Ya gotta love Scotland .....
Trip Start Apr 22, 2007
46Trip End Oct 09, 2008
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Got to the small village of 'Boat of Garten' and found the local CP. Once again it was quite tidy and regimented but with good facilities. We stopped for the night – before 4pm! This village lies on the River Spey and is right beside the vast Cairngorms NP – Britain’s largest NP and one of its latest parks being founded in 2004. The 1500sq miles (436,000 ha) of mountainscape and high plateau country protects some moor and forest country including large tracts of sub-artic tundra – can you believe that! It is also home to a quarter of Britain’s threatened wildlife species and a quarter of Scotland’s native woodland.
Got to Inverness, which is like most of the Scottish towns we have been to so far – grey and drab
Cruised our way along and got to John o’ Groats and set up camp in the local campground which is close to the coast and is near completely unprotected from the elements. Across the channel you could see the first of the Orkney Island but as visibility was very limited that is all we could see – by all accounts you can see 10 or 11 beacons or lighthouses from here on a good day – whenever that is! The wind was pretty strong – again - but at least the rain stopped early on in the evening but it was cold!
Headed down to the small harbour which has only a 20-foot wide entrance and is only big enough for a dozen or so smallish boats. The Orkney ferry leaves and docks here – it leaves at 9am for the run across to the islands. There’s a few tourist shops located here as well as the old stark John o’ Groats hotel with its drab grey colour, lofty churchlike spires and shuttered windows which would look fine on a Hitchcock thriller
There was great scenery as we drove around Loch Eriboll with its solitary fish farm and oyster or mussels racks lining sections of the loch. Just east of Durness we stopped to find a camp overlooking a delightful beach, but the farmer at Rispond wasn’t going to let us camp, directing us into town.
Durness, the most northerly town on the British mainland – the nearby Cave of Smoo gives the place a tourist attraction and there was a bit around while the local CP was a little busy with vans and the like and didn’t appeal to any of us. By luck our map had a camp spot marked on the west coast of the great bulk of Cape Wrath. We decided that had to be out of the way and pretty good so we headed there via a few small villages.
Got to our camp at a small bay close to the small village of Sheigra, which is unmarked on most maps and consists of a half a dozen whitewashed houses and a few farm outbuildings, but is about 4-mile past Kinlochbervie, the latter being a fairly large fishing port with a largish well-protected wharf and processing plant. There were just a couple of other vehicles already there – walkers and sea kayakers – and we found a spot in the sheep paddock a 100 metres back from the water’s edge and set up camp (GPS 58°29’28”N 05°07’08”W)
As we got c loser to Ullapool the cloud hanging over the water of the large loch seemed to near swamp us but by sheer luck it had cleared as we rolled into town. Got to Ullapool which is a small fishing come tourist town on the protected shores of Loch Bloom and there were about 8-10 small fishing boats in – most would have to be out fishing in these very calm conditions we are experiencing now. The main harbour is a hundred metres or so long, with the large pier area running parallel to the sea wall that borders the main street. The outside of the pier area is for the large sea ferry that goes across to Lewis Island.
At the road junction just east of Kyle of Lochalsh we said our goodbyes to Neil &Helen who were doing the long run south to Wales. We turned west and head for the Isle of Skye. The port village of the Kyle of Lochalsh hasn’t got much going for it (as we verified on the way back) except for being the place where the bridge now joins the mainland to the Isle of Skye.
Headed out of town and north along the coast with great views of the Trotternish peaks which are quite dramatic with their convoluted skyline, which includes the 165-foot high willow-leaf shape lump of rock that is known as the Old man of Storr
Had a couple of days on the Isle which was enjoyable before heading back and south. Got to Fort William - the town is located on the edge of a loch with Ben Nevis – the highest peak in the UK not far away – it and the surrounding bare hills had even a few vestiges of snow on them. Checked out the great Caledonian Canal which joins Inverness, on the North Sea, with Fort William on the Atlantic Ocean and in a great 18th century engineering feat drops down through ‘Neptune Staircase’ near Fort William. The Staircase is a series of 8 locks and we were lucky enough to be there when a very fancy yacht from Norway (many European boats use the canal as a short cut to the ocean) was being dropped through them.
We’re camped at the Red Squirrel Campground (GPS 56°40’10"N 005°04’15W) about 2 miles out of Glencoe Village and it is an absolute beauty – the best ‘bushy type’ campground so far) and while we are just 60 feet above sea level (the sea loch is at the village) the peaks that surround us climb steeply to 3000 feet or so
Further south at Crainlarich we turned west on a lesser road and headed towards Loch Lomond. Got to the Drovers Inn and had to stop - it was a beauty. One of the early owners back at the end of the 1800’s or so was obviously a keen hunter and there are stuffed birds and a whole menagerie of animals, some in glass cases, scattered around the walls of each and every bar and room.
Arrived at Stirling and found our way to the Witches Craig Caravan park which is located just east of town at the base of the Ochil Hills – It is very pleasant and has all the facilities we have come to expect. Larry, a good friend of Ron's from Singapore days, and his wife, Marie, came and picked us up and acted as tourist guide for the next few days. Stirling Castle, the Royal Burgh of Culross, Bannockburn, the old Linlithgow Palace, South Queensferry where you get a great view of the two great Firth of Forth bridges and the now famous Falkirk Wheel we all enjoyed.
All to soon we were south of the border and in Newcastle waiting to board a ferry to Norway.
For more details, camping areas, etc, go to www.guidebooks.com.au and follow the links to 'Russia Overland'.