Following a long drive from Carlisle we arrived in Inverness at Bunchrew campsite. This is obviously a popular spot with campers doing the NC500 and is used as a starting point or finishing point for many. When we arrived the rain was coming in and the views over the Beauly Firth were obscured by cloud. We went for a quick walk along the shore and had a relatively early night.
By morning the cloud and rain had gone and the sun shone down – not a bad way to start my birthday. Following a quick chat with some fellow campers from Montreal in Canada we hit the road.
Crossing the Moray Firth and following the signs for the NC500 we crossed the first of three bridges on the day’s route. We were soon driving along the pretty coastline around Cromarty Firth and although people had suggested places to explore, we pressed on. We drove over a fabulously long road bridge but Dom’s camera was full and my phone was on charge in the back of the van. Note to self, make sure tech is in reach and fully functioning!
Taking the B9165 off the NC500 we drove to Portmahock and the Tarbat Ness Discovery Centre. This fascinating and very peaceful place is now a museum but has been a site of worship for Picts and Christians alike for centuries. They have excavated some pretty incredible things including a rather odd burial of two skeletons with four additional skulls. The whole area of Tarbat was an area of huge cultural significance with highly skilled artists producing beautiful good and Pictish stones. Unfortunately we passed some signs for these on our drive up without realising what they were. Maybe there is something to be said for more intense research and planning after all!
From the Visitors Centre, it’s a quick bimble up the road to Tarbat Ness Point Lighthouse. The views from here were just stunning. The sun was shining, the sky was bright blue and we felt a million miles from the rain drenched Scotland we’d been preparing ourselves for. The Lighthouse itself is now a private residence but it was manned until 1985. We wandered down to a tiny cove and found a warm rocky ledge to perch on and take it all in. We could have stayed here for ages just watching the ebb and flow of the waves over the shingle.
This lovely place is a little bit off the NC500 but well worth the drive. Apparently there are good places to spot dolphins and other wildlife along this stretch of coast but we didn’t see any.
Leaving the Lighthouse behind we drove cross country to Dornoch. This was a pretty town with some old stone buildings which made it feel very French. Whether that feeling would be the same in different weather is another story. But for us, the sun shone down and we sat outside the pub for birthday lunch. They also sold Gluten Free sticky toffee pudding so we shared a slice of that too. Just as well we’d planned to walk to the beach once we’d eaten as we certainly needed to walk it off.
The beach here is wide, sandy and long. It was also very windy. Adults gritted teeth and clutched cardies, sweaters and hoodies to themselves and as always happens, children played in the waves oblivious. When do we lose this skill?
From here we pushed on along the A9 to our rest stop for the night -Helmsdale Harbour but more of that next time.