Friday, 9 August 2019

Scottish Adventure Days 12 & 13
We should have realised early on in our trip, when we missed out on the ferry from Mallaig to Skye because we hadn’t booked ahead, that it would be a good idea to book the ferry to Orkney. 

We didn’t learn. We only thought of booking the ferry a couple of days before we wanted it, and there was no space for our little camper until much later in the week. We looked into taking a day trip across, so we could visit the main sites, but that would have been prohibitively expensive, so we had a change of plans. 

Yesterday we drove though rain down the coast all the way to Inverness. We pottered around in the shops for a while and then headed to a campsite on the Beauly Firth. They were hosting the “Scotland Rally”.
I may be showing my age here, but this seems to consist of a lot of young people, mostly men, driving cars covered in stickers and flags, from Brussels to Skye. At each stop it is imperative to show your masculinity by walking around with your top off, doing chin-ups on the football posts, taking very long showers, drinking lots of beer, revving your engine and tooting your novelty horns. The loud music was a very Belgian mix of classic 80s pop and techno dance, which went on until about three in the morning.  This morning theyall set off on their last leg, to disturb some other unsuspecting campers somewhere on Skye.
We decided that since we hadn’t gone to Orkney, we would make use of our extra couple of daysby going back across to the West, to places we know and love, so we’ve come back to Applecross for a couple of days.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Scottish Adventure Day 11 we went from the North West corner of Scotland to the North East. The sea haar has been in for most of the day, so apart from glimpses of loveliness, such as at Tongue, we’ve not really seen much.
Thurso we spent as little time in as a supermarket dash would allow. It’s very “functional”.
Once we’d checked in to our campsite in the fogat John O’Groats we headed down towards Wick to check out the beach at Sinclair’s Bay where the tide was in, and the stunning ruins at SinclairGurnigoe Castle. These clan chiefs were an argumentative lot, but they knew how to build a castle. This one is on a stratified rocky promontory and in the 17th Century was one of the most important buildings in this part of Scotland. Now with weather eroding the building and the sea eroding the promontory it’s near the top of the list of most endangered historic buildings in the UK.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Scottish Adventure Day 10
I’m spending a lot of time this holiday gazing outto sea. That’s not a bad thing. I think my brain and definitely my soul needed a break from ‘to do’ lists (of which I’m a huge fan!). There’s something about mountains and the sea that nourishes you in places you just don’t get nourished any other way. Right now I’m sitting in the back of the campervan with a glass of wine in my left hand, looking out to where turquoise sea meets white golden sand and rugged black cliffs with a line of white surf. To the north, pretty much no land until The Arctic.
The forecast for this afternoon wasn’t great so this morning we walked up the road to the gaping limestone Smoo Cave. We all had different expectations- to me the name was reminiscent of Smaug, so I had piles of treasure and crunched up dwarf bones in my mind. I think Isobel had a magical boat trip into a sparkling fairy grotto in her imagination. The boys weren’t giving anything away. The reality was a huge cavern. You could get to the outer cave on foot for free, and a dinghy was taking paying visitors further in. The real depths are only accessible to proper cavers. We had Blossom so stayed in the outer cavern. I was delighted to find fish swimming there and felt like a mixture of Steve Backshaw exploring caves under Mexico and Bilbo Baggins coming across Gollum fishing in his cavern.
We wandered out on to the cliffs and caught the attention of a couple of curious seals.
In the afternoon Chris and the children had a quick di in the sea and then we whiled away the time playing cards together.  I feel very relaxed today.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Scottish Adventure Day 9
I love Balnakeil Craft Village!  

After a quick escape from the midgie sat our roadside stop this morning we headed straight to Durness to secure a spot at a campsite for the night. We had a very disappointing bacon sandwich at White Heather Tea Room (the only lace open) and then checked into our campsite at Sango Sands. Our view for the next two days is above. We got settled in, then popped to the shop to buy the requisite items for our own, much more satisfying, Full Scottish (lunch). They had run out of black pudding and Chris accidentally bought thebizarre product ‘vegan black pudding’ - the mind boggles!  However, the black bean and oatmeal and barley concoction was really quite tasty.

Anyway, back to my original point. This afternoon we headed on a circular walk to Balnakiel along the road and back along the coast. The craft village grew in the 60s. An old Cold War early warning station that was never commissioned was bought by theme Council. They wanted to let out the buildings to businesses and advertised accordingly. The responses that came in were nearly all from artists and craftspeople attracted by the wilderness and light of Scotland’s most north-westerly corner. They moved in, paying low rent, and the craft village was born. Later, the council gave them the opportunity to buy their premises and there’s a mix of shops, workshops and homes. We looked in some lovely galleries, I bought a fabulous knitted headband and we enjoyed the best hot chocolate on planet Earth at Cocoa Miuntain. (That’s my claim, not theirs.). I think the idea of living and working in a place like that, surrounded by like-minded people, is very appealing. I could happily spend a long time there.

