North Coast 500 day 4

I’ll apologise now and point out that from this point onwards, the lack of suitable charging points meant that I was unable to take many photos on my phone to share as I’ve been traveling around.  (I did however go on to capture what I hope will be some lovely shots with my camera and I’ll share these when I get home)

I ended the previous blog by saying my nights sleep was very brief. This was because I had decided to wake for the sunrise, which this far north means awake for 3am, at location before 4am, sunrise 4.22am…

I’d hoped to catch the sun as it rose out from the sea, perhaps with the surrounding cliffs being lit by the low light. What actually happened was a little more dramatic and a lot less clichéd as shortly before dawn a thick sea fog swept over the coast wrapping everything in a dense white, then faintly pink, then orange and finally golden yellow blanket of mist which engulfed everything and (hopefully) made for some dramatic shots of the nearby cliffs as well as the sun itself which, peaking through the thick layers of fog, threw a subtle diffuse light across the surface of the sea.

After the sunrise it was back to the tent for another two hours sleep before rising again to pack away the tent in a drizzle which coated everything in a fine cold and damp layer of moisture.

It was a brief 5 minute drive to Smoo Cave, a huge cave system cut into the cliffs near Durness which has the largest cave opening in the UK and is unique in that part of the cave system was formed by the sea and the other parts formed by the action of freshwater. It is possible to take a guided tour of the caves but my visit was two hours  before the tours started which meant that I saw the system in its natutal state without the dramatic artificial lighting but also meant I could only access the easily reached parts.

On the plus side it also meant no other visitors so it was deserted!

After the caves it was a nice drive along the northern Coast, skirting Loch Eriboll and onto the Kyle of Tongue. A brief stop in Tongue for some breakfast and then off again towards the town of Thurso via the huge Dounreay site.

The sun was now high and it was beginning to get hot so a brief stop over in Thurso for petrol and ice creams (I wasn’t expecting to write that when I started this trip!) Gave a welcome break before continuing on the last few miles to John O’Groats, which lying on the north eastern coast is the most northerly inhabited part of the UK.

I grabbed the usual touristy snaps of the signs and the shops etc as the sea fog was beginning to role in again and by the time we reached nearby Duncansby Head it was a thick, and thickening dense fog which cut visibility down to around 30 meters at times. 
I was slightly disappointed with this as I’d hoped to shoot the huge sea stacks which hug the coast here but the mist stopped that.  It did however provide some dramatic backdrops for the sheer cliffs which seemed to plunge into nothingness below so I still managed to get some nice shots. 
The huge colonies of sea birds, including puffins, made the visit worthwhile.

After Duncansby it was another one hours drive via Wick to our last stop of the day, Brora, on the eastern coast. The thick fog followed us all the way to the village and the first real bed of the trip.  A welcome luxury after several days under canvas.

Last day tomorrow; a drive south to Inverness then the long drive back to Glasgow.  It’s been a tiring trip but a great one and I’d strongly encourage anyone thinking of doing the trip to go for it, and do it sooner rather than later as it’s becoming very popular and no doubt will soon become overly commercialised.

As one local put it to me “some of these roads are a hundred years old and barely used, you give the route a title and make it official and suddenly everyone wants to do the trip!”

I’ll begin posting some of the shots from the drive when I get home  (and slept again!)
Thanks to everyone who followed me on the trip and thanks to everyone whose hard work has made the route possible. Also special thanks to my travel companion Jonny who’s idea it was to attempt the trip in the first place!

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