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SCOTLAND - Uncovering her Highland beauty, and Rich History in Part 3 of our Great Britain series.

Updated: Feb 1

Sing me a song, of a Lass that has gone - over the sea to Skye...

Okay, so I couldn't resist the' #Outlander' reference!

Welcome... to Bonnie Scotland!


The lure of Scotland - especially The Highlands;

is a very real thing to many people. Me included.

I'm a 'Crawford' by birth - and it truly felt like I was coming home, in a unique kind of way.


I first came here when I was 18, on a Contiki tour actually, (crikey, that's nearly 40 years ago)

How can it be that long?!

Consequently, the brain cells may or may not have been somewhat ...

'compromised', during that - ah...endeavour. 😉


I've only just dug up this photo. Its new to Trev, and none of our kids had seen it either! 🤭


So it was heartwarming to share this new experience with my soulmate and wingman; Trev -

with fresh eyes, a new perspective, and might I add...a tad more wisdom.

I even brought with me, my Clan Crawford tartan scarf.

One of the few treasures I have from back then.


Also, we are continuing our journey around Great Britian,

after travelling so well throughout England and Wales

over the past three and a half weeks.

We are now looking forward to what Scotland has to offer!

I'm excited that in two weeks, we intend to track down the ancient ruins of

Crawford Castle, and Crawford Cemetary,

and that will be a chapter of this blog that will be very special to me.


I know it's going to be epic.

Yep, I can feel it in ma' bones!


---


We are are currently in the English city of York,

with train tickets in our wee little hands,

to get to the Highland city of Inverness, via Edinburgh.

However, there's something in our way... It goes by the name; 'Babet'.

AKA...Mother Nature.




Crap.

Certainly not only for us of course,

as this is the second major weather event in less than two weeks,

and poor Scotland is getting hammered yet again.


So, after only an hour delay, and a hurried platform change,

we were on our way...to Edinburgh at least.

However, not far into the journey, the announcements were coming through

thick and fast over the intercom.


The main message was:

'Turn around now. Abandon any further travel north. Go home.'

And we were not even halfway into our journey.

There was to be no further travel past Edinburgh, be it by train, bus, or road,

until further notice. (Inverness was still a further 3 hours by rail from Edinburgh.)


Time to throw out all my current plans...hotel bookings, and sadly,

our Jacobite steam train booking, that was near impossible to get in the first place.

Gone.


A real shame missing this.


But as I say, we are just on holidays, and these storms are impacting peoples' lives.


So it's now time to become flexible, and start the job of cancelling,

rearranging, and rebooking.

Thank goodness for the internet.

Really.

I remember the days of paper maps, pay phones, and hoping places are open...

(And my blog was merely a journal with a pen.)


Booking.com literally is a godsend, and whilst on the train, I managed to secure a booking not too far from Edinburgh's Waverley station.

This way, when we arrived, in the cold and the rain,

it wasn't too far to trundle our luggage down Princes Street to our new home,

at least for the night.


That's travelling. You have to be adaptable.

I was really disappointed about missing our day tour out of Inverness, and of all days,

but hey, s**t happens,

and if this is the worst, well we are doing just fine.

Look at the run we've had so far, in England and Wales. It's been perfect.


So time to jump on the On/Off bus and check the city out, despite the weather. Trev always says to turn a negative into a postive! He's good like that.




So they're saying...


And check out Trev's new Scottish hat - He's so hard to find in a crowd now!


We chose to remain warm and dry by staying on the bus for one full circuit, (about an hour),

so we could first get a feel for the place,

and choose where to get off, particularly in the cold and wet.

The National Museum of Scotland seemed like a good choice.

It ended up being a GREAT choice! We easily spent a couple of hours in there...it reminded me of the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian, and then some. A great visit, and it's free, unless you see a special featured exhibit.


I couldn't help but imagine the movie, 'Night at the Museum'.



Then a little walk down by the famous area at the base of Edinburgh Castle,

known as Grassmarket. I have seen various forms of these next two images, so I was really happy to finally

grab them for myself.




