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The North West Coast

Caithness, Sutherland & Wester Ross - Highlands

semi-overcast 18 °C
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Although it was now our third day up in Caithness, we had yet to really explore the area. And so after checking out of our hotel in Wick, we drove back up to John O'Groats to start exploring the nearby area.

We began by heading east to Duncansby Head, the most north-easterly point of Great Britain, and from where there were beautiful views of the Duncansby Stacks. The short walk between the two, through the field of sheep, took us past beautiful coves, and cliffs full of birds including puffins.

Duncansby Stacks

Duncansby Stacks

Having already seen John O'Groats the previous day, we drove through the small settlement and made our way to the Castle of Mey, which was bought and restored by the Queen Mother.

Castle of Mey

Castle of Mey

Sadly, the Castle was closed, but we gained a vantage point of it from a nearby road before we continued our drive further west towards Dunnet Head - the northernmost point of Great Britain.

The top and bottom ends of the country are uniquely similar despite having no reason to be so alike.
Land's End is neither the most southern or western point of Great Britain, the former being Lizard Point not far away, whilst the eastern point is actually on the west coast of Scotland. And to top it off, there are parts of England further beyond (the Isles of Scilly).
Meanwhile John O'Groats also has islands further off the coast (Orkney, and Shetland), and it's also neither the most northern or eastern point of Great Britain, the latter being in Norfolk, England, and the former being Dunnet Head, again not a far distance away, where we were driving to.

Dunnet Head is a clifftop peninsular jutting into the North Sea and marking the western end of the Pentland Firth, where it's cliffs are, like Duncansby Head, home to many different species of bird.

Dunnet Head

Dunnet Head

Having now seen all the sights in Caithness we began our two hour drive along the northern coast. Passing the beautiful Dunnet Beach that could easily have been Cornwall in this sunshine, we drove through the only significant town on this coast Thurso.

Being home to just 7,500 people it wasn't long before we were again on the rural coastal road, entering Sutherland and passing by more beautiful beaches before the hills arrived. It was also not long before we reached the first stretch of single track road that would be a regular staple of the next few day's driving.

Some of the beaches en route

Some of the beaches en route

After a quick comfort break, we continued our drive past miles of Gorse before making it to the beautiful, but inconvenient Loch Eriboll. After a half hour detour around this beautiful loch, we were soon at the Smoo Cave.

Smoo Cave

Smoo Cave

The cave was formed both by the tidal gorge just north of the cave, as well as the stream that feeds the internal waterfall. Sadly the stream was pretty dry due to the lovely weather that the area had recently had, and so the waterfall was not flowing. However it still looked pretty inside.

After a strenuous (or was it just post-Covid laziness?) walk back up to the road, we continued our drive along the coast heading south.

Once again, the landscape was beautiful, but pretty barren with just a few scattered small settlements, including the beautiful Scourie, where we (and everyone else taking this beautiful coastal drive) was alerted to the fact it was Donna's 50th birthday. Hope she had a nice day 🙃

Wildlife en route

Wildlife en route

We were blessed with great weather, which enhanced the beautiful scenery. We stopped at a viewpoint at the top of the hills looking over the lakes of lochs of Assynt, before crossing over the Kylesku Bridge en route to our final pit stop of the day, Ardvreck Castle on the edges of Loch Assynt.

Scenery overlooking Assynt

Scenery overlooking Assynt

From here it was just half an hour to our stop for tonight, in the largest town for miles around - Ullapool, which has a population of just 1,500!

Even in June the town gets a rain day half the time, and so we were blessed with beautiful sunshine that made the views down Loch Broom some of the most beautiful we'd seen in a long time.

Ullapool

Ullapool

Being such a small town there weren't a lot of choices for accommodation or food - we grabbed a fish and chips by the harbour before settling in to our room for the night.

The following morning after trying some haggis for breakfast, we set off on our journey further south. After around 20 minutes we arrived at our first sight for the day - the Corrieshalloch Gorge.

Corrieshalloch Gorge

Corrieshalloch Gorge

This already deep gorge contains the Falls of Measach, a 46m waterfall, which can be seen from the slightly wobbly bridge that crosses to the other side. From here a small footpath leads down to a viewing platform, where the real scale of the waterfall and gorge can be seen.

Our next destination was a 90 minute drive further south to the Eilean Donan Castle, which sits at an imposing postion on a tidal island at the junction of three lochs. Sadly due to Covid, entry was only permitted by prebooking in advance, which we hadn't done as we didn't know when we would actually get here.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

Nevertheless the views we got on this comfort break were still impressive, and after buying some souvenirs we continued our journey on to our next destination of the trip - The Isle of Skye, which will be covered in the next blog post.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 18:06 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged waterfalls castles cliffs wildlife cave port highlands&islands

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