North to West Coast

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May 28th 2018
Published: May 30th 2018
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We returned on the ferry in the morning from the Orkney Islands. I knew today was going to be a long driving day and we had a lot of miles to cover before reaching our next destination of Gairloch on the west coast. Our first stop along the way was at Smoo cave, a large sea cave that requires walking down a very steep staircase from the high cliffs off the roadway. The scenery along the north coast was absolutely stunning, and there were numerous white, wide sandy beaches with turquoise green water that looked more like it may have been along the Greek coast, most definitely not in Scotland. Had I not known better I would’ve thought the water was warm enough to just jump in. Well I suppose I could have, but when you don’t see even the locals in the water you know it is freezing and I knew it to be hovering about 50 degrees. Brrr.

Shortly after leaving the cave we picked up a couple hitchhikers from Glasgow stranded along the side of the road who’s car had broken down during a fishing trip. I only needed to bring them a short distance to a cross roads but they were extremely friendly and grateful. It was interesting to learn that it is the belief of many Scots that the election for Scottish independence was fixed by Westminster because they don’t want to let Scotland go and lose many precious natural resources the land has to offer, such as all the offshore oil. They also told us that Trump has been disowned by the Scots (his mother was from Scotland) because he’s pretty much an embarrassment and has caused issues with his numerous properties and golf courses he owns here. We just saw on the news last night that he was causing problems with the wind farms in the ocean that are visible from his golf course and how he felt they were an eyesore. It’s entertaining to listen to the local news on the radio because not five minutes goes by where Trump isn’t mentioned in one way or another.

We wound our way down the West Coast and just when I thought that the roads were going to become easier and straighter due to the amount of tourist traffic that’s when the real harrowing part of the journey began.

So far up to this point I’ve only had to drive on short stretches of single track roads. On these types of roads it is a single lane but two ways of traffic must pass. You have to pull along the side in small turn offs to allow oncoming traffic to pass to avoid a head on collision. The trick is deciding who is the one that yields and sometimes you must even back up to go into the closest passing place, often with no guard rails and steep cliffs off both sides of the roadway and there is not a single straight stretch of road anywhere in this country. Pretty much the entire west coast is filled with single track roads, however the scenery is sublime and it makes the effort worthwhile.

We finally were able to find the elusive Highland cows (highland coos) , along with some red deer in Applecross. The cows have become very popular and people are buying them even in the United States as exotic pets, which is easy to understand once you see how adorable they are. Mom has been obsessed with finding these cows and squeals every time she sees just ordinary cows in a field thinking they may be the rare hairy kind. It even got to the point where I thought that they may molt their long hairy coats in the summertime, but once we saw them there is no mistaking them for any other cow.

We finished an exhausting day at our waterfront BnB in Gairloch, a quaint little village on an ocean cove. The skies were filled with smoke and we learned that there are three separate wildfires burning in the area, started by campers not extinguishing their fires.

The following day was another harrowing day of driving up on the road into Skye, up and over mountain passes on singletrack roads filled with switchbacks and no guard rails and RV’s and bicyclists making the situation worse. When I was told to double our expected travel times they were so right!

We stopped in the Kyle of Lochalsh area at Eilean Donan Castle for an obligatory selfie being as it’s the most photographed castle in Scotland, and indeed it was gorgeous.

We finally got into the Portree area in the
Isle of Skye in time to do one of two driving loops. We drove past the Man of Storr, a popular rock pinnacle that was in the movie Prometheus. The scenery here was gorgeous, but honestly it has been everywhere and every turn reveals another picture perfect postcard area.

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