Saturday, 15 August 2015

10 "Must See" things in northern Scotland

Well, we're finally back home safe and sound.  Delores has been emptied and the washing machine is churning away in the background dealing with a 5 week backlog of grubby undies.  Several dozen emails have been dealt with and around 3/4 of the mail delivered has been binned (how much junk mail?!)

We're going to be sorting through the pics properly over the coming weeks but in the meantime, if you're thinking of heading that way, here are my top 10 tips for things to see and do:

1.  Ben Nevis

It's a loooong old hike but it's really not tricky.  Unlike Scafell Pike which has an assortment of reasonable routes to the summit, Ben Nevis really only has the one main route which means it's going to be busy.  There are other ways up and down but you need to be good with a map and compass or Leo Holding.

2.  Steall Bidge

How cool is this place?  And who could possibly resist the lure of a rope bridge across a rive in the shadow of Ben Nevis?  Clearly not Steve!  (or me!)

3.  The Cuillins

I honestly don't know if I love them or hate them.  They're so absolutely different to any other mountains - menacing slabs of black rock stretching from the sea to the sky - but they are mesmerising.  They are also a bugger to hike around with very little in the way of sanitised routes and a lot in the way of bogs, rocks and bridge free streams.  I cursed them, I swore at them, but I really want to go back and see them again.

4.  Beinn Eighe

We didn't tackle the summit but we did make it to Coire Mhic Fhearchair.  It's not an arduous hike, the landscape is jaw dropping and no photo can do justice to the triple buttress.

5.  Poolewe and Firemore Beach

The beaches in this part of Scotland will blow you away - stunning stretches of golden sand and deep blue seas opening up as you wind along the coast road.  This one in particular stood out - not only is it breathtakingly gorgeous but the entire area is full of WW2 history with info boards at every point - we took the bikes and it's a very pleasant ride out from the campsite at Poolewe - or there's a large campsite next to Firemore Beach run by the community, no facilities just fantastic views and a small charge which goes towards the maintenance and protection of the dunes.

6.  Cape Wrath & Smoo Cave (Durness)

A short ferry ride and 11 of the bumpiest miles known to man will bring you to Cape Wrath.  Here's a tip - the main trip will only allow you 50 minutes at Cape Wrath itself BUT if you get the early ferry you can ask to come back on a later bus, giving you several hours to enjoy being at the most north westerly point of the British mainland.

Smoo Cave

Smoo Cave - it's not massive inside but it's very impressive from the outside.  And be sure to take the tour by Colin the Caveman - only £4 each and worth every penny!

7.  John O'Groats and Duncansby Head

The most north easterly point of mainland UK, gorgeous stacks, lovely beaches and, if you look really, really carefully, cowrie shells - but don't collect too many, local legend says a few brings you good luck, too many and the luck reverses.

8.  Skara Brae - Orkney

Older than most of the pyramids - will anything we're building today last that long?  Orkney as a whole is stuffed to the gills with archaeology but not trees.  Very few trees as the wind blows them all over.  Take a hat but make sure it's wedged on tight!

9.  The castles around Wick

Old Wick Castle

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle

Keiss Castle

Three cracking castles which we found by accident. We got lost looking for Sinclair Girnigoe and found Old Wick Castle.  Then we decided to head across the bay to Keiss Castle as it looked interesting.  Very glad we did!

10.  Dolphins at Rosemarkie

Steve has some fab pictures of these which we'll upload when we get a chance, but poor as this photo is it does show you just how close you can get to them.  About 2 hours after low water they come out to feed and when they're done feeding they start larking around.  My tip - go for the early morning tides if you can, the evening "performances" are generally packed.

Can't believe best part of 5 weeks flew by so fast!  We stayed on plenty of lovely campsites which I'll bore you with another time, but for now I'll leave you with a photo from Tarbat Ness, far and away my favourite camping spot.  The skies were clear giving us spectacular views of the stars and we sat outside with mugs of coffee taking photos as the lighthouse lit up the area with not another soul around for miles.  Perfect.

Tarbat Ness lighthouse

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