This summer Yvonne and I decided we would holiday at home and tour parts of Scotland I'm ashamed to say we hadn't previously visited. Wow what a great decision that was. We loaded up our beloved motorhome 'serendipity' (2) and off we trotted early July heading north from our Glasgow base towards our first destination Inverness, capital of the highlands.
We had decided we would spend a week travelling round the North Coast 500 route (NC500), Scotland version of route 66 but I guess a little narrower and possibly a touch cooler! although the week we chose was pretty hot by Scottish standards.
Our first night at Inverness was spent at Bunchrew caravan park, a park on the Beauly firth on the outskirts of Inverness. Some pitches overlooked the firth with stunning views (1) and better still a short stroll through the woods led to the very luxurious Bunchrew House Hotel. This Hotel welcomed non residents to its lounge bar (3) with a large array of malt whiskies (4), bliss for night one.
we were off early next morning for a drive through Beauly, Muir of Ord, Achnasheen and Lochcarron. We stopped for Coffee and cake at the Lochcarron hotel and people watched as cyclists, campers, motor cyclists and back packers traveled through on route to Applecross and for many via the famous Bealach na Ba, Gaelic for pass of the cattle. The road is one of few in the Scottish Highlands that is engineered similarly to roads through the great mountain passes in the Alps, with very tight hairpin bends that switch back and forth up the hillside and gradients that approach 20%. It boasts the greatest ascent of any road climb in the UK, rising from sea level at Applecross to 626 metres (2,054 ft), and is the third highest road in Scotland. Being in a 7m long motorhome we followed the tourist guidance and took the 23 mile alternative route via Shieldaig. No i didn't go over the pass but if the alternative route, which wasn't a cake walk, is anything to go by the pass must be an adventurous experience. One day I'll go back and drive it in my car just to check!
We arrived at Applecross mid afternoon, perfect for exploring the area on foot before heading for the famous Applecross Inn (5) for evening dinner. It's usually very busy so you take your chances or book ahead. We took our chances and got lucky with a table for two available on arrival. I had the fish pie, full of locally caught seafood and quite simply to die for. Applecross felt a very spiritual place, almost a different world travelling at a different pace and the Zen stones on the foreshore (6) possibly reinforced that view.....
DAY 3 & 4
On day 3 we set off in serendipity for our 92 mile journey with Ullapool our destination for a 2 night stay. We retraced our steps back along the coastal road to Shieldaig with Loch Torridon to our left (7), once again we navigated along the single track and had the odd uncomfortable encounter with vehicles coming the other way, all part of the adventure. From Shieldaig we joinedthe A896 to Kinlochewe again Upper Loch torridon being our close companion
Day took us northward again up past Loch Assynt and onwards across the Kylesku bridge on through Scourie to the coastal village of Durness, the most north westerly village in Britain, and our campsite for the night at Sango Bay beside a wonderful golden sand beach and close to Smoo cave
Day 6 took us along the north coast of Scotland heading East. Through the village of Tongue and Thurso before a stop at the Castle of May, the Queen Mothers former residence and well worth a visit. Another slight detour took us to Dunnet Head the most northerly point in mainland Britain before arriving at John o'Groats the finishing point for many Lands end to John O'Groat's cycling feats and indeed we were able to witness two such cyclists reaching their destination whilst we were there. Then we headed south along the east coast for our final campsite stop at Wick