10th October 2012

The North Coast on the old XS (212 miles)

Anne was down in Fife, it was the October holiday, the forecast was good so take the old XS out for a run. This is one I love – up to the North Coast. Caithness means a lot to me. Our children love it. We used to have wonderful caravan holidays in Huna in my Uncle Hector and Auntie Anna’s caravan that they so kindly would lend us. Then we rented a holiday house in Bylbster for years. Now our Hugh is going to be inducted as a minister in Thurso on the 27th!!
I left about 10.15. Its no good leaving too early in October! I headed over the Struie Road to Altnamain and then down to Edderton. From there its was just a few miles to the Dornoch Bridge. It was so beautiful I had to stop and take some pictures.

Then it was up the A9 through Golspie (where I was born), through Brora and then a stop at Helemsdale Harbour to stretch a bit.

But I had restricted time as I wanted to be back for the prayer meeting at Kiltearn where I now worship. And I had to cook (call that heat up) my tea! So rush on through Berridale Braes, Dunbeath, Latheronwheel, Latheron, Lybster and onto Wick. I stopped at Tesco for supplies and petrol. Took one quick picture from the busy Tesco car park!

I pushed on and took the right turn at Reiss for John O’Groats stopping at Auckengill to have my picnic lunch. We used to take the children here as the wee beach is very secluded and they loved it. There are stone carvings all around by John Nicolson (1843-1934) a local farmer who was interested in art, sculpture and archaeology.

Then onto John O’Groats, but I did not go to the end where the awful tourist attractions are but turned left along the North Coast road. Just a wee bit along is Canisby and its very old church. I stopped here to take a couple of pictures. We met the Queen Mother here at worship when the two boys were toddlers. She stopped to speak to us and was just such a delightful person. I’ve been a royalist ever since!

Here, looking out to the island of Stroma which was lived on till 1962. Robert Dundas, who had the caravan site at Huna where we stayed on holiday, was born and raised on Stroma.

And looking out to Orkney.

Then it was along the North Coast through Mey, where the Queen mother had her residence – it’s worth a visit, though quite expensive. The Castle of Mey has a lovely feel to it. I pushed on through Castletown and onto Thurso. Then onto Reay.
On passing Dounreay I stopped to take a picture or two. I used to take classes to visit Dounreay when the Fast Breeder Reactor was running. Its a pity they had such a carefree attitude to waste disposal. I think the reactor was a very safe design. Nuclear power is the only real answer to our energy demands as the fossil fuels get used up.

Just turning round – windmills!! Hate then so much. They are ruining the Highland scenery. The calculations are that you will never get the energy out of a windmill in its lifetime than was put in making and installing it. A political gimmick. A little bit further on – looking back to Dounreay.

A wee bit further on you turn Left onto the Strath Haladale road. Single track all the way to Helemsdale. I stopped at Forsinard to take some pictures. Stunning countryside.

About 10 miles before Helemsdale I like to turn off and take the Loth road. This is my favourite road in Scotland. It is a worn and broken single track that climbs to 1122 feet. It is worth following on Google Maps in Street View!! I stopped and had something to eat at the bridge here.

And then pushed on to the top where the views are most impressive.

I then headed down back to the A9. The road is probably even more broken and potholed, so concentration is needed. Once on the A9 you pick up speed and I went back through Brora and Golspie and the onto the Mound and Loch Fleet. I stopped for a wee break here.

This is the old station. I remember as a wee boy steam trains running along here. The driver and fireman would wave to me! The train went from here to Dornoch. But that is long gone. Such a shame. Are we progressing?

The mound was one of Telford’s constructions making the road north in the early 1800s. This is the system of sluices made by Telord to control the entry of water into Loch Fleet. It was an attempt to create arrable land behind it, but it didn’t quite work. It is now a nature reserve. When the salmon are running its a great place to watch them jumping.

This is the salt water, the sea side.

Then it was head for home to the Dornoch Bridge, but from Tain turn right onto the Scotsburn Road and up to Ardross. Another grand day on the bike covering 212 miles.