We did loads of walking once the drizzle stopped,

and it really is an amazing city, with plenty to see and do. Seeing that we have three days here on our way back from the North Coast,

we didn't push the sightseeing, just happy to meander where ever our feet took us.

Apart from Princes St, you seem to either walk uphill, or downhill here.

A great workout for Trev's knee!


Back to our hotel at the end of a trying, but always ending up good, day,

and check out the precious view out of our hotel room... haha.

Just as well our dinner on the bed was perfect...an improv charcuturie board,

with a credit card for a knife.

A very Watson travel move over the years! Going with the flow, especially with some Baileys to wash it down with!




Unfortunately, we were informed that we were going to stranded here in

Edinburgh until further notice,

so when this hotel said that the following night was going to cost over $500 Australian,

for that room, haha, I got online quick smart and found somewhere else.

A little out of walking distance to everything,

but, it was Friday now, so we couldn't be fussy.


Leaving our luggage at the current hotel, we spent our second day just cruising around town, still saving our visit to Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House

until we return in a couple of weeks. We didn't have to head over to the new hotel till the evening and it ended up being a really lovely old place to stay.


---


The following morning, the guy on the reception desk gave us the best bit of advice,

when we told him of our cancelled plans out of Inverness.


He suggested we try to hire a car here, out of Edinburgh, (if one's available),

take our chances on the roads,

and just head west to pick up our previous plans from there.

Brilliant, and that's exactly that we did.


We managed to change our hire car plans to leave from Edinburgh

(instead of originally Inverness),

and we just got the heck out of Dodge.

And guess what?

The sun came out 10 minutes out of Edinburgh.

GREAT call!


We are now embarking on something we'd had really been looking forward to,

and what has become known as one of the world's most scenic

(and sometimes challenging) road trips - The North Coast 500.

A 500 mile loop from Inverness back to Inverness, encasing the magnificent Scottish Highlands, lochs, and rugged coastline.

And we were super excited!



Plus, we get to the very top of Scotland, to the sign post we've been heading towards since we left Land's End, at the bottom of England over three weeks ago. By doing so, we'll earn the title of 'End to Enders',

having traversed the length of mainland Great Britain.


As a bonus, by driving from Edinburgh, we will get to drive through the

unbelievably glorious Glencoe Valley,

which we would have missed coming from the direction of Inverness. See? A door closes and a window opens! Things work out.


Now, we are on our way to the historic Fort William,

for a really quirky overnight stay in a jail cell, yes, a jail cell, you'll see -

but not before two quick stops first.

Two places I had only become familiar with via the UK travel planning sight

I had been following before we left Australia.


The Kelpies, and The Falkirk Wheel.


What are those I hear some of you say. Let me show you!

(You're still curious about the jail cell, aren't you? Haha.)


Meet, The Kelpies.


Standing at 30 metres high, and weighing in at 300 tonnes each,

The Kelpies were the largest equine statues in the world when they were built in 2013,

only for that title to be lost a year later to the statue of Pegasus and Dragon, in the USA.


In Scottish Folklore, a kelpie is a dangerous shape-shifting water creature that can appear on land as a horse. The kelpie appears to their human victims as a grey or white horse, entices them to ride on their back, then carries them down to a watery grave.


So what started as an ode to these mythical creatures, then, according to the sculptor -

the concept soon moved towards representing the heavy horse,

and the work load and effort they put into agriculture and industry in Scotland

over the centuries.

Being placed by a canal, they particularly represent the important role tow horses had in the community.


It was truly awe inspiring walking around them, they really tower over you.

They are a photographers delight, particularly at sunset and after dark,

which unfortunately we didn't get to see,

but I'll add a couple photos below for reference.


The 'Scotland beanie' you'll see me wearing from here on end was bought

as we were leaving here.

A nice memento, and practcial too.




Not far from here is another famous structure that was worth seeing -

The Falkirk Wheel.



This is a rotating boat lift, which elevates a boat 11 metres and deposits it into a previously unconnected canal which is going a completely different direction. Opening in 2002, it still is the only one of its kind in the world.


