Our original planned route, with the excursion to Orkney, meant we would not have quite completed the full NC500 route, missing the short section between Dunnet and Gill’s Bay. However, Angela fixed that by leaving a precious souvenir (a tartan hair slide!) at the Dunnet Bay B&B so we returned to collect it, ensuring we covered the missing miles. In fact, for good measure, we did them twice, once in each direction, so now we can claim to have already started our next NC500 tour in the anti clockwise direction!
Before that, our first stop was Duncansby Head, the most north-easterly point of the British Isles mainland. There was supposedly a ‘short walk’ to the cliffs and nesting bird colonies, but we’ve become somewhat suspicious of anything promoted as a ‘short walk’ so decided to give it a miss.
After completing the mission to retrieve the valued souvenir we resumed our journey south. Our next stop was Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, a ruin comprising the 15th-century Castle Girnigoe and the early 17th-century Castle Sinclair. Two for the price of one! Perched on the edge of the cliff this was quite a spectacular location although it was a serious ruin so you really had to use your imagination. And it gave Angela another excuse to go clambering over rocks, but as she found … they were quite slippy!
We followed this with a visit to Dunrobin Castle. Although the origins of a building on this site can be traced back to the Middle Ages, most of the present 189 rooms and gardens were added between 1835 and 1850 so this one was in a good state of repair. Did I say 189 rooms? It felt like we traipsed through ALL of them! Up and down stairs, through here, back through there, stand and admire the paintings, the furniture, the little trinkets in display cabinets … by the time we’d finished touring the house I couldn’t face doing the gardens as well, so we admired them from the terrace. It was well worth the effort because there was a lot to see, with information boards and guides explaining things along the way. It’s more Angela’s sort of thing though so I’ll let her tell you all about the interesting details.
This part of the drive south was mainly on the A9 which, unlike the A-roads in The Highlands, was wide, smooth and fast, so lacking any real interest for driving apart from a couple of sections up and down hills. The scenery wasn’t anything to write home about either. Add to this the forecast weather front had arrived, so it rained most of the day, meaning driving today was more for purpose than pleasure.
We made a short detour through Dornoch, likened to a Cotswold village with its sandstone buildings, before heading to our hotel for the evening in Dingwall. Completing our day of castles we were actually staying in one! Originally dating back to the mid-12th century, Tulloch Castle Hotel is believed to be home to many ghosts (two nuns buried alive under the floor, for example), but the most frequently spotted is the Green Lady, a young girl who walked in on her father and his mistress, and was so shocked that she fled and fell down the stairs, breaking her neck. Fortunately Room 8 is where she likes to linger, we’re in Room 12!
And what a room … OK, it’s on the third floor so there were yet more stairs (no lifts included in the renovations and modernisations!) but we have a Four-Poster bed and a balcony with a view! The hotel is also a bit of a rabbit warren, we got lost going to dinner, I had to ask the bar staff for directions to the restaurant!
Total distance covered today was 145 miles (all on land!).