Leaving Edinburgh for a two week road trip up the north-east coast from Inverness to John o’Groats, across the north coast to Durness and down the west coast to Fort William, taking in some of the Orkneys and the Isle of Skye!
I swear May is the best month of the year to visit Scotland and enjoy the spectacular scenery that’s on offer (although I wouldn’t stray too far without some waterproof gear in the rucksack!
On the journey from Edinburgh to Inverness we stopped near Pitlochry to climb Ben Vrackie. Wow! This was a real leg stretcher, we were almost calling for a stretcher on the final steep climb to the summit but it was worth the pain, the weather was fantastic and the surroundings stunning!
Stayed 2 nights in very pleasant B&B in Inverness, Ardross & Glencairn Guest House, great location by the river, a very short walk to bars, restaurants, shops and the castle, with helpful, friendly staff.
The ironic thing about breakfast is I’ll go months on end eating nothing before work but put me up in a B&B and I’ll demolish cereal, toast & cooked breakfast before hitting the road every day! This brekkie was decent (but had much better) and sets us up for a wander by Loch Ness.
As you can see above, the 6.25 mile circuit from Inverfarigaig, following the route included in the Country Walking 25 Best Walks Ever [May 2012], includes some breathtaking scenery. I should also add that towards the end the route takes you past a house formally owned by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page – “Over The Hills and Far Away” from the neighbours, well almost…
The rest of the afternoon was a visit to nearby Culloden Battlefield where we wandered the paths criss-crossing the battlefield, the feeling/mood that pervades the area is a sombre one with mountains seeming to surround the field that is dotted with headstones bearing the name of the clan buried there – the bodies were identified by their clan badge, a plant sprig worn in their bonnet.
Interestingly this was not, as is often thought, a battle of Scots vs English but the end of a civil war for the British throne between the House of Stuart and House of Hanover (the Jacobites and the government), there was Scots and English fighting on both sides.
The last pitched battle on British soil was brief but bloody (over in under an hour). On 16th April 1746 around 700 Jacobite soldiers were killed or wounded in just a few minutes of fighting. The Jacobites’ charge had broken the government front line but they were then forced back, with catastrophic consequences. All told it is believed 1,500-2,000 Jacobite soldiers were killed or wounded and around 300 government soldiers were killed or wounded.
Leaving Inverness the first stop is Black Isle Brewery, for a tour, some tasters and of course some shopping for souvenirs!!
A crate of beer and some extras in the car boot and it’s off up the coast to John o’Groats.
From John o’Groats it’s a short drive along the coast to Duncansby Head where the most north-easterly point on the Scottish mainland is marked with a lighthouse.
Robert Stevenson [1772-1850] was a Scottish civil engineer and famed designer & builder of lighthouses. For over 150 years Robert Stevenson and his descendents designed most of Scotland’s Lighthouses. Battling against the odds and the elements the Stevensons constructed wonders of engineering that have withstood the test of time – an amazing historic achievement.
Robert Stevenson’s talented family also included the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson (his grandson). Visits with his father to remote lighthouses are thought to have inspired his books Kidnapped and Treasure Island.
The walk around Duncansby Head is utterly beautiful!
After a lovely hike around Duncansby Head we head towards Thurso for a very pleasant night’s stay at St Clair Hotel, along the way a visit to Dunnet Head is a must – the most northerly point of mainland Britain and another Stevenson built lighthouse!