Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Last Post; Scotland

Hi All,
Here is my last post regarding our tour of Scotland. It was mid-afternoon when we left the Kyle of Tongue and set off down the lonely A836 to Laig. Unhappily for us our journey wouldn't end there because the following morning we'd be heading further south and after a stop over in Moffat, we'd find ourselves back in the urban sprawl we call home. Still enough of that for now, let's get back to the journey.
After a few miles we came to Loch Loyal which was in a splendid setting surrounded by moorlands and mountains. The road sticks to the shore for the whole of it's length presenting visitors like us with a splendid panorama. Above I can be seen viewing one of the many lochs that can be found in this part of Scotland. Once Loch Loyal was firmly in our rear view mirror we carried on through a remote landscape until we came to Altnaharra. This is a small settlement with an hotel and a few guest houses which are no doubt kept busy by Munro Baggers (people who are obsessed with climbing mountains over 3000 feet high). The hamlet is situated on a crossroads, which is rare in this part of Scotland. A very small road heads off to the west, down through Strathmore to emerge on the north coast near Loch Eriboil, which we passed through earlier in the day. The other road out of Altnaharra heads due east and follows Loch Naver which lies just beyond the village.From here we carried on our journey southwards and after passing between two large mountains we arrived at Cask Inn. The place is named after what must be one of the remotest pubs in the British Isles. It's a very thirsty 12 miles from the nearest settlement at Lairg. .Eventually, we arrived back at the lodge and after spending another glorious evening watching eagles soar across the mountain tops opposite, we went to bed for the last time in Sutherland.My wife Terry Anne can be seen above scanning for eagles from the balcony of our lodge. The following day we were up early and set off on the long journey back to southern Scotland. I had intended on sticking to the A9 for most of the way but it was so busy when compared with the roads we'd be on, that when we got to Killiecrankie we turned right and followed a road around the almost deserted shores of Lock Tummel. Here we picnicked and walked the dog before commencing the rest of our journey to Moffat where we had a bed and breakfast booked for the night. We like Moffat even though it is always busy with tourists. We had a nice meal in the same hotel that we'd used a couple of years earlier and then for some unknown reason went for a short drive before retiring for the night. It was on this short excursion that when driving along the top of a ridge that looked over the M74 motorway we came across a roadside that was populated with parked cars and people with cameras and telescopes. They must be Twitchers (people obsessed with birds) I thought, perhaps there is an eagle in the vicinity. Anyway, being nosey we parked up and got out of the car to see what all the fuss was about and it turned out these people were Chuffers (people obsessed with steam trains) and a steam train was due up the valley at any moment. So we waited and watched with great excitement as the train came thundering along the pine tree covered valley that the railway track shares with the M74. If you look closely at the photo you can see one lane of the motorway and the cars.
Trains aren't really my thing but it provided a full stop to what had been a great holiday. As it happens the next morning we found ourselves sharing a breakfast table with another couple and when I told them about the steam train the man was almost in tears. Apparently he was he was an old chuffer of extreme persuasion and was mortified that he'd missed the event. We calmed him down by promising to send him a copy of the photo I took and he seemed well pleased with that.
After breakfast we drove non-stop back to Stafford and that was the end of our holiday. In fact it is the end of a Sassenach's view of Scotland because I have run out of material. You don't need to get the violins out, but due to domestic circumstances beyond my control we haven't been on holiday for over two years. However, the day will come when I and my wife will, with hearts full of joy and excitement, head north again to the majestic wilds of Scotland.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as I have writing it and that you have a happy and prosperous new year.

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Thursday, 22 December 2011

Ullapool and Durness

Hi all,
You may be sad to know that the post after this will be my last regarding a Sassenach's view of Scotland. The journey has been great but alas I am running out of material. To make matters worse, we only had a film camera at the time and it developed a sticking lens during the last couple of days of our holiday. We didn't realise until after the film had been developed when we found that half of the pictures we'd taken hadn't come out. Sadly, we don't have as many photos of a beautiful place that we should have. The good news is, I've still got the memories which will forever be etched in a special place.

Anyway on the Wednesday we went due west from our lodge at Rogart, near Lairg and followed a single track road, with passing places. The journey to Ullapool and back was 110 miles, which is a mighty long way on single track roads. The good thing about travelling around those roads in Scotland is the lack of traffic and the great visibility. Most of the countryside is wide open with great vistas so you can see the approach of another car from miles way.
The journey was great and so was Ullapool. We had a walk around the town then a spot of lunch in pub before visiting a garden and then starting back. It's sad that we have no pictures, but these things happen.

The following day we set out on another of our epic journeys; a drive along the side of Loch Shin and then up to the furthest North West Point of Scotland. Well as far as you can get in a car, it is possible to walk to Cape Wrath or even catch a special mini bus certain times, but we'd be close enough.

We started the journey by going West as we had in the previous day, but when we reached Lairg, instead of carrying straight on, we turned right and followed the banks of Loch Shin. Not long into the trip we came across a field of Highland cattle, which both my wife and I find adorable.

We stopped and took several pictures all of which came out okay.

As per the day before we were travelling on a single track road with very little in the way of traffic. The scenery all the way to Durness on the North coast was nothing short of breathtaking. Views of lochs, forests and mountains frequently gave way to vast areas of moorland where we felt as if we were the only creatures on earth. The only bad thing I have to say about Durness is that the price of petrol was eye watering; luckily, I filled up the previous day so I managed to retain the lining in my wallet.

After having some refreshments in Durness, we followed the coast road around Loch Eriboll. We stopped a while and took in the coastal scenery which included a Salmon Farm. From our vantage point on the cliffs we could watch the magnificent fish leaping into the air trying to get free from the cages which had become their home. We then crossed the Kyle of Tongue and having travelled almost 100 miles on single track roads we sadly turned South to return to our lodge. I will describe the journey back in my next post.
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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Dunnet Head

Hi all,
Last week saw us half-way around our circular tour to John o Groats and back. I will pick up the story from where we left it at Dunnet Head which is the most northerly point of mainland Scotland.
After leaving Dunnet Head we followed the coast road for about 25 miles miles, through the lovely little town of Thurso and eventually came to the outskirts of Portskerra where we turned left and headed back to our lodge in Lairg. We were going into what is known as, The Flow Country, an area of peaty bog that stretches for thousands of square miles.The next bit of road we'd travel on was classed as an 'A road', but if it was around our way, it would be called a lane. This, the A897 was the remotest bit of road I'd ever driven on in my life. Miles and miles of moorland stretched in every direction and if you passed a car going in the other direction you waved because it was nice to know you weren't the only people on earth. We would have to get used to being on our own because it would be 38 miles before we reached civilisation again in Helmsdale. Actually, I tell a lie, after about fifteen miles of wilderness we came to a place called Forsinard, where the railway line crosses the road. It has a station and a nice looking hotel, but that's about it. It reminded me of one of those frontier towns you used to see in the old western films and half expected some tumble weed to bounce down the road to greet us.We really enjoyed our trip through the remote Flow Country; we stopped every now and again for a cup of tea out of our jumbo flask and we walked our dog. We also stopped every now and again to photograph herds of wild dear that were often found grazing along the side of the road.By the time we'd got back to our lodge it was late evening and the mist was beginning to sweep across the mountain range opposite our lodge. We'd had a great day out and seen Scotland at its best.
If you would like to find out more about my books please click here
or if you would like to see some of my pyrography work please click here
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