You can buy tickets and go on it as a 'ride', but we had a fair drive ahead, so were just happy to have a quick look and a grab couple of photos. It would be a really unique thing to do, if you had a little more time than us.




Check out this quick time lapse video. The real time for a half rotation is only five minutes.



Ok, moving on, it's time now for the highways to end, woohoo, and commence the famous Scottish Highland roads, as we now head toward the gorgeous Glencoe Valley. As the mountains are getting larger, and snow smears on top were beginning to appear,

we kept an eye out for Big Ben. That's Ben Nevis. The highest peak in Great Britain, and we should be driving right past him, just not quite sure when, as all I knew was that he overlooks Fort William.


Driving now along this magnificent winding road,

dwarfed either side by such incredible scenery,

I spotted this wee little white house,

and took this quick pic out the window of our moving car.

Turns out it is more than just a little house.


It literally is just known as the 'Wee Little White House of Glencoe'.

Officially known as: Lagangargh Hut.



It is a National Trust property now, and run by the Scottish Mountaineering club. Hikers can use it as a resting point, but you'd need to book! It is one of the most photographed properties in Scotland,

and most pics on the web look just like mine! Check them out...

It's basically only different with the clouds...



The scenery here in the Highlands changes dramatically, literally as you drive around a bend. Often it can be barren and void of trees, then next minute there's a whole forest of

lush towering conifers, and a darling stream with waterfalls.




Next screaming stop, as in me saying "Trev! Stop, stop, stop!!"

(and a clue is a group of cars on the side of the road),

was the viewing site for Scotland's 'Three Sisters.' Once again, I just thought it looked like a pretty spot, then once I read the signage,

I realised that this was actually a tourist attration!

I knew of this place, but didn't really put it down as something to look for,

as originally we weren't even supposed to be driving from this direction. So a big win-win here!

The views seem, and are, endless.


As we drove further towards Fort William, we pretty much hugged glorious

lochs the whole way.

And this view is something I'd never tire from:

Not unlike New Zealand's beautiful South Island.


And as the sun was setting... there's nothing but beauty and complete serenity everywhere we looked. Sometimes it felt like we were the only ones in the world. Such is Scotland.

The further north we travelled, the less human life has impact here. When the Highlanders were cruelly and unfairly dispersed after the civil war in 1746,

it seems no one ever returned. A part of me truly aches over this fact.



Arriving into Fort William at the end of a beautiful day's drive, I was videoing and laughing, as we were passing all these gorgeous, quaint little boutique hotels and residences, knowing full well we were staying in a simple white block building,

known as the Garrison.

It was the former jail, but has since been converted into a hotel. See? We weren't busted, we just have a sense of adventure. Well, poor Trev, having left all the bookings up to me - this is the result!!!! I thought it was hilarious!



Solitary- don't go in there, trev!

Bunk beds!!! Dibs the top!!!!!!


Quick dump of the bags, as there wasn't much use of that room other than to sleep... I don't want to even think of the room's history...

we headed down the cobblestoned main lane of Fort William.

So charming, and nestled snugly against Loch Linnhe,

Fort William is also the destination of the Jacobite train...the one we missed.

There is so much history here, particularly before, during and after the battle of Culloden, which saw the end of the civil war. I'll chat more about this later, when we actually visit the Culloden Battlefield and Memorial.


We only had time for one night here, but it would definitely be worth staying longer,

even doing some nice hikes, including Ben Nevis, which is just nearby.


We basically only had time to enjoy the main street, poke our heads into a shop or two,

then find a pub for dinner and watch some rugby world cup action,

along with some very rowdy Scots!

We joined a lovely English couple at their table and spent a fun evening with them,

learning about their lives as dairy famers in the Midlands of England.



And Nessie is everywhere! We'll get to her later.


---


Today's efforts will be escaping our jail, 😇, and departing this gorgeous town of

Fort William, to drive to the incomparable Isle of Skye -


But not before finally finding Ben Nevis, yeay!

Scooting along the empty road, we just so happened to see a picture sign of a Cable Car,

and I recalled our Welsh friends saying you could take one of these bad boys up to nearly the top of the mountain. That's a 'heck yeah' from us!! Let's do it!!🚠


Again, the advantage of not being on a tour bus,

so we swung around and went back for a look. Not at all thinking that today, we'd be heading up Great Britain's highest peak! (Well, not quite to the summit, but close enough all the same.)

🏔

Upon our arrival into the carpark, we noticed so many people,

all unloading their mountain bikes, as they could hook them onto the cable car

to take up the mountain.



That flat, snow dusted peak, is Ben Nevis.


Certainly an easier option than at Mount Snowden in Wales, where we watched them all (from the comfort of our tiny train), pushing their bikes at least 2,

maybe 3 hours up the mountain,

before they could enjoy the rugged ride back downhill.

This was awesome, even I'd give it a crack!


The cable car was so cool, such beautiful views, and somewhat colder at the top,

of course, but not as bad as we expected. No wind, meant it was freezing, but still pleasant enough.

Just.



The views...🤩


A fab stopover on our way to the Isle of Skye,

but we still had one further stop before leaving the mainland.


That's none other than very beautiful and famous

but also historically strategic, Eilean Donan Castle.

Pronounced, as we found out : Ellen Donnan...just fyi....

(I know you just said that out loud...😉 )


This was another one of my desktop screen savers for quite some time

as I was planning this trip,

so driving towards her made me again feel

like I was falling into a fairy tale.

Just like I felt in England with the gorgeous village of Castle Combe, in The Cotswalds.


She's a beaut.

And apparently the most photographed castle in all of Scotland. I can see why.


And now, I get my own photo of her. 😍





And unlike many ruins in Scotland,

(and let me just say, there seem to be many more ruins here than complete castles),

this beauty has been faithfully restored to her former glory,

after she was blown up by the English in 1719, as this was a Jacobite headquarters,

back during the Uprising in the 1700's.


They have done an incredible job, as a former descendant of the original owners,

the MacRae Clan, brought her back to life between the years 1911 and 1932,

stone for stone as she used to look.

Apart from the bridge - that is a new addition.


The internal rooms were authentically reproduced and staged,

however, no photography was allowed inside,

so it's just exterior shots...




And it was here, that I spoke to a guide, in his full Scottish attire, 😍, and I got to chat to him about my Clan Crawford.

To which he said to me .."For this, Lassie, we must consult the Bible"...as in an ancient book of the Clans that he hauled out of an antique dresser.

I only wish I could have taken a photo of the book, and him as well... It was a special moment.


He found me, as in Crawford, and where I was located, and told me a little of the names associated with my Clan, so that will help me later in my research.

Brilliant.


We spent quite some time here, Trev particularly loving it,

saying it had a great feel about the place.

It was sad to leave, truth be told.


But we had another bridge to cross. This one; the Skye Bridge.

I had been looking forward to this, since leaving Australia!

And when you are welcomed to the Skye coast with this, all I can say is, again..."wow."

🌈


Point to note: It may be an island, but it's deceptively large! And some of the roads we were to discover, shouldn't even be called roads. Even the owner of our Air BnB booking, warned us about the crazy amount of potholes around his place -

and we're so glad he did! Not the place you want to get a flat tyre.


Always being aware of any place of interest to stop and take photos along our journey,

we came across this particular bridge,

which was actually by our turn off to our two night stay. As it happened, it was a famous bridge. Go figure... Maybe that's why there was a bunch of people strolling around. Make that two more now.


This is Sligachan Old Bridge. And she's a doozy.




And guess what I found out AFTER I returned to Australia?


Legend has it: if you stick your face in the water under the Old Sligachan Bridge for 7 seconds and let It dry off naturally, you'll be granted eternal beauty.


Clearly, I didn't.

Bugger! Might have been my last chance... I'm such a klutz, no doubt I would've fallen in trying to do that,

so maybe I missed a 'whole body beautification' opportunity! Haha.

Moving on from here, and after we had picked up some groceries,

we literally had to crawl along the last couple of deeply pot-holed lanes,

dodging sheep,

to get to our digs for the following couple of nights.


