Northern Highlands

Birding at Handa Island, Sutherland, Scotland

One of the first realizations upon joining the North Coast 500 is the sheer breadth of excursions at your fingertips. Ruined castles, sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, windswept heath, lonely islands, magnificent hikes, and some of the best open-road, big-sky driving are part and parcel of Scotland’s most northwesterly driving tour. Neither a vacation nor a lifetime is enough to see everything on this massive circuit, but with careful planning and a discerning eye you can fill your days with the best northwest Scotland has to offer, Handa Island, the subject of today’s post, among them. Handa Island wasn’t on my radar before we took to the North Coast 500. As is typical of any travel around Scotland, the people I met filled me with ideas… Read more...

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Keiss Harbour House, near Wick, Caithness, Scotland

Outside of Scotland’s cities accommodations are of a few types: B&Bs, small hotels, and self-catered houses. When I’m traveling solo I prefer the social aspects of B&Bs and small hotels, but when I’m traveling with a group or just with Sarah I like to add self-catered houses to the mix. Not only are self-catered accommodations highly cost effective, you generally get a taste of what it might be like to live wherever you’re staying.

I traveled around the North Coast 500 last year with Sarah and my parents and happened upon quite a unique self-catered house in the small town of Keiss, just north of Wick in Caithness. The Keiss Harbour House is… Read more...

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Beyond The Minch’s watery grasp and Loch Broom’s beckoning finger, north of the Summer Isles spilled in the shimmering sea, and west of all man’s thoroughfares, the Coigach peninsula reaches for the sun and stars. Lochs patter upon the intervening glen, tears from a blind god, as the earth throws wide its embrace. Stac Pollaidh, Cùl Mòr, and Cùl Beag bark in the mist ‘yond the wind-blown gorse. This is a chance, an open window, a doorway cracked and illuminated.

How wonderfully intuitive and unexpected, this, that venturing to the sacrosanct corners of our long-neglected but sought-after selves requires physical emplacement…
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Digging into Smoo Cave

by Keith Savage · 2 comments

Smoo Cave, Durness, Sutherland, Scotland

The north coast of Scotland’s North Coast 500 is the least exciting stretch, but there are a few highlights. Castle Varrich and Dun Dornaigil Broch both warrant visits, and Smoo Cave just outside Durness is another interesting destination.

Northern Scotland has been home to inhabitants as far back as the Mesolithic, but to look at this coastline today you’d be hard-pressed to see any evidence. It’s a largely rocky, pastoral landscape gently sliding to the sea with few historic structures or markings visible to the untrained eye, and yet the name Smoo probably comes from the Old Norse Smuga, meaning “hiding place.” Read more...

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The River Kirkaig, Sutherland, Scotland

One of the great drives to be found along the North Coast 500 runs from Achiltibuie to Lochinver. This span is well off the beaten path on single-track roads twisting and kinking through the hilly terrain of northern Wester Ross and southern Sutherland. Mountains rise up through the mist, sun ricochets off lochs scattered in the glens, and red deer stand upon rocky hillsides looking over the odd car that finds its way to this distant corner of Scotland.

I found myself on this road because it led to a hike Sarah and I wanted to do: The Falls of Kirkaig. I’m a sucker for waterfalls and thankfully Scotland’s loaded with them. Read more...

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