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NC500 – Day 1 – Inverness to Swiney

Midway through April, we embarked on a nine day adventure along the northern coast of mainland Scotland. We took inspiration from bloggers ForkandFoot however they travelled in the thick of winter and encountered their own challenges and memories of grandeur. We took a leaf out of their blog and covered most of the same ground as the NC500 route. It’s a route of just over 500miles in a loop from Inverness of which we turned off a number of times, seeking out surprises.

Blog posts can be quite narrative and drawn out, so we have devised a way to break down the 9 days. A quick abbreviation of E2M means ‘Easy to miss’, highlighting that a number of places are without signage.

Route taken: Inverness, Beauly, Dingwall, Edderton, Bonar Bridge, Loch Fleet, Helmsdale, Berriedale, Camster, Lybster, Swiney.

The day was characterised by …

Senses

  • Munching on Scottish treats such as Tunnock’s Dark Chocolate Caramel wafers and teacakes.
  • BBC Gael radio blaring out tunes of fiddles, violins, accordions and the snare drum. Many of the other radio stations did not work, however the strangely catchy tunes provided a perfect soundtrack to the outside views.
  • The roadside lined with mixed agricultural farming land, separated by stone walls. Newborn lambs in twos with their tails wagging as they nudge mum for a feed.
  • Incredible views to hills dotted with thorny gorse in full yellow bloom.
  • The odour of mash water as we pass the whisky distillery. Strangely sweet and very distinctive.

Stops Along the Way.

  • The Red Tollie Kite Nature reserve and learning of its mischievous nesting rituals (Dingwall)
  • In search of the Scottish Crossbill, a little red bird that pecks away at pine cones at the top of the trees. Generally the only evidence of their presence is their quick darting between trees, a characteristic bird call or the dropping of pine cones to the forest floor. Instead I spotted a Great Spotted Woodpecker and Sarah pointed out a Shelduck and some Oystercatchers. (Loch Fleet) (E2M). 
  • Sarah’s questioning face as I ducked off the road and parked up by a few villages urging her out the car to explore. Back across the road and down a private lane lead us to a swing bridge which crosses over a gushing river winding to the sea. The angled stacks of rocks breathtaking as they rise up out of the water. The seagulls nesting in the dunes above, squawking with unfamiliar calls. An unattended driftwood fire on the beach created much needed warmth and renewed energy. (Berriedale) (E2M)
  • Grey cairns from the Neolithic period (5000years old), they are thought to be a place of celebrating the dead. Walkways provided access over the boggy marshes and we could step inside the cairns. Well, step is an overstatement, Sarah crawled into one whilst Marty decided not to contort his tall frame and looked on from the outside. The longer cairn was easier to access with only a short tunnel. Pretty incredible to see and the area has other stone circle remnants too. (Camster). 
  • Our B and B host Ann recommended we take a small detour to Lybster Harbour, which was Scotland’s 3rd largest fishing port in the 1830s and licensed to hold up to 100 boats. Now it is picturesque with only a handful of boats and their fishing pots lined on the pier ready for the next sailing. The weather had thankfully cleared and the harbour provided a scenic and sheltered venue for our picnic dinner.      (Lybster) (E2M) 

Accommodation

The Croft House at Swiney run by Ann and Geoff Wilson. Bookings taken over the phone or by email only. 55 pounds per couple which gets your breakfast too.

 

 

 

 

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