Monday 27th May
We left Altnaharra today looking forward to a wonderful drive to Helmsdale. The road follows the railway route we took from Helmsdale to Forsinard, we visited the RSPB reserve there in 2017 during our North Coast 500 trip. We were not disappointed despite the intermittent rain – to be honest intermittent rain was like being in the Carribean to us after having 36 hours rain non-stop – still, that’s what happens in the Highlands. Loch Naver, which is nearly 10km long and average 0.5km, rose about 200mm (8″ in old money) over that period, we were on a loch side pitch but the scuba gear was not required. Previous trips to Scotland had provided us with days of glorious weather, the spell was sure to break at some point. We are not complaining, my literary ineptitude cannot describe the beauty of this wonderful country, rain or shine the visual impact is stunning.
The drive from Altnaharra to Helmsdale is approximately 40 miles along single track roads with passing places which took us about 2hrs (and we only had a short coffee break in the middle). Serious concentration is required on these roads with our wheels being only about 12″ from either side of the road (and the sides are very soft and boggy!).
Dornoch was our lunch stop – our good friend Peter in the village at home had put a request in for a bottle of Glen Goyne highland whisky – we were advised the Old Courthouse was the place to go – sure enough they had enough whisky there to satisfy the taste any whisky buff. Ironically the link to our village did not stop there, we noticed some bottle bags that were supplied by our neighbour (they probably won’t order any more now they’ve seen the quality of the neighbourhood he comes from!).
Our target was to get to Loch Ruthven to try and see the elusive Slavonian Grebe. There are only around 20 pairs breeding in the UK and limited to an area around Loch Ness region. We arrived around 5:00pm and were not disappointed, a little bit of a wait but we managed to see 2 on separate parts of the Loch and eventually saw a pair trying out their Olympic synchronised diving skills.
Our overnight stay was a last minute booking as after a long drive I didn’t fancy spending another hour trying to find a wild camp spot so we opted to stay on a handy CL site about 1 mile down the road – The Trout & Grouse at The Steadings (a Johannsson hotel with 5 caravan / motorhome pitches – Luxury). A trip to the bar was in order after our supper and a most convivial chat with our hosts and a couple of Americans who thought Hilma was ‘cute’ when compared to their 28ft RV back home with pull out sides, automatic levellers and an on board ‘hoovering’ system! Close your ears Hilma, you are not getting one!