After 2 glorious days on the Isle of Skye, it was time to continue our journey north, up the west coast of Scotlandto our night’s accommodation at Ullapoolthe scenery we drove through was extraordinary (apologies if there is too many landscape photos for your liking but they are the essence of northern Scotland at this time of the year)
we spotted a big stag on one of the mountainsides
Lisa had booked us accommodation in the Ferry Boat Inn (FBI)on the waterfront of Ullapoolwith a convenient pub under our twin roomthe scenery on our drive out of Ullapool had a more desolate appearance, to what we had been driving through up to now
our next accommodation stop was Durness, on the North Western corner of Scotlandwith stops at glorious deserted sandy beachs
One has the feeling that area of Scotland is in decline, as the younger generation have moved away to the excitement of city living not a lot of highland cattle to be seen but the few that were, are very photogenic The main road up here, for hundreds of miles is single lane with regular passing spots, for when a car is coming from the other directionall of it is unfenced, for sheep grazing
another glorious deserted sandy beach to walk on, as the sun was setting
then it was on to our hotel named after the cave the nearby stream flowed out ofa lovely pub for a few nights of pub food, snooker and darts and conversations with the localsThe next day, on our day trip from Durness, we soaked up the scenery
coming across our first Northern Scotland road jam
We did start a 3 hour return walk through the fields to one of the out of way beaches, but all the rain they had been having had resulted in the ground being waterlogged, so we turned back after quarter of a mile, with very wet boots and socks, and drove to a beach a few miles backwhere we decided to walk out to the tidal island in the middle of the bay, as the tide was falling
Lisa whipped up a picnic on the rocksHighland Cattle are synonymous with this country Next morning we continued our journey eaststopping at Tongue for the walk up to it’s old castle
You may remember a photo from my Cornwall blog, were I was standing beside a sign for Land’s End, with an arrow pointing to John O’Groats, 874 miles away, we are now taking photos under the reciprocal signwe are now officially End to Ender
as is the serendipitous coincidences that is ROAD TRIP, there was a sign stating that Bluff, at the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand was exactly on the opposite side of the planet from John O’Groats.
I had initially been planning to sail over to Bluff in Logic in this southern summer, rather than do ROAD TRIP.
The opportunities that I have available to me are, pinch myself to make sure it is not a dream, surreal.
There is a very cute harbour at John O’Groats It was very short drive to the far north eastern corner of mainland Great BritainThe sailor in me had me instantly observing the strong tidal current standing up the waves off the headland
Up until the end of the 1,700’s, the clan chiefs and landowners on the Scottish Highlands, had a need to maximize the populations on their lands. They needed a lot of labour to build all those castles, and defend them. Plus their status was determined by the number of fighting men they could contribute to the national armies in times of war.
Coming into the 1,800’s status was now determined by the lifestyle they could present to their peers, as landed gentry living in London and their impressive country estates. All this required a lot of money, more money than they could generate from the tenant farmers on their landholdings, who were paying minimal rents, if they were not years in arrears.
The industrial revolution generated textile mills of Manchester, now had an insatiable demand for wool. So the logical economic decision, was for the landowners to replace their tenant farmers with flocks of sheep.
The tenant farmers who had been living on the lands for multiple generations, would ignore the eviction notices, until the sheriff arrived and knocked their homes over and burn them. This happened on a massive scale, affecting tens of thousands of people, a historic event known as the Highland Clearance.
There was now a massive number of people looking for new opportunities, including three generations of my forbears (Tulloch) that left the outer northern Orkney Islands for Australia in the 1830s.
At this time of the year, Orkney Islands can be very miserable if the winds are blowing, so going over there was not something that we locked into our itinerary. As was the continuing serendipitous luck of ROAD TRIP, the forecast for the next day was light winds. So it was a no brainer that were on the ferry over to the Orkney Islands the next day.
The ferry offloaded us at St Margaret’s Hope
from where we drove across the Churchill Barriers which was built by POW labour during WW2, to prevent the German submarines, sneaking into main harbour (Scarpa Flow) and sinking the Royal Navy fleet on anchor.
To visit Kirkwall on the Main Island and it’s very impressive Cathedral
On the way to lunch at Stromness, we stopped of at the Ring of Brodgara ring of standing stones erected 5,000 years ago (at the same time as Stonehenge)and then we had to start making out way back to St. Margaret’s Hope The Orkney Islands we saw, had a similar feel to Byron Bay, back home. Lots of artists producing quirky original stuff, plus a craft beer brewery, gin and whisky distilleries It was emotional for me going back to the home of some of my genome and seeing where my forbears came from. This would have been a very challenging place to live, they would have been tough innovate people, who would have thrived in the opportunities available in Oz in the mid 1800s
We are now back at Lisa’s home in Cornwall. I am off the booze until I have the blog up to date, so expect the blog post for our drive down (with a stop over in the Lake District) to be following this one very shortly.