We are completely surprised this morning by the nice weather: it is sunny and it is already warmer in the morning than the last days during the day.
I'm glad we do not have to drive more roads in Caithness today, I've seen that now!
I'm glad we do not have to drive more roads in Caithness today, I've seen that now!
Today we drive west along the coast, past the nuclear power plant to Sutherland. On our first trip to Scotland we drove also past here, and we remember that we found it a beautiful area. Today we will take the time to explore all those villages along the coast, the bays and inlets with hidden beaches. We also see the turfsods being extracted from peatland as it used to be in the northeast of the Netherlands. The dried blocks were used as a fuel for the fireplace, now there is a lively trade in turf sods for the grass of the many golf courses in Scotland.
At Strathy Bay we get to see the first beautiful villages along the bay. We make a lot of photographs this day and it is difficult to choose from the 150 that we eventually have left. This area pleases me a lot better than Caithness although of course it also makes a difference that the weather is better than the last few days.
There are a lot of villages in this area, but mostly they are small and most houses are scattered around so that the whole area seems inhabited even though there are only few people in total. It will be difficult to build up some prosperity in such an area, especially after the nuclear power plant has been taken out of operation.
They are all dead-end roads that we take from the coastal road to the villages and people often look surprised at us when we really drive all the way to the end and stop for a photo. The construction workers at the last house in Armadale really do not understand why we take a picture of these nets, but they are still very polite to us.
We drive from one to the next bay and the every view gets better, or so we think. In such an area I do not mind driving all roads and seeing everything. We make a lot of stops to stretch our legs and just sit around the side of the road to look around.
The main road along the coast, the A836, runs through a fairly bare area but the roads to the bays and villages on the coast are very beautiful. Just before the exit to Farr we encounter a large waterfall that is not on the map. You can not see much from the road, but when we walk there, we see that the river has made an impressive gorge in the landscape.
I must say that I do not mind today to drive all dead-end roads, it is so beautiful here! Today, of course, we are fortunate that the weather is nice, because in the hotel the staff told us that they prefer to go to Spain or Portugal on holiday because it is almost never nice weather here, only about 15 days a year that it is really nice and warm. But some people have their boat here next to the house to go out on the sea when the weather permits!
It is a shame that there are not more sunny days here because we come across beautiful beaches with beautiful white sand. If it ever becomes subtropical here, Scotland is the new holiday hit with its great hidden beaches. And nice places to look for stones and shells, of course! But we prefer to let everyone think that it always rains here, then we have these kind of places for ourselves.
Farr Bay really is a wonderful place to be: practically no one in the neighborhood except for a single fisherman. We take a long break and enjoy the peace and the landscape. Also for surfers this is an ideal area according to the local tourist information, but today there is not much wind and we see nobody surfing.
After Bettyhill we go south, and first we take the road on the east side of the river Naver which eventually ends in a dead end, after leading us through a beautiful area. At a certain moment we see two dead foxes hanging over a fence and we wonder why they were put there. They have been dead for a while and there is no one around. Would it be a kind of warning for other foxes? We ask it later for hunters, but they can not tell us.
Then we continue along the B871, a nice single track road through the interior. The area is becoming more hilly and we hardly meet anyone. Occasionally we stop by a stream or a loch. We also pass the place where Rosal used to be, one of the many places that were violently evicted during the Clearances. Now there are virtually no signs of habitation along the road.
Of course everywhere passing places can be found where you can pass each other on the narrow road. And along Loch Naver we suddenly see a bare campsite. Too bad there are no trees, but a very nice spot to camp!
A little further on we see large herds of deer that skittishly raise their ears when we stop for a photo. We will see more wild this year than ever. In recent days we must have seen a million rabbits, the roads were so full. Also pheasants, which are usually present in the autumn, are everywhere along the roadside. All animals that we also have in the Netherlands, but which we do not get to see so often.
We cross the A836 past Loch Naver and continue to the west. The road is getting narrower, but this time we will not meet a single car for 30 kilometers. We see waterfalls and a broch appears, a fortified tower from the Iron Age. This is Dun Dornaigil or Dornadilla, a narrow circular tower with 1 small opening, where residents could hide against robbers. You can hardly imagine how these people lived here about 2000 years ago!
Now the area is completely deserted, but 2000 years ago the climate seems to have been much softer and agriculture was possible here. We enjoy the peace that prevails, because apart from a single cyclist who we meet at the broch we see no one else, even though we see a house now and then.
From all sides we always have a view of the striking mountain top Ben Hope, and of course there is also a waterfall, a beautiful one! This is an idyllic place to sit, especially with this weather. This is really an area we want to visit again someday, today we consider as a kind of pre-exploration of the environment.
Less than 10 minutes further, we encounter the next waterfall. When we take a photo, two women in a German car race by, as if they were on the Autobahn. When they see us taking photographs they vehemently use the brakes, drive backwards and then decide that this spot is well worth a stop. We have learned that you have to take time for Scotland and that you can not see everything at once. We are now in Scotland for the 9th time, but almost every day we see something new again!
Along the elongated Loch Hope we now drive north again and after the German ladies we see more cars, 3 in the last quarter! It is busy on the road.
But we see more deer than humans and this time we have to drive carefully because they there are fences along the road so they cannot easily escape when they are on the road. Despite our snail's pace they still panic and run a kilometer between the road and the fences until they finally find an opening to a forest.
Then we are back on the 'main' road, the A838 that runs from Durness to Tongue through a completely different kind of landscape, a bit flatter and inhospitable. Just before the bay of Tongue we first take the road to the north coast where there are also a few villages. We have no idea what these people are living from, but unfortunately we do not meet anyone to ask it.
However, there are again beautiful beaches to see with no one in sight, like the hamlet Strathan. Now it is warm and sunny, but in the winter it will hard to live here, also for the horses.
Then we drive around the south side of the Kyle of Tongue and then again some roads to the north coast. Another wonderful area. But it's already quite late and I'm starting to get a lot of pain in my back from sitting in the car for such a long time, even though we get out very often. This area will have to wait a little longer before we explore it again.
After a visit to Torrisdale Bay, fortunately Teije can also forget the roads that we have not driven yet and we go in one go to Thurso, still more than one and a half hour drive. For 1 house we stop (right picture); We have already passed it a few times and it is so beautiful, a small house among the trees, with a pond. We would not be surprised if real gnomes lived here, anything is possible in Scotland!It is very late when we are back in the hotel, but the sun is not going down until eleven, so it is still very light. After all the gloomy and rainy weather of the last few days, we have been very lucky, such beautiful weather in such a beautiful area. The girl at the reception desk tells us this is probably the only day in the year in Thurso that the temperature rises above 25 degrees Celsius. We definitely want to come back here again!