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After an excellent breakfast at The Rose B&B, we headed off north by way of Drumbeg and Scourie eventually picking up the A838 for Durness and the north coast. Miles and miles of single track with many passing places, but it’s the main road with coaches etc etc. But probably the most memorable was the number of cyclists (pedal) struggling along this open road against such strong winds and, at times, pouring rain.This is also very much motorcycle country.
Just beyond Durness, we came across Smoo Cave. ???? Never heard of it, but an obvious ‘must see’ for coaches, motorcyclists, et al. So, we stopped to discover the most extraordinary sea and fresh water cave. Vast entrance from a cove into a cave with a waterfall!! And there was no entrance charge. Amazing place Scotland.
Then on along this spectacular road until, eventually, John O’Groats great views of the overfalls in Pentland Firth – Glad we weren’t there!!
Finally, the long drive back to Kyle of Lochalsh via Wick & Helmsdale, stopping at the latter at about 18:00 for a quick snack and a look at the harbour where we might have stopped on our way north. What became apparent was that, although the winds were strong wherever we went, the weather was much brighter on the east coast with lots of sun. But, as we progressed west, we gradually returned to a grey rainy day. Nonetheless, by the time we got back to the boat, it was clear that the winds were no longer as strong and that the gale had passed.
It is now morning, I am up early, the weather is good and we will be away, hopefully by about 09:30. We have to fill the tank of the hire car up first and the garage doesn’t open until 09:00. So ends two great days of car travel during which we have covered all of the north-west coast roads which I have wanted to cover for so long. They are as spectacular as I had imagined they would be. G did all of the driving whilst I navigated; an arrangement which we prefer because I am the better map reader whilst G is the better ….. lets not go there. Oh, but she had so much fun with the gearbox!! There were six gears written on the gear lever, but heaven knows where they’d put them!! Arf arf
G not at all pleased at spending the night exposed to 35 kt winds, albeit without big waves and tied to a pontoon.
So, today, after mending the hookup cable, we set off in the hire car visiting Lochcarron, Shieldaig, Gairloch, Ullapool and Lochinver, all places which we have been to, but not by car.
Found a B&B in Lochinver (The Rose) and had a great meal at The Lochinver Larder. Now back at B&B, blowing old boots outside, but room not moving about at all. G very happy indeed. Trip further north tomorrow as serious gale due.
Amazing coincidence! In Lochinver by chance because would have stopped wherever we found ourselves at about 18:00 and in restaurant by chance when who should walk in but friend from Allerton with two friends who are stuck here in a yacht due to gale forecast. Had a great evening.
incidentally, the first place we tried, a hotel, wanted £240 a night B&B!!!! It reminds me why I bought the campervan!!
Aside: I was so bored last night, in the wind & rain that I waited for this
This will be a long blog, so read on until I write “The End”. I will have to publish and then keep updating, or I will probably lose the lot!!
On Monday, neither of us having ever been to the Outer Hebrides, we hired a car (a bit late in the day) for some sight-seeing. The islands are a lot bigger than you imagine and, so, we didn’t actually explore beyond Lewis. It was a bit cold, but dry.
So much to see and all so unspoilt once you leave the area around Stornaway. We especially enjoyed the neglected and deteriourating harbour at Port Ness (aka Port Nis) and, of course, the Butt of Lewis. There were a good few brave cyclists doing the south to north cycle route.
On Tuesday, after filling up with diesel, we motored out onto a millpond all the way to Loch Maddy in/on North Uist. What scenery. Dropped anchor in a quiet corner and enjoyed one of G’s splendid meals.
The forecasts were looking grim and, so, regrettably, it was time head for the mainland and shelter The wind was favourable for Loch Shieldaig, no more than 15 knots, so off we set.
Up to 30 knot winds, with waves to match, resulted in a fast passage, but with more spray over the deck than ever before.
Arrived at Shieldiag to find that there are no moorings (two were described) and that we had to anchor. The wind dropped and we had a comfortable meal.
However, we were not at all happy about the prospect of sitting out a 48 hour gale at anchor. So.
