Tag: Durness

North Coast 500 tour – Days 11-13

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).

Sunset at Kinlochbervie

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).

Dusk at Kinlochbervie Harbour

17th May
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.

Handa Island – Razorbills on the cliffs

Handa Island Fulmar – taking it easy


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.

Skylark on Handa Island

Great Skua showing off his landing skills

Puffins – how do they manage to cling on? Still, if they fell off all they have to do is flap!

North Coast 500 tour – Days 9-10

13th May
The plan tonight is to do our first wild camp – we have a rough idea where we would like to stay (Kyle of Tongue) but of course until we get there we have no idea if we will be able too.
Off we trot again into Thurso to pick up some supplies – after the blown fuse incident I decided I needed one or two more just in case. Fuses bought and postcards posted we make our way past Dounreay Power Station and find a lovely bay (Sandside Bay) with great parking and a WC. Great walk along the beach with a flock of Ringed Plovers circling out at sea eventually settling on the shore front. On closer inspection we found a lone Dunlin just coming into summer plumage in the middle of them all. Just after exiting the beach we then noticed the signs NOT to pick up any metal objects, shells or pebbles as they might be contaminated with radiation – a quick check of the feet and I noted Janette’s were glowing a little!

The feet at this stage still a normal colour

Sandside Bay – nr. Dounreay

Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers at Sandside (they are in there somewhere!)

Onwards towards our evening destination. What we are finding on this mini-tour is that time is of no consequence when there isn’t anything booked. Very calming, good for the soul. The scenery up here is breath taking, almost too much visual indigestion to appreciate it – but appreciate it we do. En-route we pass (or rather they pass us) at least 6 Ferrari’s we guess were doing the tour, Hilma tried to keep up but had to admit defeat despite having the larger engine! We eventually arrived at Tongue, over the causeway and took the Achuvoldrach side of the road and headed down the side of the Kyle of Tongue. Nerve wrackingly narrow road with occasional passing places, wide enough for Hilma but you wouldn’t want to get a wheel off the edge – bog, bog, bog. About 2 miles down the road we pulled in to a parking spot where there was already a motorhome – we thought we should ask if they minded us staying – we were thinking safety in numbers as this was our first wild camp. All was well and to be honest it was probably one of the safest places in the world! The view was incredible (see pics) and there was complete silence apart from the call of the birds.

Late evening on the Kyle of Tongue

Early morning on the Kyle of Tongue

A room with a view – what price? (actually it was free)

Our first wild camp with Hilma

14th May
After a very peaceful nights sleep in one of the most secluded spots I have ever been too. I was finding it hard to contemplate moving on, this was such a perfect spot and really moved me to the core. I’m not advocating everybody should up sticks and do the North Coast 500 but certainly find some wild places to stay for one or two nights and it really makes you appreciate our green and pleasant land (or in this case brown and pleasant land). But tear ourselves away did after a little walk down the road to take in the wonder of where we were (on the planet and the universe), we were able to drive all the way around the Kyle of Tongue before eventually emerging back onto the A838 and onward to our next wild camp. We drove across acres of ‘flow country’ passing a few clearance villages with Scandanavian sounding names, onward through a place called ‘Hope’ (which you would have needed plenty of to live there) and onto Loch Eriboll. The road now continues all the way around the loch (single track with passing places), a loch which is so deep the Royal Navy anchor ships when the weather takes a turn for the worse. You cannot do this quickly, every few minutes you will come across another motorhome, motorbike, car or van which you (or they) pull over to let each other pass.

Loch Eriboll, en-route to our 2nd wild camp night

When we arrived at our intended spot to camp we were not disappointed, our jaws dropped open at what must be the best view on the tour (so far). The lay-by we were stopping in overlooked Traigh Allt Chailgeag bay – 3.8 miles from Durness. Parked up and immediately went down for a wander on the beach – who needs the Carribean when you have beaches like this here (well the temperature would be better there). Gannets were flying high and then plummeting into the sea like huge white darts hitting a bulls eye in the North Sea. Terns were also feeding with much more elegance and delicacy, there must have been a wonderful feast of fish and sandeels in one hotspot seafood café for birds. Had a chat with someone who was taking a month off work camping around North Scotland. He had an old Range Rover with a collapsible boat and 6hp engine on the roof rack, all his cooking gear on the drop down tailgate and some conversion of the seats if he needed to sleep inside. He had just come from the Shetlands which I think is about 140 miles north again – now that is what I would consider hard work – not him.
In the evening we walked around a local heritage trail covering the clearances near Durness in 1842 – very, very interesting. Makes one think about all the instances still continuing in the world where minority groups are persecuted. Mankind has a lot to answer for. My philosophical outlook though does nothing to dampen the beauty of this place, it is well worth visiting even if you don’t stop here.

Lay-by above Traigh Allt Chailgeag – our 2nd wild camp