Unfortunately this is the last of my #ScotCoast summary blog posts as I'm sure by now most of you will know that I decided to bring my journey to a premature end due to a rather amazing opportunity popping up in my e-mail inbox. In fact day 14 was the day that signalled the beginning of the end of my adventure around the coast of Scotland as this was in fact the day that very e-mail came through and my plans all went up in the air!
As I left the quirky Coastal Carriage near Fraserburgh, my plan for the day (at that point) was to continue along the coast to Inverness where I would be reunited with Willow (I must admit I was missing her furry cuddles!) and my mum, who had planned to join me for a week as I think I was inspiring her to add some adventure to her summer too.
I had never travelled along this part of the coast of Scotland before and I instantly fell in love with it. Dramatic cliffs, green rolling hills and little toy villages nestled on tiny strips of land at the bottom of craggy rock faces. I love adventuring somewhere new and I was excited for the day ahead,
My first stop was at Pennan, a pretty village that is famous for featuring in the 1980s film, Local Hero. After a very steep and winding drive, I enjoyed a stroll along the beach, photographing the characterful cottages and picturesque harbour.
If you've been reading this blog for a while you probably know by now that I can't resist little honesty boxes selling local goods and crafts so I was delighted to pick up a little card as a souvenir of my visit.
Another steep uphill drive and I continued along to Crovie. Again this village sits tucked in to the bottom of the cliffs and as there is no public parking you have a choice of either stopping at the viewpoint car park and walking down (and up!) the road if you want to visit or simply enjoy the scene from above. Guess which option I went for!
Next on my list was Portsoy, home of the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival. I was delighted to discover The Boatshed, a local community project with a workshop for building and renovating boats. It is run by volunteers and it was really positive to see local youths spending their summer holidays learning new skills. They really do welcome the public and I had a very enthusiastic tour!
One of their restored boats in the harbour.
Interestingly the old harbour at Portsoy hasn't changed much since it was built in 1692 and several of the surrounding buildings date back to around this period and it is easy to imagine how the place must have looked hundreds of years ago.
Leaving Portsoy I continued along the coast and as I passed through Cullen I had to stop and take a photo of this sign, I can't believe that I didn't realise that's how Cullen Skink got its name until I saw this, doh!
Next on my list was a visit to Bow Fiddle Rock, an iconic sea arch near Portknockie. Having seen so many photos of it, I was glad to finally view it in 'real life'. There is a pleasant walk along the coast here and I wish I could have followed it for longer but it has been added to my growing list of places that I want to revisit after this trip.
Stopping for a late lunch I decided to check my e-mails and one in particular caught my attention. Would I like to work with a well known global brand for a week? Emmm, of course! (I promise to share all the details very soon).
Unfortunately, this also meant I would have to cut my #ScotCoast trip short and I would need reliable access to WiFi for the rest of my trip.
My original plan to travel to Inverness, meet my mum and Willow from the train and camp for the night had to be cancelled. Not surprisingly finding a reasonably priced dog-friendly hotel at short notice in peak tourist season in Inverness was impossible (I know, I don't ask for much!) so I needed a plan B.
Plan B saw me head south to Kingussie where I picked up my travelling companions and we found suitable local accommodation. Although Kingussie was only intended as a convenient overnight stop it would have been a shame not to visit the remains of the Ruthven Barracks before leaving as they were minutes from our hotel doorstep.
The smallest but best preserved of the four barracks built by the British Government after the Jacobite Uprising, it has the same eerie atmosphere that I felt at the Bernera Barracks in Glenelg. It also seemed poignant to visit here after watching the emotional finale of Outlander Season 2 the previous week. After the Battle of Culloden, up to 3000 Jacobites gathered here with the intention of fighting on but were met by a message from Bonnie Prince Charlie; his last instruction to the Jacobites told them to 'Let every man seek his own safety in the best way he can.'
I also took a little video as I walked around the barracks, apologies for it being a little shoogly as I haven't perfected my walking while filming technique yet!
With Droughtlander already setting in and Ruthven Barracks setting the tone of the day, my next stop at Culloden Moor seemed an obvious choice. This was my first visit to the new visitor centre and I was hugely impressed, it is one of the best I've been to in Scotland (possibly even THE best!). Myself and my mum also picked up an audio guide to listen to as we meandered the battlefield itself and it was ideal that we could take Willow around with us.
I know lots of people get quite emotional on a visit here but I struggled to connect with what had happened. The masses of chattering tourists and constant traffic noise from the adjacent busy road distracted any feelings I should have had about the horror of the events here or thoughts for the clansmen and soldiers beneath my feet. Children climbing over the memorial and screaming like they were at an adventure playground while their mother laughed and took pictures also annoyed me beyond belief. I left Culloden with mixed feelings, it has become such a popular tourist attraction that from what I witnessed, some people seem to visit just to take photos and tick it off their sightseeing list while forgetting to respect that it is a war grave and a sacred place to many.
Leaving Culloden, we headed north to Chanonry Point on The Black Isle peninsula. It is one of the best places in the world to spot bottlenose dolphins and quite often you will find a crowd of onlookers gathered on the shore watching their antics. I wasn't so lucky on my visit on what felt like a very autumnal day with the wind howling and the rain lashing, good old Scottish summer!
Not too far from Chanonry Point is the strange attraction of Munlochy Clootie Well. It is an old tradition to tie rags or 'cloots' to the trees near the well in the hope of healing an illness although I suspect that this tradition has evolved in to something more touristy. Although it is a spectacle to see, I'm not sure I'm a fan of the hundreds of bits of old dirty clothing that cover the place. I like the original sentiment but environmentally and visually, it really does nothing to enhance the forest.
Because my travels were now dictated by finding dog friendly accommodation with WiFi, I discovered the village of Evanton and the Novar Arms Hotel. What a great find and at only £55 each for two single rooms (which were actually twins) it was excellent value and I can highly recommend it. They also do the biggest breakfast ever.
The downside was not finding anywhere dog friendly for dinner in the village, the upside to that was discovering the charming Culbokie Inn, just 5 miles away. The food was delicious and it was very dog friendly, sometimes being forced to change your travel plans really works out and you discover little gems you would have missed otherwise.
The following day we were destined for Dornoch but not before a walk to Black Rock Gorge, another reason to visit Evanton. I had read about it the night before and after finding out it featured in Harry potter and the Goblet of Fire, I decided to start the day there.
A circular walk takes you to the gorge where you can enjoy the view down from the 2 bridges that traverse it. The gorge is so narrow and gloomy it is impossible to capture it by photo, you really need to see it for yourself. Looking down in to the dark chasm you can just make out a white ribbon of frothy water flowing over 100 feet below.
My next stop at Dornoch would be my final one on my #ScotCoast journey and I will be writing a few posts about my 3 day stay in the area so don't worry there are still some coastal adventures to come.
In a way I'm sad that my journey ended when it did as I had so many new places still to visit and I really hope I can continue on with it in the near future. As you can see from the map of my travels, I still have quite a bit more to do.
Although looking back at my #ScotCoast blog posts makes me realise just how much I did manage to do and although it was only 3 weeks rather than 6, I still had an amazing adventure and I hope I've inspired you to visit somewhere new in Scotland or go on your own coastal journey.
You can read the rest of my #ScotCoast adventures here
Follow me as I search for the best and most original travel experiences in Scotland.