United Kingdom

North Coast of Scotland

north coast of Scotland
Route Orkneys – Ullapool via north coast of Scotland

The alarm clock would have rung at just after six today if we were using one. So we wake up on time for the tour along the north coast of Scotland without this aid. A small packed lunch on the doorstep makes up for the missed breakfast. And why do we have to leave so early?

The ferry from the islands, more precisely from Saint Margaret’s Hope to the north coast of Scotland, exactly to Gills Bay, departs at 7.45 a.m., and half an hour before departure is the last chance to check in. But as we have slept very well, as we almost always do, this is not a problem!

By the way and very important – a few words about the Murray Arms Hotel and Seafood Restaurant

At this point we have to highly recommend the Murray Arms Hotel & Seafood Restaurant: The hotel, and especially the pub, certainly doesn’t look like a fine establishment at first glance. But if you do go inside, you will find a completely different picture: the pub is simple, but Scottishly cosy and, above all, clean!

The actual restaurant, on the other hand, is discreetly but very tastefully furnished, with leather-covered furniture and natural wooden tables with sparse decoration. The staff are very welcoming, the food on offer is excellent and the rooms have none of the renovation backlog that we experienced in many of the other hotels on this trip.

Nordküste von Schottland Ceannabeinne Beach[/caption]

The landscape is stunningly beautiful! Where the sand dunes are covered in grass, they are gently undulating and almost cosy. In other places, the rugged and steep cliffs dominate and the north coast of Scotland lives up to its reputation as a rugged piece of earth. Then again, the view falls on a beach that would be more likely to be found in the Caribbean. In a word: marvellous!

At Durness, we leave the north coast of Scotland and head south. But even the stretch of the west coast southwards to Ullapool has nothing to hide when it comes to scenic beauty. We make much faster progress on the roads here, although we are no longer under time pressure. The journey along the north coast of Scotland went surprisingly quickly!

Shortly before Ichnadamph, Ardvreck Castle comes into view. We stop here and encounter an eerie slice of Scottish history:

The castle dates back to around 1490, when the lands were owned by the Macleods of Assynt. It went down in the history books only once, and under particularly inglorious circumstances. On 27 April 1650, the Marquess of Montrose, who fought for the Royalists even after the execution of Charles I (see our historical timeline), lost the Battle of Carbisdale to a much smaller Covenanter army. His escape two days later took him to Ardvreck Castle, where he sought refuge with Neil Macleod of Assynt.

Neil was absent, and his wife Christine lured Montrose to the castle dungeon and sent for government troops. Montrose was taken to Edinburgh, where he was executed on 21 May 1650. This act is considered an infamous betrayal of Highland hospitality.

Ardvreck Castle was attacked and captured by the Mackenzies of Assynt in 1672. In 1726 they replaced it with the more modern Calda House, apparently reusing some of the stones from Ardvreck Castle.

Calda House burnt down in 1737 and before the Mackenzies could rebuild it, their lands were confiscated by the Crown for supporting the losing side in the 1745 uprising. Since then it is a ruin.

At Ledmore Junction we turn right onto the A835, which takes us straight to Ullapool. There we reserved a room at the Royal Hotel Ullapool, which actually turned out to be just one room. Although there are four real beds, the two “non-snorers” still fear for their peaceful sleep.

Seafood Shack

Ullapool as a place doesn’t really have much to offer, but there are still a few very nice pubs; Among other things, there is a fish stall with outdoor seating, the “Seafood Shack”. We are told that there is a sensationally seasoned, spicy fish soup here, which we of course have to try in order to have a say. And really: each of us is thrilled.

The good but average dinner takes place in the Caledonian Hotel, the sheep’s head round in our “own” hotel and then we go straight to bed. Tomorrow is also a day! Good night!

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