I’m tired of rain, so I’m going to share some photos from a rare semi-sunny day on our Scotland leg of the journey.
After getting off the ferry from the Orkney islands, we drove out to the eastern tip of the highlands, Duncansby Head. It was windy there, as it probably always is,
but there was some sun, and it was beautiful. The area is known for its “stacks,”
but it also has a lot of seabirds. We looked for puffins but didn’t see any, however being above seagulls and being able to observe their nests as well as their hunting way below, was fun and interesting, a different perspective, for sure.
Those pictures don’t show the perspective but this one does a bit:
The Duncansby Head Lighthouse is also a sight listed in the book for the intrepid traveler.
I know that’s a cliche, “intrepid traveler,” but you need to be fearless to drive the North Coast 500, as this popular route is called. The trouble is people go over the line. Okay, let me back up for a long story, which you are welcome to skip, now that you’ve seen the photos. :–)
On the trip, it came quickly to the point that I was fired from driving because I had a weird tick. Driving on the left side of the road, every time I saw a car coming in the opposite direction, for some reason it looked like we were going to collide, so I’d swerve. My husband in the passenger seat would get a jolt of adrenaline as the left-side wheels would almost go off the road. Let’s just say it wasn’t relaxing for him when I drove, LOL! He took over the driving, and that was great, but any time we had a near head-on, his adrenaline would spike. In his case, they really were near head-ons, it wasn’t his imagination. That really happened twice, once in Northern Ireland and once right after this beautiful morning visit to Duncansby Head.
I had a huge day planned. We would stop at a half dozen archaeological ruins on our way back down to Inverness. The area is full of brochs, the neolithic ruins. But on the way to the first sight after Duncansby, someone came over the line, and my husband had to go onto the shoulder, which isn’t paved, just a bit of gravel then a ditch, at about 50 miles an hour. He held the wheel rock steady, and we were fine.
I decided to count how long it was after a near-death experience before the adrenaline dissipated, so I asked him a few times how he was feeling, and it took 15 minutes for his adrenaline to abate. Once it’s gone, so is all your energy, and all the driving after that is exhausting, because you have to stay highly focused, but the adrenaline spike and then whatever happens to your body after it goes away, is really tiring. I figured out that once you have an incident like that, your long driving and sight-seeing day is shot.
So I narrowed down the stops to just one, the Yarrows Archaeological Trail, which I will go into next post. After that stop we counted down the minutes until we could get to the hotel. It was the longest two or three hours ever. Once at the hotel, we headed straight for the bar for a whiskey. (It was a really cool hotel, a converted castle, and the dinner was amazing, kind of formal and delicious.)
I think the North Coast 500 is incredible, but it’s become popular and doesn’t have the infrastructure, so it’s basically a nightmare for driving. We saw small tour buses, and that would be easier, but I’m not sure they’re any safer. And I’m not totally crazy, there was a brutal accident on the drive from Inverness back to Edinburgh, and someone who had been on a motorcycle was airlifted out by helicopter. We thankfully did not witness it, but sat for a long time in traffic while the accident was cleared, and when we passed the mangled bike, I was pretty sad. I have a friend who wants to motorcycle through Ireland, and my advice is, stick to the US. Then again, maybe the back country roads are easier on a motorcycle. All I know is, I’m really NOT an intrepid/fearless traveler, but I did have an incredibly good time, despite not seeing everything and being scared a few times.
If you do the North Coast 500, that eastern side above Inverness is staggering in its number of archaeological sites and breathtaking scenery, but I recommend taking at least a week to do it, really creep along stopping for just a couple sites a day before relaxing at your hotel.