Check this dude out. "Comfy mate, or what?"


But man, it was worth it. Check out the adorable, Harlosh Cabins.



With only two cabins perched by the shore, it was simply divine. The couple in the other cabin were from Austria - and we're from Australia...

what were the chances of that, hey? 😆

The sunsets were extraordinary, and we even had seals just offshore to watch as they frolicked and flopped around the rocks with the dropping tide. Doesn't get more perfect.

But, maybe it could?


Certainly a far cry from the view of fire escapes we had back in Edinburgh! 😉

We were super excited, as the weather was clearing and it was looking like we were

guaranteed a starry night - so I was desperately hoping for the

Northern Lights to make an appearance.

We were in the perfect place, that's for sure, with zero light pollution,

apart from a half moon... but that's not the whole night, right? I had been following an Aurora watch page for weeks, and the lights had been going off madly, so I was receiving alerts on my watch at all hours,

but they had apparently slipped out of a cycle. Yep, they cycle, it seems.

I live in hope though.

Our log cabin is only a few minutes drive to the village of Dunvegan,

located on the rugged West Coast of Skye, and is known for its beautiful Castle. There is also a cool lighthouse to explore, (to add to my growing list),

giant waterfalls, more ruins, Kilt Rock and The Fairy Pools,

so there is plenty to see over here for our first full day tomorrow.

Tonight, we had dinner at a restaurant called the 'Old School Restaurant',

a booking I had made two months ago, whilst still in Australia. I had read that many places aren't open Mondays/Tuesdays - the two days we are here,

so I made sure when I did find somewhere that would be open, I booked it.

Good thing I did, I think half the population was inside! It was packed, and we ended up having THE most amazing meal since

we arrived in Scotland. Definitely the BEST scallops we've ever had - in our lives! I was so keen to finally get to try out Scotland's famous seafood,

and it certainly didn't let us down.

We were literally stuffed and content after our mains,

that the staff packed up some dessert for us to take back to our cabin. They couldn't bear the thought of us not finishing with pudding. Bless.


Full and happy bellies tonight. It had been quite a huge day, since leaving our jail cell in Fort William this morning!

It'll be even bigger tomorrow.


---


No Northern Lights last night.

Poop. 😩 I looked out the window every time I woke, so did Trev, but to no avail. Oh well, we still have two weeks left in Scotland, surely we'll get lucky,

ya think?


This morning we headed towards the most Westerly point on the Isle of Skye,

Neist Point Lighthouse. If you've read my England and Wales blogs,

you'll know I'm mad keen on photographing lighthouses,

so this one was definitely in my sights.


But first, we actually drove to the very nearby Dunvegan Castle. It's not a ruin and is still occupied, so I was really looking forward to it. Randomly closed.

Bugga!

What a shame.

Here's what she looks like anyhoo...



Never mind, moving on.

It was SUCH a pretty drive to get to Neist Lighthouse. Man, I'm starting to truly fall in love with Skye. It aint hard, I tell ya. Ask anyone who's been there.

All it seems to be is little white cottages, sheep, and endless, glorious views. 😍





Not my shot, but I couldn't find the name of the photographer.


Once we started walking, I didn't quite realise how far it was to get there from

parking the car. This photo above shows most of the walking track,

however it misses the height of the first hill. And with Trev's new knee getting quite a flogging on this holiday, this one could be a test. A LONG walk down, but a tough walk back up.

The great sport he is, he led the way!





It was a tad brisk! And more than a tad steep!



Made it! Just have to make it back up! lol

What cracking weather hey!



When Trev found a huge stone pile collection... guess who had to make the tallest? 😉


Ta-Darrrrr!


A brilliant walk down...now, to walk back up. Sigh...


I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It was absolutely magnificent. Next time though, I'd remember to take a water bottle.

Oops, rookie error.


Next stop from here, believe it or not, was lunch!

I had read good reviews about a local place known as

The Oyster Shed' back home before we left,

and the menu of fresh seafood looked too hard to pass by. A tricky spot to find with sat nav, and we only eventually discovered it by finding

a place to turn around after we gave up looking!


