The weather wasn't forecast to be quite as good today as yesterday and when we woke up in Culloden this morning, it did look a bit stormy outside.
We had a relaxed start to the morning, checking out some time after 10am. Our ultimate aim for the day was to drive as far north as Thurso, but the Highlands and Islands guidebook didn't talk about many attractions on Scotland's eastern coast and our memory from our 2010 roadtrip was that there wasn't necessarily a lot to see. We therefore started out by driving in the wrong direction, taking the scenic road through the mountains towards Fort Augustus which we had first driven along last time we were in Scotland, when we were actually looking for Loch Ness.
On that occasion we'd done a really scenic walk to a small loch and we thought that was something which it would be fun to repeat. We had been really lucky with the weather last time we were in this part of the world though and when we got out of the car at the viewpoint today, we were taken aback by how strong the wind was. The plastic bag that Tim was keeping his walking boots in blew away before we could do anything about it!
It wasn't actually raining though, so we decided to give the path a try anyway. The clouds were quite low, but we still had a view towards the first lake which we'd seen last time.
Even without the sunshine, the mountains here were beautiful.
The wind was absolutely incredible though, as you can probably tell from the state of my hair in this photo
In the end we decided it was just too strong and we risked being blown off a hillside if we climbed too high. We decided to turn around and walk back down to the car.
Our second planned stop for the day was the village of Cromarty, which is situated to the north of Inverness, on the shores of the Cromarty Firth. The guidebook, which had been very critical of Pitlochry yesterday, waxed lyrical about Cromarty and more or less described it as the only place worth stopping on the east coast.
When we arrived there around lunchtime and got out of the car, we were a bit confused about why! There was a nice view of the sea in one direction...
...but if you looked the other way, the sea was full of these kind of industrial structures which I assume are something to do with the oil industry.
We had a bit of stroll beside the sea anyway...
...and found Cromarty's lighthouse.
Personally I think I preferred Pitlochry!
We did find a nice hotel where we were able to get lunch though, and like everywhere in Scotland they seemed to be taking their Covid-19 measures very seriously. Not that there were many other tourists in Cromarty for us to try and distance from
After lunch we had another walk around the little streets of the village, some of which in fairness were very picturesque.
The main thing which Cromarty seems to be famous for is being the birthplace of Hugh Miller. There was an info board in the car park which indicated a Hugh Miller trail to follow with vast numbers of points of interest. Neither of us had ever heard of Hugh Miller, so I had to resort to googling him over lunch and found out that he was a famous Scottish geologist who was born in Cromarty in 1802. We didn't walk around the entire Hugh Miller trail, but we did stumble across the Hugh Miller Institute.
Most roads in Cromarty lead to the sea and so it wasn't long before we were back in the vicinity of the car park.
Then it was time to put John O'Groats in our Sat Nav and start driving north
The drive along the east coast was actually a lot prettier than I expected.
Although it wasn't exactly a sunny day, it was lovely to be beside the sea
After the detours we'd taken, it was around 6pm by the time we made it to John O'Groats. It's not as commercialised as Land's End is, but there also isn't a whole lot to see.
The main attraction, of course, is the John O'Groats signpost and it was particularly exciting to see the distances to Orkney and Shetland, given that those are the next two destinations for our trip
What I didn't realise before I first came here in 2010 is that John O'Groats isn't actually the most northerly point of mainland Britain. Instead I think it's the most northeasterly inhabited point, so the journey from Land's End to John O'Groats is the longest possible journey between two inhabited points on the mainland.
The honour of being the most northerly point on the British mainland falls to the peninsula of Dunnet Head, which was a drive of a further 12 miles or so from John O'Groats.
As well as a lighthouse, there's a path down to a viewpoint where you can see some impressive cliffs.
As you can see, the weather was still a bit windy though
From Dunnet Head we only had another 10 miles or so to drive to the nearby town of Thurso, where we're spending a night in a hotel. The room is nice although the heating was on full blast at the point we arrived, so it's currently a bit warm.
Tomorrow we'll have a fairly early start to catch the ferry from the nearby port of Scrabster across to Stromness on Orkney. We'll then have a whole day to spend exploring Orkney, before ultimately catching the overnight ferry to Shetland. Tomorrow's blog may be delayed until we reach Shetland, depending on whether we find anywhere we can sit and use Wi-Fi on Orkney, but hopefully we'll have some adventures to report when we do blog