5 hours later, in the dark, we made fast to a pontoon at Kyle of Lochalsh, but not before some excitement. First, there were nighttime submarine exercises in Inner Loch until about 06:00 in the morning. The Control Station called us up on the radio (they could see us on AIS), but we ignored him and crept down the coastline within about 1/4 mile of the edge. Indeed, very close to the Station itself. Given the short window of opportunity, there was no way I was either turning back, or taking a big detour, reasoning that submarine don’t operate in 10m of water!! Second, the Almanac suggests that there is good shelter for yachts in Kyleakin. So, in the dark, in a narrow dredged changed, we went in. What a joke. Absolutely chock-a-block with small fishing boats. We had to reverse out, in the dark, because there was no room to turn!! G was not amused.
At this moment, we are on Tiftie, with a gale freshening and it is raining. For tomorrow, we have reserved a car which we have hired to two days.
One huge benefit? There are no midges in these conditions Incidentally, when we were getting near to Loch Maddy, although still about a mile offshore, the absence of wind meant that we were suddenly visited by a swarm of midges!!! Luckily, I had bought some cream whilst in Fort Augustus and it worked.
THE END of this blog
Actually, the stitching probably failed from age & UV. Whatever, the repair in Stromness has already been tested and passed. Thank heavens.
And, for your interest, it was all done with one of these
Spent Saturday reading the paper after a walk to have a look ‘around’ Lochinver which doesn’t take too long. Which is just as well because it was soon raining again!!
Sunday dawned with less wind, but still from the south-west, so decided to make a break for Stornaway. Forecast 14 kt was actually 20, with waves to match across The Minch (great name). Close-hauled with engine running all the way to drive through waves and we made good progress. Arrived at Stornaway to be greeted by two very helpful harbour guys who took our warps, as we had been given a difficult berth. All shops closed, so G took the opportunity to use the vacant laundrette. It’s now 07:00 and raining, but cool. Sounds grotty, but, by me anyway, preferred to the 30 degrees being suffered down south.
Forgot to say that the crossing was our wettest sail yet, with lots of heavy spray into the cockpit. G not at all happy that it was salt water. Anyway, the rain is washing the salt away. Every cloud etc etc
Two years ago today, to the day, we arrived at Lochinver. And guess what? Just like two years ago, it is raining a lot and its windy. We might even be on the same pontoon. Weird, or what.
Anyway, although the conditions today were not very good, i.e. windy and on the nose, we decided to move on from Kinlochbervie which is run down, untidy and depressing. We left early at about 06:30 and motored into the wind for ages – eventually covering the 30nm in about 6½ hours
Lochinver, even in the rain, is a pleasant and pretty place albeit that the harbour is a working fishing harbour. Moreover, if the winds remind in the south-west, we are in a good place to cross over to Stornaway, which is due west.
Tomorrow might be too windy for a pleasant cruise so we might go walking. (Suilven beckons, but not too sure whether it is feasible for us)
(I’m having trouble uploading this blog. No idea why. So, I’m adding a bit)
It’s blown old boots all night and it’s still at it, which brings us back to memories of two years ago. Then, having lost eight days due to high winds, we thought: “right, that’s it. We’ve had enough. Time to go home”. And that’s what we did.
Now, the forecast is for a week, or more, of rain, rain and more rain. Who’ll break first? The weather? Or us?
(What a palaver today getting this page correct!!!)
Our second rounding of Cape Wrath was much like the first one, i.e. no drama whatsoever. Nonetheless, in rounding it, we seemed to move into to a less placid weather pattern than we had enjoyed along the north coast. More wind, on the nose, and heavy rain. Having enjoyed a south-easterly wind, we had thought of pressing on to Stornaway, but the increased wind and us starting to feel tired, we decided to aim for the much closer Kinlochbervie, where we arrived at about 04:30 (light by then).
Being tired, we decided to anchor in a small bay just opposite the harbour entrance so that we could close our eyes so much sooner. No messing around with fenders and warps, etc. Just drop the hook, set the anchor watch and zzzzzz.
We moved into the harbour at about 11:00. (Incidentally, not to be recommended until they have sorted out the toilets and the single out-of-order shower.)
Tomorrow, despite the forecast, we have decided to make for Lochinver, about 30 nm away.