Cool name. Small place. We camped in the Smoo Cave Hotel and ate there too. The hotel’s seasonal cliental is a curious mix. Hard living locals at their only watering hole, playing pool, the juke box, and probably having a scrap now and then. And rather genteel tourists feeling out of place but excited by their unfolding NC500 adventure.
Smoo Cave is a vast limestone grotto that is sweet for its under exploitation. The beach it leads on to is narrow and was a bit smelly from seaweed, but over the hill there’s the much bigger beach of Durness.
Before leaving Polly and I got up early for a hard and fast stank up the hills behind the village. After an hour at full pace we were rewarded as we crested Meall Meadhonach and the view over Loch Eriboll opened up. This, the deepest of sea lochs, is frequently used by the Royal Navy, but we saw just a few small fishing boats on the still waters. Yesterday our route took us around the three land sides of the loch. It’s yet another beauty.
Our next drive was short, just 30 odd miles to Scourie where we settled for a couple of nights at the town campsite.
That short distance was ideal as those miles were probably the most dramatic to date.
Give a man a glimpse of beauty and he’ll stand in awe of the spectre before him, but immerse him in the very best and it’ll become normal. You have to ration this stuff!
30 miles interspersed by the oh so wide glaciated valley of the Strath Dionard with Eionaven and Cranstackie exaggerating its depth is enough to blow the mind with no risk of the very best becoming familiar.
The beautiful crescent beach at Scourie would certainly tempt me in for a swim on a warmer day, but so far I’ve not shed my layers to dive under these northern waters. I’m determined to do so before the week is out.
The journey to Scourie was spectacular, the onwards leg from the village excelled even that.
The teeming rain curtailed any intention of long walks, yet it added a mystery to the landscape. Tonight we’re at a lovely spot at the Beinn Eighe visitor centre from where it’s a 25 minute walk to Kinlochewe, or stank an hour up into the foot hills of Beinn Eighe for a view like this.
The rain that fell day long on the drive down to Beinn Eighe helped our decision to save the A832 loop that includes Gairloch for the next day.
The A832 Gairloch Loop.
On Tuesday the sun shone bright in the morning for yet another jaw dropping drive along the southern shore of 20 km long Loch Maree. From the opposite bank we had a glimpse of the huge house of the Letterewe Estate belonging to the estate of Dutch millionaire and philanthropist Paul Fentener van Vlissingen before descending to pretty Gairloch.
Here we saw our favourite Scottish house to date under construction. I very much like the clean lines and hidden guttering, as well as the use of corrugated roofing. Look out for these on the next Archavon development wherever in the world that may be.
By Tuesday evening we’d blasted down the A835 and made it back to Inverness, camping at the head of Loch Ness at the Dores Inn. Fine ales and dinner, a late evening lakeside walk.
And waking to a mirror like still Loch Ness that had all the locals in awe and the visitors delighted.
Our NC500 drive had been driven.
And my god it was good!
I’ll write NC500 in 1000 words for those favouring a short read.