May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Along the north coast of Scotland

Dunnet Head
I drove from away the ferry at Gill's Bay (near John O'Groats) late in the evening. The sun was still sparkling on the Pentland Firth to my right, calm and blue across to the hills of Hoy, the most westerly Orkney island. I camped close to the Castle of Mey on a flat plain with Dunnet Head rising away to the west. I was the only camper on the site and Baa was surrounded by chickens and ducks, next to a field of quizzical cows and calves - and the bull.
The Castle of Mey
The next morning I went to the Castle of Mey, the much loved holiday home of the Queen Mother which she bought in the 1950s. It is right on the coast, absolutely charming and the walled garden was in full bloom. As castles go, it is not very big or grand, and the room guides all had cosy but careful tales to tell of the Queen Mother's visits and the Royal family on holiday.
I did a little detour to see Dunnet Head lighthouse (58 degrees north) and then on along the coast past moorland and mountains on my left, and still the sapphire blue sea to the right, until I got to Bettyhill at the mouth of River Naver. One of things that has surprised me about the north of Scotland is the amount of sand! It has the most wonderful beaches. We once had a family holiday at Bettyhill and I had forgotten how lovely it was. (I do remember that I lost control of our very ill-disciplined dog and she disappeared completely on the huge beach, and there was a dead whale on the sand). The sandy banks of the Naver continue way up past where the road crosses the bridge.
The next time I stopped was at the postcard perfect Kyle of Tongue where there is a stopping place half way across the Kyle. I thought about staying the night there, and waking up to water on either side. Then I spoke to a man on that little stopping place who was with his wife and grand-daughter. He asked me if I was all right - being on my own – and I immediately felt that I wasn't!
The Cape Wrath Lighthouse!
I decided to drive on to Durness, and from there I could get to Cape Wrath the following morning. I hadn't realised that Loch Eriboll was quite so vast, or that the road around it would be so long and winding. It seemed to take for ever, and I was low on fuel. I was also a bit concerned about two (horsefly) bites on my foot which I got walking on Orkney two days before. ( They landed as soon as I took my boot off, and my foot had started to swell up.) All was well – I reached Durness safely, and got diesel (£1.50 per litre!) the following morning
My visit to the Cape Wrath lighthouse was a bit of a disappointment! It involved a short boat trip across the Kyle of Durness and then an 11m minibus ride to the Lighthouse. This journey takes 50 minutes because it's a rough road across land owned by the Ministry of Defence – it's a firing range, but there was no one about. Stuart was our very cheery driver, but the weather really closed in as we approached the Lighthouse and by the time we arrived the rain was coming down hard. I had flimsy canvas shoes on (owing to my swollen foot) and Britain's most north-westerly lighthouse was not visible from 50 yards away!

No comments: