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.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

North from the Black Isle

North-east of Inverness, The Black Isle is the peninsular which sticks out between the Moray Firth and the Cromarty Firth. It's a rich farming area with content-looking cows grazing on gently rolling fields, and some arable too. I drove along the south side of the Isle (peninsular) through Avoch, and a pretty fishing village called Rosemarkie with boats sitting in the sun on flat calm water of the Moray Firth. (A firth in lowland Scotland is an estuary or inlet.) At the end of the peninsular the village of Cromarty is quiet and sleepy with sandstone houses, tidy gardens, a couple of shops and a harbour.
Baa on board the Nigg ferry
I caught the ferry (four cars and a dozen passengers) the short distance across the mouth of the Cromarty Firth to Nigg. Oil platforms are brought in here, and further along at Invergordon, for decommissioning or for repairs. Like an upturned table, four redundant yellow columns rise out of the water - “The french rig,” I was told by some jolly ladies who were discussing different ways to wear a scarf, “they were meant to take it away, but they must have forgotten!”
I drove north and back on to the A9, over another stunning bridge, this time across The Dornoch Firth. I hung right to see the Royal Dornoch Golf Club which Nick said is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the country. It certainly is a lovely course (though I am no expert) with the most beautiful coastal backdrop. I risked my neck (head) to go and take a picture beyond the 18th which the pro said was the best view of the course.
The next landmark was Dunrobin Castle, home of the Dukes of Sutherland, which was closing as I arrived (6pm) so I only saw it from the outside. It sits in a fantastic position right by the sea. 
The A9 north

Then I thought I would drive up the A9 for an hour through Sutherland – and into Caithness – and see where I got to. I had been told that this was a dull part of north-east Scotland, but I didn't think so. Wonderful heather coloured hills to the left and sapphire blue dead calm sea to the right... sometimes the road runs frighteningly close to the cliff edge.
At Lybster the A9 isn't so close to the edge and I turned right to see the view. The road came to a stop one small field away from the cliff-top and next to a house where a man was watering his tubs. Brian Munro is a nuclear engineer, ex RAF, who worked on the fast reactor at Dounreay.
Brian at Lybster
He had quite a bit to say about the energy industry and the wretched and useless wind farms that the coalition government and Alex Salmond are so keen on.
I have been so lucky with the weather and was waxing lyrical about the view from his house. He laughed, and said such a calm sea was unusual and that I ought to come back and see it in the winter! He and his wife like to go cruising now he is retired. And when he's home and the sea is rough he likes to take a good book and a flask of tea down to the beach for a couple of hours, and settle in to a sheltered spot in a cleft at the bottom of the cliff.

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