Danny Yee >> Bushwalking & Travel >> Scotland + Northern England

Duncansby, Dunrobin, Loch Ness

When we got back to John O'Groats from Orkney, there was still a fair bit of light, so we drove up to Duncansby Head. Here there are some deeply cut inlets, on the sides of which a few remnant seabirds were roosting; we watched a juvenile fulmar learning how to fly, but others were too young to fly and probably doomed. And a little further to the south are the dramatic Duncansby stacks.

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Duncansby Head inlet
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Duncansby stacks

Back at the lighthouse on Duncansby Head, we ran into a couple who had just finished cycling from Land's End. We shared some of their celebratory whiskey and took photos of them. With the sun just setting, the lighthouse turned on; it was also drizzling.

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celebrating cyclists
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Camilla with Highland cow

We stopped near Giles, where we saw seals and possibly an otter, though it was hard to be sure in the fading light. Then it was back to the Royal Bar in Thurso for dinner, around 9pm.

Driving back, we got our first close look at some Highland cows: Camilla was trying to pat one when it swung around and she only just swayed out of the way of its horns!

Friday September 19th

I would have liked to look around Thurso, but we didn't have time. Heading south, we stopped at a tea room next to the Croft museum (which was closed).

Our first major stop was at Dunrobin castle, which is really a huge stately home, redesigned by Latimer in 1906 and still used by the Sutherland family. This was £6.50 to enter, but well worth it - we could have spent a lot longer than we did looking around. It even had a small bookshop, where I bought a book on the Highland clearances.

An unexpected bonus was a falconry display: the falconer showed off a Peregrine falcon, a Eurasian eagle owl, and a Harris hawk - and there were a dozen other birds there, including a Golden eagle.

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Dunrobin castle
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a Eurasian eagle owl
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a Harris hawk

We only had time for a very brief look at the museum, which was full of hunting trophies and other stuffed animals, ethnographic loot, Pictish stones, and so forth. This was most interesting for the light it shed on the collecting habits of the 19th century aristrocracy.

Continuing down the A9, we stopped at a supermarket in Inverness, then drove along Loch Ness. Urqhuart castle is not a substantial ruin and if it hadn't been on Loch Ness it would hardly rate as a tourist attraction. And the most interesting thing in Drumnadrochit was the tourist infrastructure...

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Loch Ness merchandise
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crossing the mountains

We continued past Loch Lochy and the Caledonian canal, stopping in Fort William for petrol. Ben Nevis was behind cloud, but there were dramatic views nevertheless: stopped once for a brief wander around a valley and again on Rannoch Moor, to look at some peat cuttings(?).

Looking for accomodation, we ended up in Tarbet. I had confused this hamlet with the much bigger Tarbert in the Isles, but fortunately it had some B&Bs anyway!

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