15th & 16th May
We left Rispond having first taken our cups of coffee down to the beach. We decided it would be a good idea to have a paddle, leaving our shoes, socks and empty coffee cups by the steps off we tiptoed to dip our toes in the North Atlantic. We were right, bloody cold, when our feet eventually came out they were a very pale white, verging on blue.Back on the road we briefly stopped at Durness for provisions and fuel (24hr pumps with card payment system). Our next destination was a small CL site (Caravan Club – Certified Location – 5 vans only) at Kinlochbervie, no advanced booking, just turn up. The number of motorhomes and campers we were passing we began to wonder just how many other people were on ‘the tour’ like us. The Scottish Tourist Board have done a great job of marketing the NC 500, one wonders if there will eventually be an ‘exhaustion point’ – just too many people for the existing facilities (especially those wild camping). It seems that there does need to be more facilities for getting rid of black water, especially as wild camping in Scotland is so easy (and beautiful). Having said that at Kinlochbervie there are 5 spaces on the Old Harbour with hook up and waste disposal for chemical toilets – cost – £15, pay at the local Spar and the money goes back into local community projects. Further down the road at Oldshoremore there were 2 motorhomes parked in a decent size car park (with WC).
Today (16th May) we had to move to a more sheltered spot on the site (labelled as ‘Storm Refuge’ by the owner) as 42mph winds were forecast – and boy did it blow.Question: At what point does a Hymer B544 tip over in strong winds?Answer: I did not want to find out!Before all the moving we did manage a cycle down to Oldshoremore Bay – just one more beautiful golden beach. Sandwood Bay is a recommended walk a little further down the road (4 miles from its car park). We would have liked to do that but we were beaten by the weather, on the way back we were almost blown off our bikes so had to walk some of the way pushing them and looking like wimps (chapeau to all the Tour de France riders).
Decided to splash out a bit and go out for a meal at the Old School House, 2 miles down the road at Inshegra. They could just squeeze us in at 6:30pm as they had a party of 17 in, lucky us, the food was gorgeous (Langoustines for Janette and Sole Veronique for me).
Leaving Kinlochbervie we hoped to make it to Handa Island (Scottish Wildlife Trust) and can only get there by passenger ferry (small rib that takes 12 people max). Arriving at about 11:30am we were astounded by the amount of cars their. We couldn’t park and were eventually guided to park outside someone’s house. If you are going to visit the first boat is 9:00am and last boat out is 2:00pm (weather dependant) and last boat back 5:00pm. If you are into nature loving in any way at all the £12.50 return fare is well worth it. We saw Great Skua’s, Puffins, Terns, an Arctic Skua and many more species.
It takes a good 3 hours to walk around so allow plenty of time. Fantastic day out (we caught the last boat back!). As it was now 5:15pm the thought off dragging ourselves another couple of hours (the roads are slow here) to an intended wild camp spot did not seem like fun (we were knackered) we decided to stay here. We moved Hilma down to the harbour vowing to leave early next morning before getting blocked in! There is a lovely restaurant in the harbour www.shorehousetarbet.co.uk – we had a couple of drinks and sitting on the veranda with the sun sinking behind Handa Island life suddenly became a little reflective – but beer does that to you sometimes. The owner (Julian) has been there since his mother started the restaurant and he and his wife Jackie eventually took over. Julian catches all the fish for the restaurant so it couldn’t get much fresher. We later offered Julian a glass of wine from our ‘Hilma Cellar’ as he was so helpful in initially directing us where to park. His philosophy is if he loves it so much then why shouldn’t he help other people to enjoy the same. All that is asked is that you donate some money to the RNLI – absolutely!
At 9:30pm I decide to go and try and catch a trout in the small Loch Dubh behind the harbour. No initial luck – I then moved location and changed my fly to a ‘Claret Bumble’ (don’t ask) and within a couple of casts I had one on. A beautiful little wild brown trout, red and dark brown spots, I released it to continue his (or her) journey in life – what a treat. Janette disappointed as I didn’t bring one back for breakfast.To finish off the night, 2 pairs of Greylag Geese and eight goslings waddled down to the sea.Don’t miss Tarbet if you’re on the NC 500.