The Scenic Route
|View at stop along route (cell phone)|
Today we left Thurso after a standard breakfast of eggs, bacon (more like ham), baked beans, toast, and tea to head down to Ullapool for the night. The route takes three hours to drive without stops, we only made a three major stops and a did a few quick pull off for pictures. The drive was very scenic, however much of it was on a one lane major road with passing pull offs, not the type of place you want to stop.
Our first major stop was Caisteal Bharraich (Castle Varrich) in the town of Tongue. The hike up to the castle and back takes a little over an hour. The trail crosses over a stream and then climbs up a large hill to the remains of the castle tower. Once you reach the castle tower you can climb the metal spiral staircase erected in the tower center to get a 360 view of the valley below and surrounding mountains and the Kyle of Tongue.
|Caisteal Bharraich (cell phone)|
The scenery was beautiful even if the sky was cloudy and thinking about threatening rain. From there we traveled on to Durness where Smoo Cave and our lunch stop were located. We might have stopped at the Smoo Cave but the visitor center and overflow parking was full. Also, we weren’t sure how long that would take, since some estimates said it was going to be a couple hour hike while some said it was shorter. Plus you can only enter the cave at low tide. Thus, the decision was made to skip Smoo Cave. We also contemplated taking the long way to Ullapool using a “B” road to see the Old Man of Stoer rock formation, however that was also one lane with several 14% or more grades. But just decided to skip that with four passengers and luggage in the car. Thus, we just continued on the main “A” road that eventually turned into a two lane road.
As we continued down the scenic mountain route to Ullapool we stopped at Ardvreck Castle which had three parking areas. One gave you a nice view of the castle sitting in the loch, one at nearby Ardvreck House, and the other was parking so you could walk across the road and up the castle ruins. There was a bonus with parking in the second parking area, a two-level waterfall. The waterfall was not very high but had a strong flow of water over the levels. The castle was across the road from the waterfall and parking. It was quick 5 minute walk to the castle ruins, which consisted of the remains of the tower and some lower level possibly dungeon. There were sheep droppings everywhere but no sheep. I think a few sheep bouncing around would have made an interesting picture. From there we continued down to Ullapool.
|Ardvreck Castle (cell phone)|
Today was the first day we checked into a hotel before 6:00PM, we got to the hotel a little after 3:00 PM. This allowed us time to go over to the grocery store to pick up some water, walk around a little bit before the rain, and just relax before dinner. Tomorrow, we will be getting a late start down to Portree in Skye, since breakfast doesn’t start till 8:00AM. So I get to sleep in a little bit. I am looking forward to Skye.