Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Day 22 - and back home

Tuesday 21st June

We left the CL at about 9.30 and drove south on the A19 through the Tyne Tunnel. We stopped for a coffee and to give Button a short walk near Hartlepool before continuing on our journey.
Our lunch was at "Diner 168" on the A168 near Thirsk. We enjoyed the burgers!
We stopped in Chesterfield to give Button a walk along the towpath of the Chesterfield Canal then made our way home via Buxton. We were home by 5.15 after a very enjoyable holiday.
We spent some time that evening emptying Morag of all our stuff and putting things away. Cleaning Morag will be tomorrow's job.

Day 21 - In Northumberland

Monday 20th June

After a good cooked breakfast we headed over to Low Newton and spent the day there. We visited the bird hide, walked on the beach and had lunch outside in the sun at the Ship Inn.
In the afternoon we returned to the beach. Button had a great time chasing a stick thrown into the sea and trying to bury it in the sand.
Low Newton with Dunstanburgh castle in the background

The Ship Inn

Button after digging

"I thought this hole was big enough!"

We had booked another CL near Morpeth for the night. The satnav was no help in finding it as it kept insisting that the A1068 was closed, despite the fact that we were following it and saw no sign of any road closure! Eventually we found the CL and found it quite comfortable.

Day 20 - Perth to Northumberland

Sunday 19th June

We left Diana at 10.30 and drove to meet Christine and Jack at The Steadings inn in Edinburgh. It was great to see them again but Jack is now looking very old. He is 94 now.
Train on the Forth Rail Bridge from the road bridge

We had a nice meal with Christine insisting on paying. What's more she gave us a home baked fruity gingerbread to take with us in Morag. 
We continued on our way a little after 2pm. We had intended to stay near to a small bird reserve that we had visited on a previous trip to Northumberland but were disappointed to find that it had closed. What's more, the nearby camping site didn't take tourers. We spent a frustrating 30 minutes or so phoning possible alternatives and visiting to see if they had space before we found a CL with a pitch free some 6 miles NW of Alnwick.

Day 19 - In Perth

Saturday 18th June

After a comfortable night's sleep at Diana's house we drove in Morag to Dunkeld for a walk and lunch. We had a nice walk alongside the River Tay in much better weather.
For lunch we went to the Taybank pub. The food took an age to arrive but tasted good when we finally got it.
We journeyed back to Diana's by back roads and stopped for a cuppa and a biscuit on the way. I was traveling in the back seat and the bumping and swaying made the journey quite uncomfortable.
After our evening meal (Balmoral Chicken, very tasty) I posted our blog entries up to the end of our tour round the North Coast 500.

Day 18 - Tummel Bridge to Perth

Friday 17th June

After sausage sandwiches for breakfast we drove to Burrelton the see Lyn's friend Janice. It was, unfortunately, raining again so Button only had a short walk at the picnic area we had visited the previous day. Janice was pleased to see us but her husband, Bob, was away sailing in Greece. He will be sad to have missed seeing Button.
We had a snack lunch on the outskirts of Perth before making our way to see our friend Diana. It was great to see her again and we know that she was delighted to see Button! Lyn and Diana took Button for a walk in the afternoon as the weather had brightened up quite a bit.

Day 17 - Inverness to Tummel Bridge

Thursday 16th June

We left Culloden in slightly better weather and made our way to the Strathspey Railway at Broomhill. We caught our train, headed by an Ivatt 2MT engine with 8 coaches, and traveled alongside the River Spey to Aviemore. We had about 20 minutes at Aviemore station before the return journey. It was pleasant and quite friendly but the coaches were not up to the standard of ours on the Churnet Valley Railway.
Our transport emerges from its own steam

Ivatt 2MT

We had our sandwich lunch in a small pull-off south of Aviemore then continued on our journey south via the A9. We left the A9 and traveled by minor roads to Tummel Bridge, then to Queen's View by Loch Tummel. Rather than park there we found a woodland picnic area (complete with "long drop" loos!) where we were able to give Button her evening walk. 
The woodland walks and picnic area near Queen's View