Perched on hill, overlooking the deep blue waters where they fish, I'd like to say we sat,

but it was standing room only, and as most of their daily catch was sold out,

we had to settle on two half lobsters between us. Tough gig!


The before and after shot...delishly devoured.


Now that we have the energy for the next adventure - we're off with the fairies...

I mean, to The Fairy Pools!

Again, underestimating the effort to walk it, and to have these two long walks back to back had Trev giving me the 'WTF' face!

But, as per usual, he says, "We're here, so let's do it!".


Not a long walk, but a pretty steady incline on the way back.

Nowhere near as steep as down to Neist Lighthouse, but I'm sure we are racking up the steps and levels climbed today!




Lead the way, M'lord!


Now, let me show you the image that I have seen online, of the Fairy Pools.

Let me add, that the only way to get this shot, I believe, is to get into the freezing water,

and know how to trick it up a wee bit...



Let me show you my shot, of how you see it from the path -


Internet v's reality.

Hahahaha.


We kept walking, waiting to find that magical spot, not realising we had walked past it! 🤣😫

Oh, the hopes that must be dashed here every day! Still, don't get me wrong, its a great walk with stunning scenery,

but we can now cross that one off the list.





I love this image...showing that we were blowing zzz's by 8pm. That's gold.


Needless to say, we enjoyed just snacks for dinner tonight, along with another stellar sunset.




It'll be a shame to leave here tomorrow, but we will still enjoy another full-ish day on Skye, before heading back to the mainland to continue our journey north,

along the North Coast 500.


---


After gratefully getting to use a washer/dryer here at our wee cabin,

we were pretty much set for the rest of our trip - hopefully, and off we left.

Ready now to explore the easterly side of Skye before we leave this

magnificent island paradise.


First stop is Portree - Skye's capital.

And nothing is more indicative of this quaint little town, than the myriad of multi coloured buildings that line the water's edge. Everyone coming here takes this pic, and I'm no different.

Trev and I both competing with each other to get the best shot!

(This is mine, btw. 😉)

The 'Cinque Terra of Scotland' I call it! It's pretty cute.



We just missed a jumping on a three hour boat tour, which would have been great,

but I think what we ended up doing was so much better.

Don't ever deny yourself the opportuntiy to discover Skye's uniqueness on land, if you visit.


Leaving Portree, with latte's in hand and a packed lunch in tow, we just followed a route that I found online... a bit of a circuit really, and quite handy.

Clue: There aren't many roads here, so you're not likely to get lost. Just make sure you have a full tank of fuel, so you're not looking for petrol where there is nothing but sheep and seagulls.


Old Man of Storr, was our next landmark to look out for, and as it happened,

its on the main road, so impossible to miss.

Another attraction I had learnt about on my online research before I left home,

andit's is a place that many abled people like to hike to. Yeah, that puts us out. It would've been grand, but we'll leave that one for the good knees

and the fitter bods to be honest.

Here's my shot...from the road. ;)



And here's what it looks like up close...via a drone.



There's no denying it's beauty - it surely is a photographer's paradise.

Sunsets there are astonishingly gorgeous.

And definitely its the most photographed rock formation all of Scotland. A dedicated climb to get there. At least we saw it, albeit from a distance... :)


From here, still heading to Northern tip of East Skye, and next stop is the majestically tall Mealt Falls, with the famous Kilt Rock behind it.

But there was a stop on the way, not sure what it was,

but still beautiful and worthy of more than one photograph or three!




Are you starting to feel the vastness and majesty of this place? The views are endless.

One of the most beautiful places I have ever been.


Finally arriving at the famous Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls,

but check out the view across the road from the carpark... I had to do a double take of this and ask Trev to stop and let me out to snap these. Wow.





Now, to Mealt Falls, with Kilt Rock in the background.



Wish we had our drone for these. Understandably, drones are invasive. But for offshore photography, I think we may look at bringing it next time.

But checkout Kilt Rock up close... ❤️ Hence the name, with all those pleats!

