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Driving around Inverness

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Friday 18 September, driving around Inverness

Teaninich castle hotel, Alness Hay bales at the cromarty FirthToday we make a long drive and we are already away in time. We head north, along the Cromarty Firth where the farmers work hard on the land as long as it is dry. Teije looks for roads that we have not driven yet and so we see our first castle or country house near Alness. For me, all houses that have a turret is a castle. Like so many of these buildings, this has also been transformed into a hotel.
Cottage in Kildary Beautiful log cabin at AuchintoolThe A9 is the main road that goes all the way to the north and follows the coast to a large extent along the Cromarty Firth and then over the Dornoch Firth, two deep estuaries that cut deep into the country. We drive along the south side of the Dornoch Firth to Bonar Bridge and then go inland. We come across many nice houses again and we like this log cabin very much. It's a new and pretty big house, I think it's great to have something like that! But then it has to be on a nice spot, naturally in the middle of nature.
Raven's Rock Gorge at Altass Wood carving at Raven's Rock GorgeNear the log cabin we see a sign to Raven's Rock Gorge hidden in the middle of the forests. There is a walk of less than an hour, which is perfect for us. There is indeed a gorge and a waterfall but we do not get a good view of it. It is a nice walk with considerable differences in height and occasionally a beautiful view of the surroundings. Halfway the walk is a wooden bench with carved animals and leaf motifs. We have seen such wood carving more and more often in recent years. Note: The walking route now consists of 2 shorter pieces after a landslide.
Heather along the A837 Heather along the A837We now drive further to the west, over the A837 and the country is becoming empty. Occasionally there is a village like Oykel Bridge but we mainly come through abandoned areas with here and there a forest and lots of lakes. In the 19th century, the Highlands were grazed entirely by sheep, a period called the Clearances because people had to leave (often driven out with force) to make room for the sheep. Not such a nice chapter in the history of Scotland, but we have already told more about it elsewhere on the site. Now we see endless gently sloping plains with typically Scottish skies above them.
Landscape at Ledmore, the Highlands Landscape at Ledmore, the HighlandsDespite the desolation of the country we see fenced meadows everywhere along the way, even though we hardly see any sheep. And the landscape is also marred here and there by electricity pylons and telephone poles that lead to the remote houses and hamlets. These photos are taken near Ledbeg and we see the mountains on the west coast looming in the distance. A bit further is a intersection (hey, did we not pick up a lifter once from here?) And there we turn left, to the south.
View of Ullapool In the port of UllapoolThe road winds through the hills and after a while we see Ullapool in the distance. Ullapool is the largest village on the northwest coast of Scotland although only 1,500 people live there. It is also relatively young because it was only built in 1788 as a base for herring fishing. Now there is still some fishing, but there are also more and more tourists who want to explore the rugged nature around it. There are beautiful mountain walks to make. We stop at the port to drink coffee with a cup of hot soup.
Our itinerary on 18 September 2015We could drive back from Ullapool to the east but it is still early so we decide to drive another nice route, via the Eilean Donan castle. For the global route of today you can click on the map on the right.
It is a big detour but definitely worth it. At least, when you love unspoiled nature and endless roads that continuously turn and swing. There is not much to see except for a single village, except for the lakes, the mountain slopes, the occasional sea in the distance and lots of empty plains and forests, and everything colors according to the play of light of the clouds and the sun that occasionally peeks through the clouds. Sometimes the country is colorful and the water of the lochs look clear, then again everything is dark and gloomy, almost threatening. Wonderful to drive through!
Eilean Donan castle, near Skye Eilean Donan castle, near SkyeAnd when you arrive at Eilean Donan, it is a breathtaking scenery with the castle dominating the landscape. The place is often used in films of which Highlander and James Bond (The world is not enough) are perhaps the best known. We have already been inside the castle twice, so we skip that today, but we walk around it at a distance and enjoy the view. Our last visit is already from 2002 so quite a few years ago. A next time we should look inside again because the castle is also very nicely decorated with lots of original furniture.
From Eilean Donan it is another 2 hours drive back to Beauly and then we have driven more than 400 kilometers and we have been on the road for over 10 hours all stops included. Time for a snack and a drink.
Iain and Elisabeth in the CaleyAnd that's what we get in the warm lounge of Iain and Cathy.
We had a few relaxing days here (except the hours that I've helped Iain with his automation, from wifi in the building to problems with the mail and the phone). Every evening we had delicious hot food and talked with Iain, Cathy and several other people we know in the village. Tomorrow we go to Mull but at the end of the holiday we will come back here.


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