Travel Diaries: Scotland Tour – Smoo Cave on the clearest of days

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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Seasonal Recipes: Scottish Raspberry Shortbread

Scottish Raspberry Shortbread

(Original recipe: Scottish Baking by Sue Baker)

I’m going to file this recipe under “Autumn” as raspberries are in season from August-October here in England.  However, they do make a delicious treat for Burns Night.  I’ve reduced the number of raspberries from the original recipe, as my children find the shortbread very crumbly and this ratio helps to hold the delicate biscuits together.



200g butter/dairy free spread, softened.  A little extra for greasing the tin.

100g golden caster sugar, extra for sprinkling on top

250g self-raising flour, sifted

70g medium oatmeal

150g fresh raspberries


Swiss roll tin (or similar low-sided baking tin approx 23x33cm)

Baking parchment

Kitchen Mixer (or you could mix by hand … it will take a while)



Kitchen scales


Cream butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.

Combine the flour and oatmeal, and then carefully add it to the creamed mixture in batches, waiting for each batch to be incorporated before adding more.

Grease the Swiss roll tin and then press down the baking parchment to line it, leaving an overhang to use as handles, to pull the delicate shortbread out later.

Pre-heat the oven to 150degreesC

Arrange the raspberries on the tin in even lines.


Press the shortbread mixture around and over the raspberries – it should just about cover the bottom of the tin.  It will look messy – this is absolutely fine.


Prick the mixture all over with a fork and then place in the middle shelf of the oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown.  (My oven takes an hour, because it is old and temperamental.)

Sprinkle the shortbread with sugar and then lift it out of the tin ever-so-carefully using the baking parchment, and place it onto a wire rack to cool.  It will be very fragile and soft, so do not attempt to remove the baking parchment.


Cut the cooled shortbread into squares.  (Tip:  The raspberries are prone to stain wooden chopping boards as you cut the biscuits out – so use an old one!)


If you have any left over … and it doesn’t all vanish in minutes, you can keep it in a tin for   24 hours.  If you pop it in the fridge for a while, it will be less fragile to handle.


One of our closest friends bought us some delicious Scottish Shortbread for Christmas (how well they know us) – so we now have a lovely tartan tin to keep our homemade version in 🙂


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Scottish Baking by Sue Lawrence