Friday, May 20, 2016

Scotland Spring 2016, #2

I’ve finally put down my camera and my golf clubs long enough to put together a post for the travel blog, telling you and showing you a little about our trip.  Before we headed north up the A9 from our home base in Crieff, Merlindale B&B, we did have a chance to grab another of the World’s Best (so say the ads) Bacon Roll at the Horn Restaurant between Perth and Dundee.  I don’t dispute the claim since I’ve certainly had no better or bigger bacon roll (a staple of Scotland’s golfing community).  

Thus adequately fortified we trundled north.
After a night in Dornoch serenaded by the massed pipe bands [see the last blog post], 

The Pipe Major of one of the bands.
Anne and I started the day’s drive to Durness in the far northwest corner of the mainland by driving west along Loch Fleet where while stopping for a  brief look at the ruins of Skelbo Castle,

Skelbo Castle
we spotted a sea lion basking in an unusual position.  

From Loch Fleet the road to Durness goes through Lairg, the village with a world class loo [details in one of my posts of an earlier trip].  We didn’t need to stop at this loo, been there/done that, 

but we did stop to grab some shots of three wild goats just lounging by the side of the road.  
From Lairg it’s 38 miles of single track road to Laxford Bridge.  Driving on single track roads is an acquired taste.  
Typical Highland single-track road.

The narrow road has passing places every quarter mile or so and is not too difficult to drive once you get the hang of stopping or passing appropriately.  

Along Loch Shin
The passing places, though, gives you some great places to pull off for photos even though you’re really not supposed to.  The countryside in this section of Scotland, referred to mostly simply as the Highlands, is very stark yet beautiful.  

Views along River Laxford
Hills of heather and rock are dotted with lochs and lochans (small lochs) and burns or rivers.  There are very few trees left and the land is home to a few crofts (small farms) and sheep—in the spring there are lambs all over.  

At Laxford Bridge we turned north for nineteen miles of mostly single track road to get to Durness.  At this point we were ready for lunch and a real break from the driving.  The trouble is there are no villages between Lairg and Durness large enough for even a pub.  We turned off the main road for a six mile trek to Kinlochbervie, 

once a thriving seaport village.  We discovered that Kinlochbervie is fairly quiet now, but in the hamlet/burg/spot-in-the-road called Inshegra an old school had been converted into a tea room called (duh!) Old School.  We split a delicious fresh crab sandwich and recharged our batteries with lovely lattes.  

Loch na Thull
Back on the single track to Durness the landscape got even more dramatic with loch and lochans coming right up to the road and backing up to massive (for Scotland) mountains.  

This was the slowest part of the trip because of all the photos stops.
When we arrived in Durness the first thing we did was drive the couple of miles west of town to Durness GC, one of our favorites and a truly spectacular, isolated nine hole track.  Much more about the course will come in a post devoted to the golf of the trip.  

Balnaseil Beach with Seaweed Eating Cows
When we pulled into the course’s parking area we saw a herd of black cows meandering the pristine Balnakeil Beach.  We later found out that the cows come down to the beach to eat a certain type of seaweed when there are especially low tides.  After golf and before we checked in at Glengolly B&B, we stopped at a beach parking area to watch a fantastic sky show as heavy winds created beautiful patterns in the clouds.  

It’s times like these that I am so thankful for digital cameras—I couldn’t have packed enough film to capture what nature provided.
That evening we ate at the Oasis Pub at Sango Sands a little east of the village.  

Then we drove back to Balnakeil Beach for a second sky show.  This one featured a rainbow and beach reflections.  

       It was a glorious day!  It ended with torrential rains pushed by 40-50 mph winds hitting the town just as we tucked in to bed at the B&B.  I was already looking forward to the morning’s porridge—a special of Martin Mackay’s—Scottish oats porridge topped with burnt sugar and single malt whisky.  

Oyster Catcher in flight
NOTE: I’m going to be entering shows with some of the photos from this trip and selling them at Highland Games and would like some feedback on which ones are your favorites.  Pick two or three and let me know which ones you’d chose.  

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