Overnight camping wasn't allowed so we stopped in a lay-by overlooking Loch Tummel for the night. It was a lovely view enhanced by the occasional breaks in the cloud illuminating the opposite bank of the loch.
The view over Loch Tummel from our pitch

Sunlight above the farm buildings of Lick

We did have a slight problem with midges but kept them out of Morag. We slept well after finishing off the chilli from yesterday.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Day 16 - Brora to Inverness

Wednesday 15th June
After a good nights sleep I took Button for a morning walk alongside the loch while Lyn prepared breakfast. It had rained a lot overnight and there were no midges around.
We drove along the side of the Loch and through Strath Brora. The views were lovely all the way. We regained the A9 south of Golspie near Loch Fleet. We continued on our route taking a detour away from the busy A9 through Invergordon with its oil rigs and maintenance yards. We stopped for a coffee in a lay-by beside the Cromarty Firth.
Oil rig in Cromarty Firth

By the time we moved away the rain had started again, not heavy but quite persistent. We reached our destination, the camp site near Culloden, at about 12:30. Lyn took Button for a walk in the woods in the rain. This completed our journey round the North Coast 500. We celebrated with a home made chilli sitting in Morag while the rain continued outside!

Day 15 - Dunnet Bay to Brora

Tuesday 14th June
We had breakfast outside in the sunshine then readied Morag for departure. We continued along the North Coast, avoiding John O'Groats, until we reached Duncansby Head. It was easy to watch the seabirds on the cliffs. Fulmar, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Puffins and Bonxies were all easy to see either above, or on the walls of the Geo of Sclaites.
Duncansby Stacks

Duncansby Head light

Geo of Sclaites


The proof of the Puffins

We continued our journey stopping at Wick for essentials. Our lunch stop was at “Hill O' Many Stanes”, a field of over 200 small standing stones arranged in rows. 
Hill O' Many Stanes

Lichen covered stane

Later, we parked near the shore in Brora to take Button for a walk on the beach. Although it was still sunny we could see that poor weather was moving in from the east. Rather than finding a wild camp site on the coast we headed inland along the side of Loch Brora and found a lovely spot with a view over the loch. However we had to suffer the midges until the rain came.
Loch Brora

Day 14 - At Dunnet Bay

Monday 13th June
The traffic noise didn't disturb our sleep too much but we decided we would move to a pitch further from the road and nearer the beach as soon as one became available. It was still very windy but with rather more brightness in the sky. After breakfast we drove to Dunnet Head, the most northerly point in mainland Britain. We watched Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Bonxies and rafts of Guillemots (and maybe Puffins) on the sea.
Dunnet Head light with Orkney on the horizon

We drove from there to St John's Pool, a small bird reserve nearby. The reserve was very impressive indeed. We saw Sandwich and Arctic Terns, Common and Black-headed Gulls, Tufted Duck, Moorhens, Coot and, best of all, a pair of American Wigeon.
Sandwich Terns at St John's Pool

Pair of American Wigeon

Fighting Coots

A visit to a woodland near to the campsite followed. This woodland is managed by a local community group and has sculptures, waymarked footpaths and a log cabin used for schools and community events. Button enjoyed her walk through the wood and during the walk I saw my only damselfly of the trip so far, a Large Red.
Log cabin in Dunnet wood

Owl sculpture in Dunnet wood
Evening view from or beach side pitch


Day 13 - Durness to Dunnet Bay

Sunday 12th June
After a good cooked breakfast (sliced sausage, black pudding and egg) we left Durness for Dunnet Bay. It was a better day, still some cloud but with some sunny intervals. We stopped for a coffee beside Loch Eribol before continuing on to Tongue. Another stop for photos of the Tongue causeway and to take Button for a walk.
Loch Eribol

The causeway at Tongue

We stopped for lunch at the Borgie Forest. We found an interesting little forest walk where the trees had been planted to illustrate the “Tree Ogham”, an ancient alphabet; the letters formed from the initial letters of the trees names in Gaelic. A spiral footpath took us to the centre of the planting and there we met a woman whose grandchildren had helped plant the trees.
Stone explaining the "Tree Ogham" alphabet

Especially for my graddaughter, Luis, the letter L, Rowan!