(Not my shot.)



From here we drove up to the pinnacle of the island...and we were looking for a castle. Had no idea what size, or what state it was in.

And here it is - Duntulm Castle.

You have to prepare yourself for a wee ruin... And a ruin, it was. But it was actually super cool up close.

And the weather was warm and sunny. It couldn't have been more ideal place to have our picnic lunch.







Well, sadly now, it was time to make tracks, back over the Skye Bridge and to the mainland of Scotland to continue our drive around the glorious Highlands,

towards our next night's stopover, Gairloch.


Bye- bye Skye.

You've exceeded all expectations. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. If you ever get to Scotland, do yourself a favour, and spend at least 2-3 days here.

You won't be sorry.


My-oh-my, driving away, the scenery was literally out of this world.


Many times, sitting in the car as Trev drove along, I would hold my phone up to take a pic, shrug my shoulders, and put it down again.

You just can't capture the sheer vastness of the skies and mountains. Saying we were dwarfed, doesn't even begin to describe insignificance we seem to look

in this environment.


We got to experience driving the notorious 'Applecross Way' - a notoriously steep and winding section of the NC 500, that actually rises 2000 feet,

making it the highest road in Scotland.

This below, was an easy section of road. How gorgeous is it?

Still feels like we have the entire place to ourselves.




I videoed as we drove into our upcoming little stop of Gairloch; a seaside village that rarely gets a mention, but should.

The view, the sunset, the lighthouse, all adds to the charm of this perfect place for a stopover on our NC 500 route.

And I was joking with Trev about where we might be staying... He had no idea what I had conjured up...last place was that cute log cabin,

the time before that was a converted jail cell.


Low and behold....this is why I was giggling.

The Gairloch Hotel. I knew it would be beautiful. Best part, it wasn't that expensive at all, I think it was one of the cheapest in all our

North Coast stays...and we even scored an free upgrade to a suite. It was exceptional. Happy days.



After checking in, (and finding out we had a suite - grateful much),

we drove up to the local village area, found an empty pub to park ourselves,

and just watched the sunset over a couple of bevvies before our dinner was served.

I ordered haggis bon-bons with a thick, creamy whisky sauce.

YUM! (Its like a savoury mince, rolled, crumbed and deep fried.) Holiday calories, they don't count - remember?

Another perfect end to a day.



And what a view out our room, right on the shoreline.

But still no sign of the Northern Lights, particularly with this bright moon.



---


Following morning I managed to pick up a fantastic road map of the NC 500. Sometimes its just easier looking at an old fashioned map, seeing everything at a glance, rather than always trying to Google info, as we often didn't have wifi.

This became my bible.

You can see Inverness down the bottom, and the circle route of the

North Coast 500 from there with the blue dots.

Not a far drive, well, for Aussies anyway, only 500 miles, but very slow going sometimes,

at only 25 miles an hour often in the single laned sections.

Plus, there's always stuff to see, so it really does need seven days, to do it justice.



So with map in hand, and directions to get to Gairloch's famous lighthouse,

known as Rua Reidh, off we ventured. More like Ad-ventured.


Another single laned road, with sheep crossing all over the place,

and blind hill/corners on the edge of a cliff - no problemo, we found it. You can't not find it!

Only one road.






And it looked strangely familiar...very similar to Neist Lighthouse on Skye.


That's Neist on the right. Same-same, but different.


Well, as it happens, it was the same builder.

His name was David A. Stevenson, brother of the famous author; Robert Louis Stevenson. This family of builders were responsible for building nearly

all of the lighthouses in Scotland - over 150 of the beauties! Wow!


And you can stay in this one overnight.!!

Yo Trev, I missed this one, Buddy!

Check out: Gairloch's Rua Reidh Lighthouse.

(Great info and photos on that link.)


Photo credit: Steppes Travel.



As you head north along this route, you find yourself one minute on the coast,

and literally ten minutes later you are driving around a loch and heading

inland towards the snow capped Highlands.

Spectacular driving.

The drizzle had settled in a little, and it was seriously cold as we continued on to our next stop of Lochinver.

