Janette and I went off early to take a look at the Terns – they turned out to be Arctic Terns performing some lovely ‘floaty’ type aerobatics. Didn’t hang around or get too close as we did not want to disturb them.
Went to the shops on the bike this morning – why is it (despite having a list provided by Janette) I always end up buying more? Always happens. In this case my excuse was ‘when confronted with a local baker’s shop full of lovely cream cakes I really do think (especially on holiday) one should give in to temptation and support the local economy’. Whilst I was out purchasing said ‘necessary’ cakes Janette was being much more sensible and buying Halibut for supper off the fish man who visits the site regularly.
Late morning we take off on the bikes and planned to cycle around Loch Brora – as we passed Clynelish Distillery that old devil temptation kicked in again – and we were only 15mins into the ride. We had quick chat with a lovely lady in the ‘tasting room’ and decided it would be better to do some ‘tasting’ on the way back! Good decision! Stopped for lunch at Doll Ford Bridge – what a glorious spot, off the beaten track and only 30mins from the CC site at Brora. Dippers, Sandpipers and trout rising to a Mayfly hatch – sounds idyllic – well, yes it was!
Continuing along the side of the loch we eventually came unstuck with our plan to cycle all the way round – the track stopped at a farm despite being shown on an OS map as going all the way round. Back we went and cycled up the other side instead keeping the time in mind as we didn’t want to miss our appointment at the distillery! Taste we did and didn’t fall off. I rang my friend Peter as he wanted a bottle of Clynelish, his answer machine was on so I left a message that I had purchased a 35yr old malt for £1,200 rather than the 38yr old at £1,450. He quickly rang me back to cancel and go for a £43 bottle instead! Ha!
Back on the road after 3 nights at Brora which we thoroughly enjoyed. Amazing drive from Brora to Wick – some of it very winding and steep. Drove down to Wick Harbour rather than into town, parked Hilma up had a wander, back to Hilma for a coffee and then off again to Tesco for provisions as apparently (according to Janette) the cream cakes I bought would not last us another week.
Some amazing metalwork gates (7 in all) installed in 2006 reflecting, in art, the culture and history of the area can be found covering old holes in the wall at one end of the harbour. A real gritty working harbour with great character.
On to John O’Groats – well some people must like it! Highlight of the day though was an amazing lady who had lost the use of her legs and using a special bike cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats, taking 10 days 8hrs and 4mins, raising £18,000 for Cancer Research.
Drove on to our destination for the night at Dunnet Bay – stunning views of a 2 mile golden sands beach. Amazed it has not rained once yet – very, very windy though.
We had planned to cycle to Dunnet Head today but the wind was so strong I do not think we would have enjoyed it (or even got there!). So off we went in Hilma up to the most northerly point of mainland Britain. The RSPB ‘shed’ was closed and just to proves how strong the winds get here the roof was ‘roped down’ for good measure. Did the touristy bit and wandered around reading all information boards.
The area was used as a look out point as during WWII the Royal Navy had part of it’s fleet anchored in Scapa Flow within the Orkney Islands which can easily be seen on a clear(ish) day. Is it still used as a Royal Navy base I wonder? We then went off ‘birding’, hoping to see our first ever Puffins – we were not disappointed, there sat 6 of them outside their burrows on the cliff side. I’m sure there were more of them out at sea gathering food for an evening snack of sand eels, yum.
Later took the telescope to the cliff edge to spot what the ‘rafts’ of birds were out to sea – mainly Razorbills and Gulls. By far the most majestic birds out there were the Gannets, flying close to the sea one minute and then finding a thermal and soaring like gliders up, up and away before returning to do the same. Close in were Guillemot, Kittiwake the amazing Fulmar (looked like juveniles – possibly last years? – still quite speckled on their wings) performing their wonderful acrobatic flights so close in to the cliffs. Late on in the day we saw a huge bird which ended up being Giant Skua – mobbing and dwarfing the smaller gulls and birds around it, almost with ‘hawk’ like dives now and then.
Ended up spending all day at Dunnet Head because it was such a magical place despite being blown about by the strong winds. Will do again at some point I’m sure.
On the way back stopped at a passing place to look at a fishing notice, put the emergency flashers on and when came to start off again Hilma refused to start up again. Not just that, the injector light that had caused me so much angst before the holiday was on again. Janette calmed my jangled nerves and we checked the fuses, sure enough a 10A fuse had blown on the emergency flasher slot. Replaced (yes folks – keep loads of fuses with you) it with another and Hilma started like the good girl I know she is. However that damned light was on again, but knowing the history I am a little more comforted knowing what has caused it to come on. When we got back to the camp site I checked out the manual (all in German so had to do some google translating – yes the MiFi unit installed was working fine) and it turned out there should be a 15A fuse in the slot – duly replaced. The only thing now is do I pay another £85 to get the fault cleared off the dashboard?Tomorrow we are off to do our first ‘wild camp’. Not sure where we will stop, we will see when we get there I guess. It will give us a chance to try out the solar panel as so far we have been ‘hooked up’ to the grid.