I had been thinking about a road trip for a while- I thought the Pan-American Highway or maybe the Pacific Coast Highway Tom Petty sang about. But when I put the idea to JP although he agreed it was a good idea he decided on the NC 500. JP likes to drive on the right (left!) side of the road so we planned a trip to Scotland.
The NC 500 is a circular route around the the Scottish coast starting and ending in Inverness and currently is being promoted as one of the best road trips. It took us several days to get to Scotland so we spent the night in a B&B ready to start first thing in the morning.
The first days travel was Inverness to Wick. 103 miles on the A 9. The guide books will tell you this is the least interesting part of the journey but we really enjoyed it. You don’t need to pick out important places to go, anywhere along the route is interesting.
First stop was Dornoch there is plenty to see here for the size of the town. We found the beach first. It was very windy, the sand got into everything, but it was peaceful and very beautiful.
In the town the charming 13th century cathedral is famous for its links with showbiz, Madonna had her son christened there and Elon Musk married an actress.
In the church yard there is a Plaiden Ell or tailors measure used for measuring cloth at the local markets.
The local History Links Museum is well worth the small admission fee for an hours gentle amusement.
Back on the road to Camster Cairns, neolithic tombs built over 5,000 years ago but reconstructed. They are reached by a board walk from the road across the marshy ground. There is a gate at the entrance to the round cairn but you can open it and crawl inside where you can stand up.
Five miles from there is the mysterious Hill Of Staines. No one really knows how or why but there are twenty two rows of stones running north to south in a fan shape. They aren’t very big and to be honest don’t look very impressive if you don’t know the story behind them. Local tradition says there was a battle between the Kieths and the Gunns. The Gunns won and set up the stones to mark the dead warriors.
Our last stop of the day was planed to be the Whaligoe steps but there was no signpost and we couldn’t find them. In these distant parts of the highlands there is no phone signal so no help there. We gave up on the first day of our road trip and went to our B&B in Wick.
We went back the next morning and found them.
There are several stories about their creation but at some time probably around 1793 between 330 and 360 flagstone steps were created so this narrow inlet could be used as a harbour. It was used by fishermen for herring which were loaded into baskets and carried to the top by women. As herring fishing declined it fell into disuse but the remains of a salting building and a boat winch are still visible. A difficult climb down and up again but worth it even on a very windy day.