Friday 16th April 2021

A scooter run to the North Coast (177 miles).

I am no longer the COVID19 Lockdown rebel! We have moved today to level 3 restrictions so we are permitted to travel anywhere in Scotland. For the last couple of weeks we could travel anywhere within our local authority, so I could still have done this journey legally. Highland Council is the largest local authority area in the United Kingdom, so there was scope! However the weather turned back to being like Siberia with very low temperatures and quite a bit of snow.

I left home about 9.40 and went down to Alness to put bank a church donation and post a letter. I then just used the A9 to get to Tain where I went to ASDA to fill up with petrol. 

I then went to the other end of the town to Home Bargains where I purchased my picnic for the day. On my last two scooter trips I avoided buying a picnic to avoid contact with people. But now restrictions are easing. I met two ex-pupils there, mother and daughter, Eilidh and Charlotte Skinner. It was really nice to see them. You do have your favourites!

I didn’t go much further before stopping just above the Dornoch Bridge. I was needing something to eat.

I then stopped by Loch Fleet to get this photo looking to Ben Bhraggie. It is dead ahead of the road and you can just make out the monument at its summit.

I stopped at Loth to get a picture of the whins before turning up the glen. I remember the late Principal Graham remarking on the Glen Loth whins. He was right. 

This is just turned up the glen. Look at that whin bush!

I pushed on up the glen.

Past the house where Mairi wanted to live.

And as usual stopped at the top. Morven is showing clearly in the distance.

Going down the other side has more open views since the forest has been cleared.

But the road is breaking up.

I made my way down to Kildonan and then pushed up the Halladale road to Kinbrace where I turned off to Syre.

The old disused church at Kinbrace.

I stopped looking over Loch Badanloch for my lunch. The temperature was comfortable and I had the whole of central Sutherland to myself. One lorry passed in all the half hour I was stopped for.

I love healthy food! It is great to purchase what my granny used to call “troc”. “Troc” tastes fantastic.

This stone marks crossing into Mackay Country.

Ben Loyal is showing.

At Syre I turned right to go North. The last time I was here in December I went left to go South as I had to race the sun and get home quickly. The days were much shorter. At our latitude (57.70546°) December 15th 2020 had 6h 36 m 1s of daylight duration. April 16th 2021 had 14h 27m 53s of daylight duration.

I stopped at Coldbackie because even though it is the North Coast road you rarely see the sea. If you went straight North you would pass Iceland and maybe touch the North Coast of Greenland, but probably pass on into the Arctic Ocean!

This is above Tongue.

As you just get into Tongue, Ben Loyal is dead ahead.

Ben Loyal.

Ben Hope.

I stopped at Moine House. The Moine is a vast area of heather moor and peat moss. The first good road across The Moine was built in 1830, and Moine House was erected as a half-way stop. The grand name leads one to expect a mansion house! It is a surprise to see an ordinary, good-sized cottage, which had two rooms downstairs, plus a loft. There is a box-like porch at the front, perhaps added later. Moine House was built facing south, on the edge of the old road. Nowadays the modern road skirts the house on the north side.

This is the old road with Ben Loyal showing.

At Hope I turned down the Hope road. The loch is Loch Hope. The mountain is Ben Hope.

Further down the road.

Primroses are blooming. The camera just doesn’t do the delicate yellow justice.

I love the ancient rusted passing place markers at all sorts of angles.

I stopped at the Dun Dornaigil Broch. Dun Dornaigil, also known as Dun Dornadilla, is an excellent example of a broch, a kind of drystone roundhouse, found only in Scotland and dating back at least 2,300 years. The broch tower stands to an impressive 7m high in places, though when it was complete it may have been twice as high. Its distinctive entrance, with massive triangular lintel, is visually striking and a reminder of the status and prestige of the broch’s inhabitants. The broch’s interior is filled with rubble from the upper part of the broch, and is now inaccessible. 

Even though I’m getting old I had to climb onto the broch. The first time I came here was, maybe, 1973 cycling with my cousin Martin. I lost a pair of almost new yellow gloves. I still keep looking!

A wee bit further on is another Highland ruin.

Ben Loyal showing again.

And Ben Klibreck.

At Altnahara I turned right. This is the other end of the Strathnaver Trail that is in the picture of Syre, earlier. I came down the road ahead, the Strathnaver Trail, in December. The road going left goes to Tongue. I could have come down that road.

A quick stop at Crask.

I drove on through Lairg and stopped at the railway bridge at Invershin. Now I have passed here often and never knew there was a foot bridge bolted to the railway bridge. So I had to cross it.

Looking up the Kyle of Sutherland.

And down.

I followed the path out a wee bit. I will have to come back another day to explore it.

Carbisdale Castle.

A bit scary to look down while crossing.

I then pushed on through Bonar Bridge and over to Ardgay. This is looking East at the head of the Dornoch Firth, just entering Ardgay.

Across the road is an old ice house. They were used to store ice formed in winter and so keep food cool in summer in the days before fridges.

I didn’t stop again but came over the Struie Road and reached home about 5.10. I was terribly tired and it wasn’t a particularly long run. It was smashing to be out on the scooter and there were no breakdowns or mishaps. The scooter does have a slightly leaking exhaust! Once more I am left thinking, yes, I live in the best part of the world.