Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Day 10 St. Margaret's Hope to Ullapool

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 just before dinner. This drive across the North and Northwest of Scotland was no ordinary journey. This is 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 lane. At Dunnet Head, 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. Uarda, dressed in her handwoven suit, chose the right outfit for this breezy day.

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. I told the group that the reward for all this sitting and riding today was dessert at Cocoa Mountain, the gourmet Aardvark shop at Balnakeil. They specialize in truffles with unique flavours like strawberry pepper, and hot chocolate. You can't miss this heavenly stop if you like chocolate. http://www.cocoamountain.co.uk/

Finally some rain by the time we passed Ardvreck Castle ruins. I keep telling the travelers that the these views are even better in the rain! 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 gigantic concrete sofa, all covered with broken pottery. http://www.highlandstoneware.com/ Before heading on, make sure to drive into town and get a homemade pie from the Lochinever Larder. Their savory or sweet pies are in such demand, they post them around the country. http://www.piesbypost.co.uk/
Once we reached Ullapool we settled into our B&B's. You see the view here from my room. No one ever wants to leave this idyllic spot. A hearty thank you to Charlotte at Dromnan Guest House http://dromnan.com/
who always goes out of her way with hospitality, this time offering to run a load of wash for us. A fine reprieve from handwashing those socks one more time.
Just down the road from our B&B’s at Ullapool, we enjoyed a delicious meal at the Royal Hotel restaurant. Here you can see the entire group relaxing. You may have noticed that I talked a lot of about food today. I think travelers are happiest when not only their eyes are delighted by scenery, their minds are expanded by history, but when their stomachs are satisfied. However, after 10 days of travel, we have eaten every kind of potato and have started pleading with the servers, "please don't bring so many!"

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