Travel Diaries: Scotland Tour – Durness, Loch Eriboll, the Kyle of Tongue and Altnaharra

Refreshed by mugs of piping hot chocolate, we are back on the road. We are planning to charge our electric car at the Charge Scotland point next to The Tongue Hotel. It is mid April 2019 and the weather is being increasingly good to us.

A haze of smoke still drifts above Durness, from the heather burnings the evening before, though blue skies await us ahead.

We bid goodbye to the sandy bays around Smoo Cave, sticking to the coastal roads and taking in the sea views.

Ceannabeinne Beach is scribbled down in my notebook as a place to return to. How stunning it looks, as slopes crowned in heather lead down to pristine sands and turquoise waves.

At Loch Eriboll, the roads curve around the feet of dark craggy mountains. We weave in and out of their shadows. Sheep stare at the car and, after giving it some thought, take their time meandering out of the way.

As the road climbs upwards, we spot a sign for “Moine House” and pull in. Walking down the pathway, a panoramic, too large to take in at once, displays a mountain vista from Ben Griam Beg all the way across to Ben Hope. Layer upon layer of ever deeper reds carpet the marshy ground up to a sudden shard of blueish peaks. I struggle to take a photograph whilst holding onto my glasses, hat, scarf, and mittens as the strong winds rattle along the open valley and threaten to steal them away. The clouds are moving so swiftly that every picture I take shows a completely different sky.

Back down at sea-level, the calmness of the scene at the Kyle of Tongue causeway, with far reaching views out to Ben Loyal, stays with me even now. The crisp blue of the steel railing seemed to merge with the rippling water, the crags beyond and the endless sky. Windows down, we could breathe in the cold salty air and hear the waves lapping.

The staff at The Tongue Hotel could not have been more pleasant and welcoming as we waited a short while for our car to charge. We are greeted with this same kindness everywhere we travel throughout north Scotland.

Travelling onwards, in Altnaharra, at the edge of a small village, we meet our first wild stag. He watches us for a moment before gracefully leaping and disappearing off into a thicket.

Then we turn back towards Scourie, the landscape looking ever more like the wind-shaped trees and foaming river, with its grassy banks, that runs past our holiday cottage.

Tomorrow we will be exploring a sea loch, hiking alongside rocky shores and out towards the ocean.

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Travel Diaries: Scotland Tour – Ullapool, Kylesku and Scourie

We take the scenic route from Aviemore through Bonor Bridge and into the mountains. We wonder if anything can match the sheer splendour of the snowcapped Cairngorms in the early spring sunshine, and I feel a reluctance at having to leave so soon.

We drive due west, straight across the country to the bustling port of Ullapool and are rewarded with our first sight of the beautiful western coastline. We stock up on a few supplies at the supermarket whilst our car is plugged into the carpark’s ChargePlace Scotland charger. We have our fingers crossed as we’ll be relying on these, rather than Tesla chargers or Ecotricity, whilst we are in the middle of nowhere, and this is our first attempt. A moment of holding our breath and … phew – it is easy to use and works perfectly. We can relax now! It is very breezy here, despite the bright sunshine, and our youngest son is almost lifted off the ground as he munches on a sandwich.

Picnic eaten and car battery full, we then turn northwards and are on the final stretch. The skies are the clearest blue and we can see every detail in the distant mountains.

The route takes us alongside Loch Assynt and Ardvrek Castle and although we cannot stop now as we are aiming to reach our holiday cottage and unpack before dark, we do return in the Autumn to climb up to see the waterfall that feeds the stream you can see in the foreground.

We drive over the famous Kylesku Bridge, a well-known landmark along the North Coast 500 route. I am positively itching to grab my walking boots and get out and explore.

Vast evergreen forests meet the shorelines of the lochs. Every distant mountain seems larger than the last.

Yellow gorse lines the roadside and we do not see another car for twenty minutes at a time. Having an electric car that runs near-silently means we have to be very careful of wildlife, as animals cannot hear our engine coming. We wind our windows down and breathe in the crisp pure air.

I am startled to see whole vistas without a tree in sight. We live in a forested area and I am used to the Peak District and The Lakes. The crags here are stark and imposing, with nothing to interrupt the view of the rocks and scree for miles.

The light seems to shift and change, moment by moment. Looking through my archive now, photographs taken within seconds of each other look entirely different.

We find our lovely little holiday cottage just north of Scourie, unpack and then quickly get on our walking gear to explore the river that runs past the garden. This will be our base for the next four days – a nature lover’s paradise.

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