We had a couple of pauses along the way, including the waterfront town of Ullapool,

and another ancient ruin that I've seen on Scottish sites alot, called Ardvreck Castle.

Magnificence, everywhere I turned.





The quaint old abandoned stone huts, dotted around - just begging for some love...



I'm just highlighting at the moment, as there is so much more to talk about.


We saw this ruin on our map, so we kept an eye out for it.

This time, Trev just stopped and let me out for this look-see.

It was so icy cold and windy now, no use both of us freezing our asses to get the photo.



Just a pretty location.

A local with shorts on...they were swimming their dog! Brrrr


Onto Ullapool main drag.

Quite the fishing village, with a huge car ferry terminal. We were hoping for a bite to eat, but it was mid afternoon, and apart from a couple of souvenier stores open, everything else was pretty much shut.

Off season, mid week - can't blame them.

Tip for the NC 500 - have snacks.



Knowing that we were going to be staying in an Air BnB next, and not in town,

I made sure I looked online yesterday to book our dinner for tonight.

Pot luck I guess, but I found somewhere, and we sussed it out as we drove towards our digs. Looked like a cafe, but it was right on the harbour, so I was hoping to get some more delicous, fresh Scottish seafood into ma belly!

Now that we knew where to head tonight for grub, it was time to climb the hills

to find our overnight stay.



Such a pretty entrance to the harbourside township on Lochinver.

We were now pushing time to get there before dark,

as we have already seen some deer flanking the roadside,

and we didn't want to find one around the bend, just waiting for us in the centre.



Not easy to find, even Sat Nav got a tad confused, but luckily I recognised it from the photo I had saved from the internet.



The sunset from their backyard was simply breathtaking:



and they even had a few Highland 'Kews'!



And nothing says 'Welcome to Scotland' more, than a wee dram of Whisky in your bedroom. Wish we liked it though! Haha.



That said, we were the only guests here, and we felt it had a weird vibe.

Like when the farmer's wife came inside, rolling a rope between her hands,

and when I asked if I could possibly go down to see the cows up close,

she just stared at me and slowly said "No".

That I might scare them. Hell bells, I was the scared one now. It was - awkward.


Quick, stage left, and out to the car to head to dinner. We stopped to photograph a huge antlered deer by the road,

actually, he just glided over the fence as we watched -

and our BnB host just drove past us,

with no acknowledgment...(and everyone waves to eachother over here). Could be a long night. And we are miles from anywhere...

Did someone say, KFC?

😬


Anyway, at least we can enjoy one last meal?

LOL

Turned out to be an incredible dinner. This place should be on a

'Good dining in Scotland' list.


Now THAT'S a menu!


I chose two starters for my main -

The 'shell off Langoustines' (NEVER had had them before and was a tad excited to try them), and the 'scallops with pea puree and crispy pancetta'.



Drool.

Trev had the seafood platter.



I'd like to say the meal was to die for, but we were going back to that place for the night,

so perhaps a different choice of phrase? 😉 All good, I'm joking...

Hey, I'm here to write about it, so obviously it was all in our heads, but at the time,

its honestly how we felt.


When we went to bed that night, the family, or goodness knows who,

were right next to our room, (thin walls...) - playing billiards, until reeeeeally late. But not normal playing - just smashing the balls into each other,

and then they were crashing onto the tiled floor.


Yep, weird.


Pretty sure we made haste in the morning.

Phew. 😅


Heading north from Lochinver, we will finally turn the corner at the top

Westerly point of Scotland, and start to make our way East.


First stop, is the tiny village of Durness, the location of; Smoo Caves.

I happily knew nothing about them, other than they were worth a look.


Smoo Caves is a must stop if you're ever up here.

Point to note: in the carpark before you walk down to them,

you really should treat yourself with some lunch from the pop up food van parked there

called 'Cheese N Toasted'.

OMG, the best ham and cheese toasties EVER! Multiple tasty cheeses, plus a bechamel sauce to go with either ham, or pastrami.

YUM! Just what we needed to walk down, then up from those caves.