Nature provided our venue of the day. We departed St. Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay Orkney on the 8:00 a.m. ferry and pulled into Ullapool at 6 pm. The 40 mph wind of the yesterday died down and the crossing once again was very moderate. However, this was no ordinary journey. The north and northwest coasts of Scotland are the least populated, most remote and rugged and least visited area on the mainland…my favorite landscape in all of Scotland.
Once past Thurso, it is mile after mile of rocks, beach, hills, water, heather, birds and grazing sheep. The road often goes to one track. At the NW corner of the country near Durness, the North Sea meets the Atlantic Sea. We were blessed with sunshine that added to the richness of the color of the sea and stone.
One thing you become expert on when leading 15 women around is bathroom availability. A word of warning, there is no toilet at the tourist information building in Durness!!! Just outside of Durness, we stopped at Balnakeil Craft Village. www.durness.org/Balnakeil Once a military base, it was taken over by hippies when the military left and now is inhabited by small shops and craft studios. It was delightful to eat lunch at the newly renovated Loch Croispol Bookstore & restaurant. www.lochcroispol-books.net Cocoa Mountain, a new gourmet chocolcate shop specializing in truffles and hot chocolate, really captured the palette and pocketbooks of my travelers. www.cocoamountain.co.uk
Once we thought the scenery could not improve, it did when we turned off onto the B869 road to Nedd, Drumbeg, Clahsnessie. This scenic “cart track” follows right along the coast. To the east a number of munroes rise up out of the Torridon wilderness area. No pictures can capture the overall grandeur of being in this landscape. I’m greatful that John Muir left Scotland to lead the wilderness conservation movement in the American west, but he certainly could have been satisfied in this corner of heaven.
We stopped at Highland Stoneware Pottery shop in Lochinever. The driveway and garden of the shop proved very entertaining with large stones, an automobile, a wall, and a gigantic concret sofa, all covered with broken pottery. www.highlandstoneware.com
Just down the road from our B&B’s at Ullapool, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Harbor Lights restaurant. www.harbour-light.co.uk I’ve been trying to eat fish at every opportunity and the salmon here was delectible. Food has come a long way since my first trip to Scotland in 1997. Chefs strive to use Scottish grown and raised meat, fish, dairy, and vegetables. Eating fresh and green is the rule rather than exception these days. However, it seems that no matter what we order, plates of chips always show up on the table. We all agree that we don’t need to see another plate of chips for many a day!