This was the day we would be saying goodbye to the beautiful west coast. But not before we spent some time at Stoer Head for what was my highlight of the holiday.
Stoer Head Lighthouse
Stoer itself was a very short drive from our Clachtoll campsite. But our actual destination, Stoer Head, was a long and windy drive away. I definitely felt like I was getting lost — until suddenly the lighthouse was there in front of us.
This Stevenson-designed lighthouse was located here due to its extreme north west location. We also had a great chat with the lighthouse keeper, who just happened to be there at the time. He went well out of his way to tell us all about it.
It is a beautiful lighthouse, and we were lucky to have such glorious weather to appreciate it in.
After we had visited the lighthouse, volunteers from Whale and Dolphin Conservation were monitoring the coastline. They alerted us to the presence of porpoises and let us take a look. Magnificent.
Old Man of Stoer
From the same location, we began the walk to the Old Man of Stoer. We were warned beforehand that it was a long walk. It would take an hour before we would see anything. But I like a walk and it was a glorious day so we just had to do it.
We were also told it would be a boggy walk. And boggy it was. It caught out Alex, and she wasn’t too pleased about it.
But ultimately the walk was great fun, and in the end we were rewarded with this view of the Old Man of Stoer.
Once we were back at the car park, we got the camping chairs out and ate our lunch looking out over the coastline in the beautiful sunshine. Whenever I am on holiday, I have a moment when I realise I am halfway through. This time round, that moment arrived here — making me all the more glad to be here, and all the more determined to make the most of it.
For such a remote place, Stoer Head has a fair bit of bustle. There were plenty of visitors coming to walk to the Old Man, see the lighthouse, look at the wildlife, or generally enjoy this wonderful location. It has enough visitors to necessitate what is allegedly mainland Britain’s most remote loo.
We briefly stopped off in nearby Drumbeg to pick up a few supplies and grab a seat. We stopped off at the Secret Tea Garden. It’s really a soap and candle shop that happens to serve tea in a shaded outdoor area. It is quite pleasant, and the place takes pride in the fact that there is no mobile signal and no Wi-Fi.
Alex had a monstrous hot chocolate.
The drive to Durness
There was not much more time to hang around though, because our next destination was Durness, almost 50 miles away on the north coast.
The past few days on the west coast had been tricky to drive at times, with some exceptionally narrow, windy and hilly roads. Now we were being let loose on an A road, and it felt like travelling at 1,000 miles an hour.
However, the roads were no less hilly at times, and they were at times pretty dramatic. We saw plenty of cyclists doing their own North Coast 500 adventures along this stretch of road. You have to admire their commitment, although I bet these roads are brilliant fun to cycle downhill on!
Sango Sands campsite
Nothing could have prepared me for this campsite. I was told it was picturesque, but I never believed we would be pitching our tent with a view like this.
We were on the edge of a cliff at one of the most extreme northern points of mainland Britain, with a magnificent sandy beach beneath us. We took advantage of the great weather for a while before heading into the Sango Sands Oasis pub bordering the campsite grounds.
On the one hand, it was luxury to have a pub next door. But it did have a very dated vibe. However, we got hot food (albeit quite basic), and I got a pint of Dark Island, which always goes down nicely.
After our meal we got into a discussion with the waiter about midges, and he blabbed to us that the kitchen was infested with the creatures. Nice.
Overnight in the tent, it began to get so windy that I was worried we would wake up in Norway. It was a bad night’s sleep for me and I woke up in the morning feeling rotten. By then it was raining, so breakfast on the camping stove was out of the question.
But there was no time for me to feel sorry for myself. This was the day we had to cover the entire north coast and get from Durness to John O’Groats. But not before spending a little more time at Durness’s attractions, which I will write about in the next post.