North Highlands coastal route

After a gentle day spent heading back down the Shetlands to get the ferry back from Lerwick, I collected my car and drove across to Inverness where I spent a day gorging myself on civilisation. This involved shopping, eating and a trip to see the Martian at the cinema – great adaptation of the book.

That done I spent the night in the Inverness hostel then set off along the north highlands coastal tourist route – a drive taking in the coastline from Inverness up to John O’ Groats, across to Thurso then down to Ullopool. I did this in two days which made for a lot of driving, but to be honest I barely noticed as it was so peaceful and quiet on the roads that I was able to really drink in the beauty.

The first stretch up from Inverness to John O’ Groats was not particularly exciting though I did stop off at a few nice spots including Fairy Glen.
Setting off from near Wick on the second day was a completely different story. After a brief spell walking along the cliffs by the Stacks of Duncansby, I drove across the north coast of Scotland. The whole route was absolutely stunning and I found myself constantly rounding a corner or topping a hill and discovering another beautiful vista laid out before me. Though this whole day was spent in lovely surroundings, the section between Thurso and Tongue was espectially noteworthy.
Unfortunately few pictures were had due to the winding single track road offering limited opportunities to stop, but it was quiet enough that I could drive at a slow pace and take it in. A definite advantage of the time of year – I can imagine a very different experience in peak season.
Once again I was very lucky with the weather, and the sun shone down for most of the day.

For the next couple of days I’m going to head up into the hills of the nearby geological park, where I’ll be doing another wild camp. Hoping I can find somewhere I can get an evening fire going!

Journal

Day 1
Headed west out of Inverness towards Dingwall, immedately presented with a good view of Beauly Firth. Drove around the firth and on to the “Black Island”, neither black nor an island.

Stopped after a while at a patch of woodland called Clootie Well and went for a wander. Lovely area, nice to stretch the legs for a bit.
Continued from there up to the lighthouse at Chanonry Point, good views back across the firth towards Inverness.
Drove from there through Fortrose and Rosemarkie to Fairy Glen. Mainly stopped as the name was familiar from somewhere, sure I’ve seen pictures of it before. Nice walk through woodland to a pair of waterfalls, both very picturesque. Didn’t linger long due to area being fairly popular with other tourists.
Drove from there around Cromarty Firth and picked up the main road up the east coast. Pleasant winding journey all the way up to Wick. Decent views onto the sea, though nothing particularly mind blowing.



Day 2
Set off fairly early and headed up the coast to Duncansby Head lighhouse and the Stacks of Duncansby. Short walk along the coast to get to the stacks, very dramatic image as they first come into view.
From there drove through John O’ Groats and followed the coastal road to Thurso. Carried on along the road to the village of Tongue over incredible countryside. Road meandered and rose up to give great views of mountains and sea. Mostly single track and hard going for the car, but worth it. Glad of the season which meant I could drive slow and look around without people coming up behind me.
After Tongue followed the road across to the west, then down the west coast to Ullapool. Frequent stops on this route as the road had more suitable spots, most notable stop was at the ruin of Ardvreck castle, perched on a spit of land with an awesome view of Loch Assynt.
Ullapool itself is also very picturesque, sitting on the edge of sheltered Loch Broom with access to the sea.


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