After breakfasting on smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (how posh are we?!) we set off for Lairg, stopping at the wonderful Ferrycroft Visitor Centre for a gigantic pot of tea, just in time to beat two coach loads of tourists to the toilet. There are several walks heading directly away from the centre so it makes a worthwhile rest stop, but we were heading further north so left the exploring to another day.
The driving is truly spectacular in these parts, and believe you me that is not something I say very often as possibly the world’s most nervous driver. The roads are quiet, and most other users very gracious. Unless of course you count the eejit who gave us the finger in Tain. I returned the favour mind you. They never quite expect that of a little woman who looks a bit fluffy. First appearances n’all that. It serves to demonstrate how ridiculous their behaviour is though.
From Lairg we headed to Tongue, all the while following a rainbow, making the breathtaking scenery even more so. Poor Rich had to keep pulling over for me to take pictures, but I just couldn’t resist taking it all in. Tongue is sited on the northern coast of Scotland, and as it’s a wee bit chillier than down south we sat in the car to admire the view whilst eating our packed lunch.
We then drove to Bettyhill and strolled down to Farr Bay. Two brave surfers were trying to make the most of the waves, but seemed to doing more body boarding than surfing thanks to the wind. The local tourist information centre had closed for Winter unfortunately – it starts early up here, but we picked up a leaflet about local trails from the museum and drove a few minutes back down the road to Invernaver so that we could walk the 2km to Torrisdale Bay.
As soon as we got out of the car we were mobbed by a litter of adorable kittens, all wanting cuddles! One in particular looked like it would be quite happy to come home with us and insisted on climbing on to my shoulder to nuzzle my face. Realising that the owners probably wouldn’t approve of the cat-napping though, I resisted popping him in my bag, and we set off along the glacial moraine debris and sand dunes. We had the bay and magnificent views all to ourselves. Why go to crowded beach resorts when you can have this?! Had we had our wetsuits with us we’d have gone for a dip for sure.
Back at the car, the snuggly kitty quickly clambered into the boot. Worried that we would accidentally drive off with him, or even worse over him, I carried him to the nearby houses to try and find the owner, whilst Rich reversed to the main road. Having safely handed responsibility for kitty to two young girls we then took the B871 road alongside the River Naver. As we approached the loch, a large stag deer took us by surprise as it ran across the road. Fortunately we’d not been going fast enough to risk hitting him, and he must have realised that we meant him no harm as he stopped about 10 metres away and just looked at us for a few minutes. We must wear our animal lover hats well.
Our final destination for the night lay in Altnaharra – at the Altnaharra Bed and Breakfast. It has three double bedrooms, and stunning views. The bed is king sized and very comfy, the shower hot, and the room spacious. Having originally tried to book the Crask Inn we were both a little glad that the owners were on holiday and had recommended this place instead, although Rich has stayed at the inn previously and loved it. Mandy, originally from England, makes a fantastic host and even went out of her way to prepare gluten free dinner options especially for me – not an easy task when your nearest supermarket is many miles away. To start we had pea soup, followed by lamb chops and veggies, and then gluten free apple crumble. I was so full I had to hoist myself back up the stairs using the bannister! This is proper walker’s fayre – good home cooking and lots of it.
We were the only guests that night and all you could hear through the open window was the nearby stream burbling. No traffic. No televisions blaring. No light pollution. Just the mountains and lochs, peace and quiet. Maybe we should be running a B&B in the hills?