We drove on via Thurso arriving at Dunnet Bay Caravan Club site at about 4pm. It was cloudy and breezy and the only pitches available were by the main road. We took Button for her evening walk on the beach. She loved it. We had dinner that evening in the Northern Sands Hotel. The food was fine and good value but the service was rather chaotic.

Dounreay Nuclear Power station, now being decommissioned
Lyn and Button on Dunnet Bay beach

Button after chasing the ball umpteen times

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Day 12 - Cape Wrath

Saturday 11th June
After breakfast, Lyn took me down to the ferry for a visit to Cape Wrath. Lyn and Button gave the trip a miss because of the long minibus drive across rough roads to reach the Cape.
A party of eleven took the small ferry across the Kyle of Durness where the minibus met us for the journey. The eleven mile trip took an hour as the road was in very poor condition. The scenery was wild and quite desolate as we crossed the MOD bombing range. Our driver kept us entertained with a running commentary and many bad jokes. Cape Wrath as impressively isolated but one man lives there all season and runs the OZone, a small cafe. I took many photos and ate my sandwiches in the shelter of a wall looking out over the North Atlantic. It was very breezy. The journey back seemed to go quite quickly and we only had to wait for a few minutes for the ferry man to return us to the other side of the Kyle.
On the ferry to Cape Wrath

Our transport across the headland

Cape Wrath light

The OZone

OZone menu - note Drachmas accepted!

Sea stacks and natural arch

Boarding the minibus for the return journey

Kearvaig Bay and the sea stack known as "The Cathedral"

Waiting for the return ferry. Morag can be seen in the car park

Lyn was waiting for me with Button. They had been to a beach at Balnakeil Bay and visited a ruined church there. Button had enjoyed running on the extensive unspoilt sands.

Day 11 - Clashnessie to Durness

Friday 10th June
Rather than fight the midges again at breakfast we packed up and moved on to a viewpoint on the headland above Drumbeg. After a relatively midge free breakfast we continued on re-joining the main road near Kylescu.
Our breakfast spot

We stopped for a break to take Button for a walk at Scourie and were pleased to find a community bird hide with lots of local natural history information. The hide is obviously much used by the local primary school as a resource with drawings and writings by the children on the walls.

The road now headed north east past Arkle and Foinaven (not the horses!).The cloud was down so we were unable to see the tops of the mountains. We soon dropped down to the village of Durness where our camp site, Sango Sands, was located. We took Button for her evening walk then had a meal at the pub next to the site.
Morag at Sango Sands, Durness

Beach and observation point

Beach from the observation point

Day 10 - Ullapool to Clashnessie

Thursday 9th June
The curry was good, but there were some after effects! We left Ullapool and continued on our route but took a diversion to visit Achiltibuie and the Summer Isles. The road was a delight. We passed Loch Lurghainn below Stac Pollaidh, a mountain that has always fascinated me. The road continued on past more lochs eventually arriving at Badentarbet Bay and Achiltibuie. We stopped for a sandwich and a cuppa with a view across to the Summer Isles.
Stac Pollaidh

A lonely post box on the way to Achiltibuie

Morag and the Summer Isles

Rather than follow the road back to the NC500 route, we took another diversion along a narrow winding moorland road towards Inverkirkraig and Lochinver. More super views of the Summer Isles and some quite difficult driving.
Stac Pollaidh from another angle

Summer Isles view

Yet another view of Stac Pollaidh

At Lochinver we rejoined the official route which once again stayed near the coast. We stopped at a viewpoint near Achmelvich with superb views over the glen and the mountains. It would have made a great overnight stop but before we could set up we were invaded by Germans!
The view from our hoped for camp pitch before the Germans arrived!

We continued on to Clashnessie and stopped at the layby I was hoping to use for an overnight stop. However there was a “No Overnight Parking” sign so we moved on a little way to a lay-by beside Loch Eilleanach. We started setting up to prepare our evening meal but decided it would be nicer to have a barbecue by the beach back at Clashnessie. The barbecue was unsuccessful (the disposable BBQ just didn't get hot enough) so we had to cook our lamb leg steaks under te grill in Morag.

We returned to the lay-by beside the loch for the night. Foe the first time during the trip the midges were a real problem. They made sleeping quite difficult.
Clashnessie Beach