The lure of fresh seafood, mountain walks, and harbor views pulls us on a long drive from John O’Groats to the coastal town of Ullapool. Our room with a view sits above the Ferry Boat Inn restaurant in the heart of this small town.
A leisurely walk to the lighthouse welcomes us with a rainbow.
Old growth forest surprises us, considering the rugged terrain.
Good thing that we fueled-up on pepper-smoked mackerel, avocado, blueberry and nuts this morning, because a strenuous, straight-up trail to the “Stac Pollaidh” leaves us breathless.
Crisp, fresh, scentless air whips across rugged terrain and reveals a magical world surrounded by colorful heather. Photos struggle to capture the bird’s eye view of lochs in the distance.
We have earned a taste of Highland Park Scottish Whiskey, distilled on Orkney Island, followed by craft beer chasers.
Let the ravenous feast of langoustines begin! The Seafood Shack has become our favorite restaurant in town.
Off again, north to the town of Tongue, stopping along the way to walk around castles and the “Smoo Cave” complete with underground waterfalls.
This drive, a bit of a long one, introduces us to single lane roads that twist through hills and mountains of remote highlands.
It also assesses one’s skills of driving on the left (“Stay left! Stay left!” She constantly reminds me), with additional complications of single-lane rules. Not to mention the natural banter between a longtime couple inside of a car:
“Get in the middle! You’re too far on the left!” she shouts. “Get in the middle!”
“I’d rather go off the road than a head-on collision!” He responds. ” You said I was supposed to stay left!”
She shouts, “But not on single lane roads!”
And on, and on, and on the banter, until we make friends again as I attempt to drive down the middle while staying left. Neither the sheep nor the cows have to abide by any rules whatsoever.
A “Full Scottish Breakfast” at the Tongue Hotel includes haggis, blood pudding, beans, and a potato scone. Roll down the windows and batten down the hatches!
While looking for a trailhead that begins the short, steep climb up to ruins of Castle Varrich, we ask directions from a long-haired bearded fellow who sits and stares out from his cottage window.
“You have to be in excellent shape to climb up there,” he says with a slur. “I must also warn you about Scottish legend that believes visiting the castle brings very bad luck, unless you only go on Christmas Day.”
Of course, we head to the castle anyway. Marilynn does not bat an eyelash at such phenomenon, but I be more susceptible to these things. While strolling through the wooded entry to the trail, the movie “An American Werewolf in London” crosses my mind. We pass a local couple with their dog. I ask about the “legend” we had heard. They laugh. “Well, we walked up there about four years ago and cannot claim any bad luck yet.” I should have asked if they went up on Christmas Day.
The origin of Castle Varrich remains a bit of a mystery. It could have been where Thorfinn fought a sea battle in the 11th Century; a residence of medieval bishops; an early stronghold of the Mackays; or a rebuilding on far more ancient foundations.
Back driving on the single lane road again, we head to the northernmost point of mainland Britain at Dunnet Head. Scenic views pull my focus from driving in the middle on the left.
Time to stop and enjoy the moment.
Absorbing views of mountains and castles and long-haired highland cows surround our drive.
This magnificent day of travel rewards us with a guest house stay in the town of Fort William, gateway to Ben Nevis, and also a mecca for walkers and climbers. Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in all of the UK, stands at 4,411 feet in a sub-Arctic climate where it could snow any time of year.
After walking a great deal of the mountain, we frolic in the pubs, followed by yet another seafood feast. This time with fresh oysters, mussels, and sweet-cured herring with gravadlax, and a taste of Highland Park of course.
Finally, driving left feels normal even on single lane roads going down the middle left.
Come along with us on our next stop, at a remote, self-catering cabin located in Dunvegan, on the incomparable Isle of Skye.
Thank you, Abundant Universe.
Looks wonderful!! I am enjoying Myrtle Beach and all the sunshine. Also being entertained by two one or two yr olds who think I am pretty funny. I also am too old to be getting any more wrinkles so believe or not, I am using lots of suntan lotion. Well enjoy your lives and KNOW that you are LOVED!!!! Ma
So glad that you got down to the beach, Ma! I remember the days when people mistook you for Diana Ross in the summer. Have fun and I love and miss you so, so much!
Love this article! Scotland looks amazing. Great writing Ron. Continued safe travels…
Thank you, Tammy. Feels so good to get away for a while.
What a fantastic adventure. Nothing like our, today. Heading to New Bern, NC for a weeklong Marine Reunion! ( might even have a drink or two!) SEMPER FI!
October 20 we head to cairo,, Egypt!
You have earned every sip, Marine!
I want to figure out a way to do this stuff. Brainstorming in my head now.
No need to overthink it, just go. With a good credit card!
Great review! Y’all had a fine travel. BTW, the mountains are called “Beinn”. My brother Jim and I hiked up Beinn Donachain and could see Loch Awe 9 miles up. I guarantee you’ll be back to Scotland again. Its a magical place!
Thank you, Kat! Oh, we try to get out, but they pull us back in. Still here. Currently in Perth and then to Edinburgh and then on to Wales.
Kat, We will have been here 4 weeks and have barely scratched the surface. I think you are right….we will be back! Marilynn
Scotland – at long last. So glad you finally made it. Sounds like your expectations have been exceeded. Scotland should hire you and Marilynn to write its travel brochures. Definitely want to make the trip. Continued safe travels.
Thank you, Trisha. Our expectations exceeded beyond for sure. Don’t want to be hired, we be retired!
Thanks Trisha. You would love Scotland! Look forward to walking and talking in Phoenix the end of Oct! Marilynn
I don’t know if I could ever get use to driving on the left. Say Hi, to your Mom.
It’s a good brain exercise.
Bro, looks like you need to like seafood to maintain an appetite in Scotland.
I am blessed with the ability to eat just about anything!