On the 15th of December 2017, I travelled to the North Coast of Scotland with one of my best Scottish friends. I stayed with her family in Thurso, and I honestly had the best time and can’t wait to visit again!
Full day of travel: Dundee-Perth-Inverness-Thurso.
The ploughed fields were fleshly covered in a thin layer of snow, looking like a hot chocolate cake dusted in icing sugar.
Country Highland mansions and crumbling stone walls continued pass our window.
A winter wonderland.
The snow-scape covers the Scottish Highlands like the thick woollen blankets we need to keep warm.
We arrived in the dark, country town with Christmas lights leading down the main street. A giant lit up ‘Happy Christmas, Thurso’ was above the twinkly, and newest addition to the Thurso lights display; a life size Santa.
I was graciously and very warmly welcomed to a cosy little home near close to the centre of Thurs. My friends home was the picture of a loving and immensely Christmassy home.
A 9:30 ferry from Gills Bay meant a half hour drive, and before that a 7:30 wake-up call (which seems early when the sun doesn’t rise until 9:02am).
First exploring the top deck, we settled next to the window in the dining area, with the large seats and tables to lean on. It was about an hour to St. Margret’s Hope; over the north crossing and it was a little choppy.
We’d organised a taxi tour by Craigies taxi's and sure enough there was the taxi waiting for us as we disembarked, the driver complete with genuine Orcadian accent. Many sentences that followed contained multiple ‘likes’ and almost always finished with ‘ye kin?’.
Our first stop was the Italian Chapel.
Built in the Second World War by Italian prisoners of war, it looks like a little church building, however it is two bunked combined together with a stone front face. The inside is immensely decorated with just paint and plaster. The painter has cleverly painted optical illusions to create the look of tiles, pillars and holy relics.
The day was amazingly sunny, the light rays offsetting the immense chill from the North Sea. Puffy clouds settled in the distance.
We next experienced the magic of The Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic henge.
The feeling here was so special that if I had died and woken up here, I would have no doubt it was Heaven.
The light was low and warm, casting a glow onto the large ring of standing stones. The approaching dark, deep blue cloud created a depth to the scene that reminded me of the awesome brilliance of nature.
The breeze was light but enough to move the clouds, and as we walked around the henge we learned that first hand as we were dumped with a good five minutes of hail.
Oh that was the dark cloud…
Skara Brae – Historic Scotland
Occupied 4500 years ago, Skara Brae is a Neolithic villages that had been preserved under sand for thousands of years; excavated in the 1920’s. The Historic Scotland site allows you to visit and walk around the outside of the site, it also has an exhibition of artefacts and a replica house from the site so visitors can walk inside.
The walk to the archaeological site follows the curve of the beautiful small beach bay. And it was such a quiet day we were lucky enough to be invited into the Neolithic passage way and house itself.
Yesnby – End of the world
The final stop before lunch in Kirkwall.
The sun stayed low in the sky, for the few hours that it watched us. The brilliant golden light interspersed by the occasional puffy cloud or hail storm. I was standing on the end of the world. The end or the beginning, I wondered.
That day contained many magical moments.. I’m glad I visited and I’ll never forget you, Orkney.
You’re just another reason I love Scotland
The authentic Caithness experience aka extreme wind with occasional horizontal rain.
We drove to John O’Groats, and had a lovely little lunch at a cute café, and I tell you I was very glad to get inside. John O’Groats is the eastern most point of the northern head land, the furthest point from Land’s End in mainland Britain and probably the windiest town I’ve ever been too (yes, surprisingly people really live there!).
The day light was fading, and we quickly drove over the moors dodging the sheep, to the Stacks of Duncansby.
Stacks of Duncansby
The grass was waving in gusts of wind; like the straggly coat of a dog that needs grooming.
It was so windy it felt like the duck down might escape through my thick winter coat.
We ran over the peak of a hill, avoiding puddles and sheep droppings. And here, the enchanting sunset over the North Scottish Coast and Stacks of Duncansby, was another little slice of heaven on earth.
Most northern point of mainland Britain.
The sun was setting (very slowly, as it was winter) and the low light was extremely eerie. Driving through and over the flat moors, on the completely empty roads, enchanted my imagination; the sinister, old lands telling stories of murder and betrayal.
Day 4 was a short day. We wandered around Thurso, beginning down at the beach and around the outskirts of the town. There was a clear view of Orkney, and I still felt so astounded and grateful to be exploring Scotland.
We went to the local for a late lunch, Y-not? (Yes, it was called the ‘Y-not’). Then did a tad of shopping before dinner, a couple of episodes of the classic Australian murder mystery Miss Fisher, and a card game of Bahoochie (a fun dictionary of the Scots language).
The long, long journey home.
Sheep dotted the landscapes. Snow and frozen streams. Warm sun light streamed in the window opposite me; bouncing off the ocean and onto the highland mountains to my right.
Much, much later, I made it home to Bonnie Dundee.
I hope you enjoyed my belated narration of North Scotland.
Thanks for visiting my blog.