As we set out towards Durness the next morning, the mountains are still cloaked in the smoke of yesterday evening’s heather burnings.
Smoo Cave is found just a little east of Durness. It is the clearest of days, yet the breeze over the cliff tops is enough to send our smaller children scattering and we hold their hands tightly. After some time spent allocating and applying scarves, mittens, hats and extra layers to our five children, we descend the steps together.
The bridge we can see far below leads to the cave entrance, over a river than runs out to the sea. Gulls perch precariously on small tufted ledges.
It is cold in the lea of the cliffs and my daughter huddles against me in her baby carrier. I arrange my scarf so that we are both wrapped in it and then follow the boys across the bridge into the warm sunshine. It is not quite the tourist season yet and we have the place to ourselves.
We have visited natural caverns before, but our children have never seen a cave mouth this looming and large. Their heads tilt back as they take in the sheer scale.
A natural sky light illuminates the space and a rickety looking covered walkway leads onwards. We are delighted to find that it is intended for visitors, and not merely a relic for show.
It leads off into darkness. The children eagerly press on.
It ends in a wooden viewing point, revealing a waterfall cascading into a pool that, in turn, feeds the river that meanders seawards. A sign says that in the summer months, a boat trip can be taken through the caverns.
We listen to the beautiful sound of the splashing water, which is amplified around the small chamber, before turning back to explore the main cave.
“This is the best moment of the trip so far!” Shouts one of our sons, and, to his surprise, it is echoed back many times.
I wait behind to get a snap of all of my boys, husband included, standing on the bridge waving back at me.
It is then time to see the waves and get a better perspective of the vastness of Smoo Cave from a distance.
As always, I am way behind everyone else, carrying my (now sleeping) baby daughter and happily lost in my note taking and photography.
It is time to make the steep return ascent. A hot chocolate at Cocoa Mountain beckons.
Afterwards, we will spend the rest of the day following the coastal roads. Our aim is to search out the best view of the stunning mountain Ben Hope, the most northernly of the Munros.
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