a much better view on the lake and the scenery is much nicer. When you are there and have some spare time, don't forget to follow this route.
In the HighlandsIn the course of the afternoon we return to Inverness and go to the Tourist Information, searching for a place to spend the night. After looking through many brochures, comparing prices, we end up in Beauly again. To a hotel which we had seen from the outside yesterday, but it did look so dark inside and the paint on the outside is peeling off. We daren't sure whether this could be something good. But the hotel also has a pub, so we go in to have a drink. Then we can decide better if we want to stay or not. We have a beer and a coffee and within half an hour we feel like at home.
The owners, Iain and Cathy, are very sympathetic and quickly we are in conversation with them and the locals who visit the pub. No fuss. So we take a room without inspecting it first and it turns out to be quite large and clean, with an additional sitting room. This is a nice place where we can stay for some time.

Saturday 08 July 2000, the northern Highlands, Durness, Tongue

In the Highlands Cows block the roadToday we make a long drive, into the Highlands. Via the A835, first in the direction of the west coast and Ullapool. The clouds hang low over the land, sometimes it is foggy, but the sun keeps on trying to break through.We love the landscapes, the mountains (hills, Teije says) of Scotland and we never stop enjoying it. In some way the mountains look quite desolate, but at the same time they seem so charming and sweet. Maybe it is because of the light slopes which can be seen so very clearly because there is almost no vegetation. But maybe it is just the fact that all rocks have a small layer of vegetation which make the mountains green in all sorts of shades.
Cows block the road Cows block the roadIn Loch Asynth we see the ruins of castle Ardvreck which was build in the 16th century. One can even marry here, even though it is a ruin!
At Loch Asynth, we take a left turn and follow the B869 along the coast to the north. At one moment the single track road suddenly is blocked by a herd of cows. We are not in a hurry, so we just sit and watch this spectacle.
Northwest coast Northwest coastThis road is called the Breakdown Zone by the locals, because of the many accidents that happen every summer, not only caused by awkward tourists, but also by the freely walking about cattle.
Beach in the north Beach in the northEverywhere there are small lochs and along the coast there are beautiful cliffs and beaches. To follow this narrow road, which twists itself through this fantastic scenery, gives a lot of satisfaction. We recommend it to everyone.
Ultimately, we come on a 'big' road again (A894) which leads us further north, via Unapool and Scorie to the north coast, near Durness. We skip Cape Wrath, the most northwesterly place of the English mainland.
North coast Ardvreck CastleA bit past Durness and before Loch Eriboll, there are splendid beaches. It is never crowded and certainly not today, for it is a gray and chilly day.
It takes some time to get around Loch Eriboll, but the view certainly compensates for it. The next town we drive through, is Tongue and we need a break after the several hundreds of kilometers we have already driven today. We find a deserted restaurant where we have a short pause.
But we still have to drive back the long way to Beauly. First the A836, a single road track which winds through a desolate area. Past Bonar Bridge we take the B9176, a small side road through a totally different landscape, full of woods. Finally, when we return in Beauly and after a short rest, the feeling of tiredness soon turns into a pleasant feeling of drowsiness. Or does the fact that we stay in a pub for hours have anything to do with that? We don't complain, we have had a fantastic day. seeing so much of the intriguing Highlands.


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