Scottish Adventure Day 8
Stac Pollaidh was outstanding. As mountains go, it only just qualifies at just 612m, but what it lacks in stature it more than makes up in attitude. It’s character, good path and easy access make ita popular mountain so we were lucky to nab the last space in the car park before people started parking on the road side.  The sun was hot and we stopped several times near streams on the way up to soak our sun hats and for Blossom to drink. The path goes around the side of the mountain, and then at the back goes very steep as thetop third of the mountain suddenly rears up. On the top is a huge jumble of pinnacles of broken rock. We stopped in the saddle and decided these would be a bit too much for Blossom. Chris took Charlie first and they climbed and clambered over the pinnacles towards the summit. When they came back we left Blossom with them and Isobel and I had our turn. I’m out of practice with scrambling so my confidence was a bit shaky with vertiginous drops and an Isobel to look after, so we backed down quite a few routes before finding our way to the top of a pinnacle. Isobel finally understood why we had been so insistent thatshe listen to instructions and take her time and she was brilliant. We headed back down the backof the mountain and completed the circuit roundthe other side.
After a late picnic lunch at Lochinver we headed into the sea at Clashnessie to cool down and wash off the sweat. Campsites here are few and farbetween and on this sunny Saturday full, so we parked up by the side of the road with a great view and enjoyed a random assortment dinner.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Scottish Adventure Day 7
Just a short one today as I’ve forgotten to take any photos.

Today we said goodbye to Gairloch. We headed around to Gruinard Bay where we thoroughly explored around rocks to secret beaches, swam in the sea and had a lovely time.
We chose a picnic spot with a view a little furtheraround the coast, stopped for a walk at the falls of Measach in Corrieshalloch gorge (Corrieshalloch meaning “ugly corrie” despite being spectacular!), and then headed into Ullapool.

Ullapool is beautifully situated and there’s nothing wrong with it, but I’ve always found it a little uninspiring.  We had a wander, filled up with fuel and groceries and continued on our way.
We passed Stac Pollaidh, which we’ll climb tomorrow, on our way onto the Coigach peninsular and then found a campsite at Altandhu. We have another stunning view and are watching sunset from the campervan while emptying a bottle of wine.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Scottish Adventure Day 6
I’m sitting in my campervan sipping a cup of coffee, above me in the roof the children quietly bicker as they settle to sleep, Chris is showering ir pottering about and Blossom is snoozing by my feet. Through the front and side windows of the van I have one of the most splendid views in the world. The sun is setting over to my right, in the foreground are dunes and beyond that Gairloch opens out to the Inner Sound. A light haze on the water’s surface and then the deep purples andblues of silhouetted mountains: Rona and Raasay, then Skye with the jagged Black Cuillin taking centre stage. Ahead to the left behind the headland the mountains of Torridon rear. While over to the right, almost hidden in the hazy distance where the sea meets the golden pink sky lie the Outer Hebrides.
Today we had a big adventure on the Orca, a fast RIB run by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Experience Company. We zoomed across towards Skye, spotting common dolphins on the way. We looked out for Minke Whale where we saw gannets feeding, and were lucky enough to see two - my first wild whale experiences! We searched unsuccessfully for a basking shark seen in the area earlier in the day and also kept our eyes peeled for a White Tailed Eagle known to have a nest nearby. On the return to harbour we saw seals and porpoise. Awesome!
After fish and chips back at the campsite we gotthe mini kites out and went for one more walk onthe beach. We’ll be moving on from here tomorrow, heading further north.

Scottish Adventure Day 5
A quiet day for pottering around today. We got a load of laundry done and then explored some shops in Gairloch before heading southwest around the bay and finding a wide empty beach to picnic on and then explore. A mass moon jellyfish death happened at the last high tide as hundreds of bodies littered the flotsam line.  Blossom licked one but decided it wasn’t to her taste thankfully.
The rest of the afternoon we whiled away reading at the campsite.

Scottish Adventure Day 5

A quiet day for pottering around today. We got a load of laundry done and then explored some shops in Gairloch before heading southwest around the bay and finding a wide empty beach to picnic on and then explore. A mass moon jellyfish death happened at the last high tide as hundreds of bodies littered the flotsam line.  Blossom licked one but decided it wasn’t to her taste thankfully.