Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Day6 - Auldearn (Nairn) to Tongue

Date: Thursday 20th August 2015
Route: Auldearn (Nairn) - Tongue (via Culloden, Inverness, Helmsdale, John O’Groats)
Our Listening Pleasure:  Haynes Driving Anthems
Miles today: 208
Total Mileage: 961

The drive today consisted of mainly hairpin bends, single track road and some stunning views! It was the first of our two long driving days too.
The Cairn at Culloden 

Culloden was first on our itinerary today. This is the desolate site of a battle just east of Inverness that lasted for only an hour, but is remembered forever in the annals of time. 

The Highland battle was the English (who actually had some Scots on their side) versus the Jacobites who were fighting to get the Stuart King back on the throne (Bonnie Prince Charlie). Our tour started in the Heritage centre where we learned each side’s version of events. 

Then we progressed outdoors to the moor, where blue flags way in the distance showed the Jacobite line and the red flags showed the English line. Let battle commence.

 Although it was a lovely morning, there was a definite chill in the air about this place. Pretty spooky.
Culloden = desolate
There were “mounds” to show where the fallen had died, the clans were buried in mass graves and these have now been identified and appropriate gravestones have been placed. 
Just one of the many common burial spots for the Clans
It was at the Culloden grounds that Minty saw her first Highland Coo – she fell in love with the animals and we now have our own toy coo: he is called Hamish. However, he is not to be confused with the "real" Hamish who we will meet later on our tour.

Minty sees her first Highland Coo
Next stop was Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. This is the birthplace of Minty and she left the region at 6 weeks old. This was the first time back in 46 years and quite emotional. No doubt the hospital as it is today is vastly different to how it was back in 1968!

Minty goes home!
The trip through Inverness was brief and before long we had crossed into the Black Isle (which is neither black, nor an isle!!) and headed towards Helmsdale. The roads were dug out of the hills and mountains, and we could see the road way ahead of us at times as we rounded each bend! This was also our first steps on what is now being promoted as "North Coast 500," Scotland's version of Route 66.
Lunch Stop in Helmsdale

Helmsdale is another sleepy village which has really just one main street and we stopped here for lunch and had a great experience  at Thyme and Plaice…. Hot food, GOOD food and The Beeb had a lovely chat with the waitress.

The Beeb had another good chat with the lady who ran the local gift shop. On the wall behind the counter, there was a photo of her husband with JD Souther and Scotty Moore, two members of Elvis' band. Her husband had been a Rep for Peavey (amp manufacturer for those not in the know!) and had met these two at a convention. 

John O'Groats
Next up (via Wick) was the tip of the UK – John O’Groats. The wind was blowing but the sunshine was doing its best to break through. Not sure when Minty's dad will get his postcards as we are sure the pickup was only once a week! 

We walked right out on the pier, battling the wind - this is a bleak part of the country! You will notice that the beeb obeyed the STOP sign!
Sticking to the rules

Did you know it is only 3230 miles to New York? When can we leave?

Mileage signs

We had to have an Orkney Ice cream cone here… the cold weather demanded it! We both went for the Great Scot cone!

The Great Scot!
On our travels we encountered many sheep who just wandered into the road, without a care in the world. Some just lay on the edge and ate their grass lying down! It is obviously a hard life to be a highland sheep!

Dounreay Power Station

On our way from John O'Groats, we passed the Dounreay power station, and in a wee parking place, The Beeb found a set of miniature standing stones!

The Beeb and the Standing Stones

Hello Tongue
The next stop was Tongue, and while Minty chilled out, the Beeb went walking up to Castle Varrich, a ruined structure steeped in mystery as no-one seems to know the background or history of it. 

Our accommodation tonight was at the Ben Loyal Hotel and we were lucky enough to have a room with a great view looking out at the castle.

Room with a view

You can see the hotel from here!

Inside the castle

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