Bird Silhouette

One of those shots that was just taken at the right time!

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1400 miles = North Coast 500 – Done

After driving a portion of the route last year – we decided to do the full thing this year. We ended up not doing the full route but doing lots of extras.

We decided to do it in a leisurely fashion, without any huge mileage days and trying to stay in the same place for a couple of days to prevent the constant packing and unpacking.

We decided to do the route in a clockwise direction: North up the west coast, East along the north coast and South along the east coast. We skipped the portion from Inverness West to the west coast – we did this last year and replaced it with a tour of Skye.

One of my aims from this holiday was to perfect my photography technique for landscape panoramas – you have been warned!

Day 01 – Home to Inverarnon

Day 02 – Inverarnon to Edinbane

Day 03 – Exploring Skye

Day 04 – Edinbane to Gairloch

Day 05 – Exploring Loch Ewe

Day 06 – Gairloch to Scourie

Day 07 – Exploring Durness

Day 08 – Exploring Stoer

Day 09 – The North Coast

Day 10 – The East Coast

Day 11 – Inverness to Home

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North Coast 500 – NC500 – Day 11 – Inverness To Home

On previous Inverness trips we have visited Nairn and loved it but we had never don further east. We rectified it this time by heading for Elgin. From here we headed down Speyside (scouting for another roadtrip ….) before hitting Aviemore then home.

I have just realised that I have not finished processing all my photos (~3000 in total) so I’ll update this post soon !

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North Coast 500 – NC500 – Day 10 – The East Coast

The Pennyland House B&B gave me probably the best sleep of the trip, there was nothing wrong with the previous accommodation but the beds here were SO comfortable. Another fantastic breakfast set us up for a long day’s driving.

This was the leg of the journey that I enjoyed least, I’m not sure if it was because it was on “proper” roads or if it was just not as spectacular as the previous week ….

We headed south to Wick, had a wander around then hit the road to our lunch stop at Dunrobin Castle and gardens.

We then had just a number of little stops to break up the remainder of the journey including Loch Fleet

Dornoch and Tain – both of these are also on the list for a re-visit.

The final overnight stop for us and the end of the “official” North Coast 500 route was in Inverness. For us it was the Ballifeary Guest House. Inverness is an old stomping ground for as as we are veterans of the marathon but a new discovery there; The Malt Room did mean it was a late night for us!

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North Coast 500 – NC500 – Day 09 – The North Coast

Back north again – this time for the final time. I did enjoy driving the A838. It was very remote and very scenic.

We then passed the Kyle Of Durness, when we passed this previously the tide had been out, now in it was completely transformed.

It was then on to Durness – here we stumbled upon a small secluded beach – probably the nicest (of the many) on the trip. I have since found out it’s Sango Sands.

There were still lots of beaches to discover and still lots of scenic hills to admire. Not on the same scale as the west coast but the north coast was not as “barren” or “boring” as the guide books would have you believe.

The next stand out moment was at Tongue, here the road crosses a causeway and you can park and admire the scenic views in all directions.

Next stop – the must see location of John O’Groats. Again another location that was not as bad as the guide books claimed. OK we arrived late after most of the shops were closed and there were not too many (other) tourists around. A nice walk along the coast and you can see just how close Orkney actually is. I think that we should visit there next time!

Much more impressive in my mind at least is Duncansby Head (yes another lighthouse)

Finished in the north east corner we started to backtrack to or accommodation but we had to visit Dunnet Head – the most northerly point of mainland Scotland.

Back along the coast road – back into Thurso for our overnight stay in the Pennyland House B&B which has stunning views out to the sea.

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North Coast 500 – NC500 – Day 08 – Exploring Stoer

On the route north we had missed out this coastal route as time was getting on so we headed back south to complete this loop. This was a good decision to postpone this as these roads are quite narrow – it was good to slow down and enjoy the views.

First stop was back to Lochinver to visit the Highland Stoneware factory where you can watch real craftsmen and women doing their work. They make it look so effortless, chatting with you and answering your questions while they do their work.

We were now continuing on the coastal route – taking in various beaches:

Achmelvich

Clachtoll

before heading for the Stoer lighthouse (I have only just realised how much I like the scenery at lighthouses and they are so photogenic in their own right)

From here – it was back round the coast road – taking in the Kylesku bridge which we had zoomed over two days previous. Back to the Eddrachilles Hotel for another sumptuous dinner – chilling out and some failed attempts at photographing the stars.

(I was trying to get the sundial to point at the moon – but was struggling to see anything through the viewfinder)

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North Coast 500 – NC500 – Day 07 – Exploring Durness

This was a deliberate lazy day for us. Our friends headed off to visit Sandwood Bay whilst we had a lazy morning exploring the lovely gardens and shoreline at the Eddrachilles Hotel.

We then headed north towards Durness and Smoo Cave. This is a coastal cave which you can go down and explore. There are various blowholes letting in light and the portion of the cave which is flooded – you can explore via boat. We did not partake in that this time.

