Back on the road! Thurso to Durness was the plan, with inevitable deviations on the way for sights both planned and random.
A good morning weather-wise, but we knew the forecast was for a deterioration as the day progressed. Without anything to compare against we weren’t sure what this really meant…but hey, we were up for anything!
As we left Thurso in our dust a very strange complex of buildings loomed on our right. What on earth could that spherical object be?
Then it dawned on us, this was the Dounreay Nuclear Reactor!!
We’re not sure if this is considered interesting for Scots, but for those from a nation where to even whisper the words ‘nuclear power’ is to invoke green wrath, this was kind of cool!
With a ringing in our ears and glowing skin, we pushed on…
You don’t need to be a geography wizard to pick the boundary between Caithness and Sutherland counties. The flat land starts to crumple, rolling hills become ragged, you’re dropping a gear just that little bit more frequently.
Instead of driving straight through to Strathy, we took a left hand turn and took the road inland for around 30 minutes until we reached Forsinard.
Peatland is threatened in Scotland and RSPB Forsinard Flows is a reserve that protects one little slice of this flora (although it appears that some local landowners have an axe to grind with the RSPB, as shown by some rather ominous and clearly stated messages painted on the sides of large buildings on the outskirts of the village). Such a shame, because the reserve could be a real draw card for the area.
Karen is awesome at tracking down obscure little places, and this one was no different. The Dubh Lochan Trail is a boardwalk trail that takes you to the viewing area where you can look across and down at the peat bogs. It was like an archipelago of moss covered islands!
Returning the way we came, we arrived in Strathy and took the small road next to the church to get in to Strathy Beach. Very impressive!
Bettyhill, Borgie, Coldbackie and then Tongue. We continued through to the western side of the Kyle of Tongue and found that the road to Talmine had some fantastic views looking back up the Kyle of Tongue. It also presented us with our first encounter with a flock of wild and extremely vicious highland sheep…well, perhaps not so vicious 😀
The things you encounter on the NC500!
Loch Eriboll was next and what a beauty it was! The ranges in the background undecided whether mist or rain was its preferred accoutrement, intermittent blue skies releasing the occasional beam of light onto the gorgeous shores and surrounding hills of the loch, mountain sides flashing white streaks of quartz(?) that gave the appearance of streaky snow fields. Very special.
Down one side and up the other, we found ourselves in Durness where we indulged in a delicious hot chocolate from Cocoa Mountain (the look of surprise on their faces was enough to tell us that visitors at this time of year are rare!) before settling into what would be our accommodation for the next two nights.
Spoiler alert, the following day was an insane introduction to west coast weather!! Click here for Day 4!
If you missed our earlier entries, here are