Saturday 28th May, 2005
Sunday 29th May, 2005
Monday 30th May, 2005

Saturday 28th May, 2005

Drop Cap oday was cold, and rained as if it would never stop - and it didn't.

We were up and away early, with many thanks to Mrs. Ingram. Her breakfasts were great. We had decided we didn't want a cooked brekkie, so we expected just juice, cereal, toast and tea. Mrs. Ingram provided a jug of OJ on the table, choice of five cereals, a large bowl of fresh fruit, on the first day fresh baps and a lovely fruit salad, yoghurt and toast, tea and coffee. The second day there was grapefruit instead of fruit salad and homemade scones and oatcakes, still warm. Good stuff.

Dunrobin Armorials photograph

Armorial Display, Dunrobin Castle, Golspie, Scotland

Drop Cap nyway we headed off into the "Scotch Mist" (i.e. rain!) to Inverness, where we picked up some maps etc at the TIC and continued as far as Golspie and Dunrobin Castle.

Dunrobin Castle photograph

Dunrobin Castle, Golspie, Scotland

Drop Cap ac and I have visited before but I still think it is the most romantic of the castles and the parterre gardens are superb. The waves were whitecapped and crashed on the shore just beyond the castle wall. We looked at the castle first, then the museum with the Pictish symbol stones. They are wonderful examples, so clear and relatively unweathered. It helps to be indoors, I guess.

Dunrobin Castle Gardens photograph

Dunrobin Castle Gardens, Golspie, Scotland

Drop Cap e had lunch at Dunrobin, then drove on, getting afternoon tea at Brora and heading ever northwards. Just before Helmsdale an idiot in a red car overtook us at speed to find we had a couple of vehicles in front, so he took off again and screamed past on a blind corner. Next thing, we went around the corner and nearly collided with cars stopped ahead. The idiot had lost it on the wet road, spun, flipped off the road, luckily and ended up on his roof on the verge. He could just as easily gone over the cliff on the other side. Everyone was running to help because it really looked bad, but Geoff said the guy crawled out of the back seat area, not injured, and he was our age, not a young hoon! He was undeservedly lucky!

Drop Cap e didn't wait around because we had not seen it happen and the road was not blocked so we headed on to Wick, where we found our B & B, The Clachan, on the outskirts. It is a lovely place, the three rooms have been purpose built on the existing house and they are all on the ground floor and all ensuite. Like "Strathlene" in Huntly, it is four star. Our room is very pretty, done in shades of green, and Geoff has a twin to himself. Elspeth Bremner, our hostess, gave us lots of information and was very welcoming. We ordered breakfast ahead, like at motels, and I am having porridge.

Drop Cap e had dinner at a Wetherspoon's (chain) pub with an extensive but very reasonably priced menu.

I hope the rain stops tomorrow. I don't like not having any photographs to show so I pirated the three above from Geoff.

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Sunday 29th May, 2005

John o Groats Hotel photograph

John O'Groats Hotel, Far North Scotland

Drop Cap he rain didn't stop - except for intervals when the icy wind blew it away. We drove to John O'Groats, which persists in telling the world that it is the most northerly point in the British Isles.
This is untrue on two counts. Dunnet Head is considerably norther on the mainland and Shetland is also part of the British Isles.

John o Groats photograph

Mac and Geoff at John O'Groats

Castle of Mey photograph

The Queen Mother's Castle of Mey, North Scotland

Drop Cap o we headed off again for the Castle of Mey, the late Queen Mother's private home; as she said, the only one that she actually owned. This was a really delightful place, even in the bad weather. It would be gorgeous in good weather. The gardens are surprisingly good, protected from the north wind by high walls. The castle is light and fresh inside, full of private possessions and the knick knacks of any great grandmother - photos of all the tribe, paintings by Prince Phillip and Prince Charles, her well-stocked drinks cabinet. It was really great.

Dunnett Head photograph

Dunnett Head, the real Most Northerly Point on the British Mainland

Drop Cap e had lunch in a teashop in East Mey, then braved the icy gale on Dunnet Head to see the view from the true "most northerly point of mainland Britain". It was spectacular, but freezing.

Drop Cap e then drove to Thurso, and on to Scrabster where we tried to get some idea of what would be expected of us on Tuesday at the Ferry, but there was no information and it would seem, nowhere to park and find out when we get there. Wait and see.

Camster Cairns photograph

The Grey Cairns of Camster

Drop Cap n the way home we took a little road marked "Camster Cairns" so we were looking out for something when we saw two really extensive cairns. One was a more ancient round cairn which had funeral chambers, and one was a really long one, incorporating two other round cairns with several chambers and a ceremonial forecourt. It was marvellously well-presented by Historic Scotland, with a long boardwalk to the sites. Really worth the deviation.

Camster Cairns photograph

The Grey Cairns of Camster

Drop Cap s we came back towards Wick the sky lightened and sheets of blue appeared. But they were soon obscured. I hope, however, that it is a sign of weather to come.

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Monday 30th May, 2005

Drop Cap t was drier when we set out this morning and grew steadily better until this afternoon when we had a picnic by the beach in sunshine.

Drop Cap e started out going inland to look for a railway station marked on the map (just an object for the excursion). However after going on ever smaller roads it finally culminated in locked gates into the forest with no unauthorised access. So we had to turn around and come back.

Sandside Nuclear Power Station photograph

Nuclear Power Station, across Sandside Bay

Drop Cap suggested we head for the coast as the weather was so much better. So we picked up some lunch and afternoon tea in Thurso and went on to have a picnic on a bench overlooking Sandside Bay, a lovely beach and harbour facing the Nuclear Power Station across the bay.

Warning, Sandside Power Station photograph

Warning Sign on Sandside Beach

Drop Cap he beach had a notice warning that radio-active particles had been found on the beach which seemed a pity.
We met a woman there who seems to live in a van, moving on from town to town accompanied by a black cat which seemed quite happy to live and travel in the van. She let it out of the van and it explored around but always came back. The lady said that she and the van were the cat's territory and they don't leave their own place.

Tongue View photograph

View to the Sea, from Tongue, North Scotland

Drop Cap e kept moving on, through Melvich, Bettyhill and Tongue. The scenery grew awesomely lovely, really what Mac and I think of as Scotland, mountains inland and gorgeous sandy beaches with blue-green rippling surf. It was so different from yesterday that it made our hearts lift!

Drop Cap hen we got back to Wick it was raining again, and had been most of the afternoon. Elspeth said there had been a cloudburst. We got quite wet going out for dinner. There is another Australian couple here now who are travelling around after a European tour with a rep hockey team.

Drop Cap nyway, I have found my Welsh woolly hat and gloves just in case. They say Orkney is very windy. See what tomorrow brings.

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