From there we headed to the Balnakeil Craft Villiage where we visited the excellent Cocoa Mountain for a hot chocolate before exploring the various arts and crafts venues.

On the recommendation of the staff the Eddrachilles Hotel we headed down to the beach at Balnakeil. There is a lovely old church and graveyard there along with a stunning beach.

It was then back to the Eddrachilles Hotel for yet another stunning meal then chilling out by the fire.

If you are interested in accessing full size full resolution versions of any of my images then please contact me using any of the social links listed here.

North Coast 500 – NC500 – Day 06 – Gairloch to Scourie

Again some wonkieness on the map – but I think this was my fault – updating the timeline rather than filtering it.

We left the Charlestown House B&B and headed to the Poolewe Villiage Hall to see the local market. Lots of arts and crafts (and tea and scones) available. I finally remembered I had brought the fisheye lens so captured a few shots with that.

From here we headed around Gruinard Bay. If you look really closely you can see lots of seals basking on the rocks and yet another stunning beach!

Next stop was the Corrieshalloch Gorge. Here you have a suspension bridge spanning a deep gorge with a waterfall. I tried my best to get some slow shutter shots of the waterfall but a suspension bridge is not conducive to removing camera shake (my knees didn’t help either as I leaned over the edge).

We then headed slightly back long the road we had just come – to have a picnic lunch looking down the valley to Loch Broom an Ullapool.

After a quick stop in Ullapool (tea and scone) we headed back onto the single track roads taking a detour to Achiltibuie before backtracking and heading for Lochinver. This is a stunning road but there are not many places to stop and enjoy the view. Remember – it’s not recommended to park in a passing place!

Next stop was supposed to be just before Scourie but this was our second unintentional detour. The signpost had blown down so rather than taking a left half way along Loch Assynt we headed all the way down to Ledmore before I spotted my mistake. On the plus side – there were lots of photo opportunities !

Back on track we headed for Unapool, Kylesku Bridge and our final stop of the day at the Eddrachilles Hotel.

This accommodation was the find of the trip – a lovely conservatory overlooking the bay, with a log burner to keep things cosy. The staff are friendly and the food was AMAZING.

If you are interested in accessing full size full resolution versions of any of my images then please contact me using any of the social links listed here.

North Coast 500 – NC500 – Day 05 – Exploring Loch Ewe

OK – spot where the GPS tracking went a bit wonky – I can confirm that there were no helicopter flights or swimming in Loch Ewe.

After a lovely breakfast at the Charlestown House B&B (I heartily recommend the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon) we headed off exploring on our own as our friends were off shell-fishing. We (I) decided to head north west along a very narrow single track road to the Rua Reidh Lighthouse. Seriously this road is just wide enough for a car!

From here we headed back down into Gairloch and time for tea and a scone (noticing the trend here) at the lovely Mountain Coffee Company. We say in their conservatory and relaxed.

From there we headed to the north east corner of the peninsula and the Cove Light Anti-Aircraft battery. This was used in WW2 to protect Loch Ewe which was a meeting point for various convoys.

The views from here were STUNNING!

It was time for tea again so south to the Poolewe hotel then a quick rendezvous at Inverewe Gardens before heading to the STUNNING Mellon Udrigle beach.

It was tempting to jump in for a swim – maybe if we had been there earlier in the day.

Time for dinner at the Altbea Hotel with fantastic views over Loch Ewe to the Isle of Ewe before retiring back to the Charlestown House B&B for a well deserved drink before bed.

If you are interested in accessing full size full resolution versions of any of my images then please contact me using any of the social links listed here.

North Coast 500 – NC500 – Day 04 – Edinbane to Gairloch

Final sampling of the wonderful porridge at the Edinbane Inn it was time to head to Portree for a visit as we had just whizzed through it the previous day.

The harbour was lovely and another place that merits much more time than we gave it.

From here it was south to the Skye Bridge and back to the mainland. I can’t go too far or too long without a cup of tea so it was time for a stop and a wander around Plockton, popping in to the Plockton Shores and Coffee Shop for tea and a scone.

From here it was a long and winding drive to get to and climb over the spectacular Bealach na Ba pass….

… before dropping down into Applecross for a fantastic lunch at the Applecross Inn. A must stop if you are in the area (make the trip !!!!!)

From here – rather than heading back over the pass we heading north around the peninsula. This was one of my favourite roads to drive on. Twisty enough to be challenging, Smooth enough you can drive fast on, Views back to Skye that mean you don’t want to drive fast!

 

Time was getting on now so only a quick stop in at Torridon at one of my favourite photography spots…..

…. before heading for our next overnight stop at the Charlestown House B&B just outside of Gairloch.

It’s worth noting that the road along Loch Maree was one of the most challenging – maybe because I was tired – but this road goes from a modern straight (what I would call an A road) to a single track road with passing places with little or no warning.

Dinner that night was in the nearby Old Inn.

If you are interested in accessing full size full resolution versions of any of my images then please contact me using any of the social links listed here.