When we planned one of our first adventures, surfing the net I came across an amazing photograph. It pictured the stormy sea, the high cliff and two fang-like stacks. It was Duncansby Head. But back then I just knew that this place was somewhere in the north of Scotland. That time Anastasia and I made a promise that we would definitely visit this place. And what a surprise it was, when we realized that it was one of the destinations on the North Coast 500 route that we travelled with Visit Britain. But let's take first things first.
North Coast 500 is a picturesque highway route stretching along the north coast of Scotland. The length of the route is about 500 miles, that’s where the name comes from. But actually, that isn’t the most important thing you need to know about the NC500. The main thing is that it’s beautiful. Incredibly beautiful. Castle ruins on cliffs, white sand beaches, majestic mountains with lochs in valleys below and wild deer to reach out and touch (literally). And that is hardly the list of all you can find travelling the North Coast 500 route. Besides, add the hospitality of the locals, fresh Scottish seafood, cozy little hotels with tartan curtains in the rooms and you will see why it was one of the most memorable trips of the year for us.
Inverness. The start of the route.
The starting point of NC500 (as well as the final) is the Inverness city, so at first we had a flight there. We flew with a brief morning change in London (we took off in Moscow at 5am and were at the place at 11 am). However, this is not the only way to reach the city. You can get there by train and, of course, by car. But it seems like another adventure!
First of all, NC500 is all about the roads, so we rented a car in the airport. But this route is also nice for cycling or even hitchhiking – it depends on your taste and free time. We also want to highlight some traffic features. Many people are afraid of right-hand drive, but we want to assure you that there’s no reason for that. Firstly, the roads are super good in UK, with easy-readable almost intuitive signs and markings, so you accommodate to the calm rhythm of local traffic in no time and just follow it. And secondly, it isn’t that difficult to switch. Yes, you may and will go slower than the others at the beginning, but it won’t be a problem on a second day yet.
Although the official starting point of the route was Inverness Castle, we drove to the north of A9 highway to visit a few places before the dark. But the plan was too ambitions, especially straight after the flight along with the early autumn sunsets and unknown road ahead. So we only had time to visit Dunrobin Castle and the other places were left for the next day. However, it was enough for us to start enjoying the fabulous autumn atmosphere. Our city had been covered with early snow this ear, so this trip was like a magical trip from a monochrome city into the world of autumn shades in its apex.
Wick. Castle Sinclair Girnigoe and Keiss Castle.
We reached the Wick and checked into the Mackay’s Hotel in the evening and the next morning we discovered that it happens to be on the world’s the shortest street (8.2 feet!). After a brief walk in the morning town, we headed to the coast to see Castle Sinclair Girnigoe ruins. There we finally felt at Scotland! Coming out of the car we immediately smelled the salty sea air and felt the gusty wind with our skin. And in the center of this maelstrom of new experiences were the fantastic sea cliffs that naturally transferred into the ruins of the castle, as if they had always been like that. It was an incredible feeling, when you suddenly step across the border of real world into the world of your favorite novel by Walter Scott.
Besides, it was the first place where we saw how the white stripes of rain mixed with the beams of the glimmering sun at the horizon. At this point the rainbow came. Rarely seen in other places, it is quite recent here, so it isn’t difficult to make a shot with a beautiful rainbow in Scotland! However, it’s always good to have some luck with you. Waiting for the rainbow exactly over Keiss Castle, we couldn’t imagine that we will see how it doubles!
John’O’Groats and Duncansby Head.
There is a downside of being a photographer: you always spend twice more time in every place! That is why the last place of the day for us was the most northernly point of the UK's mainland – Duncansby Head. Yes, the place we mentioned at the beginning of this post. Having reached the town John’O’Groats we had a bite at the local cafe, made another thermos of hot tea and went to the lighthouse of Duncansby Head. From there we made a wee walk along the coast to see the majestic stacks in life at last. And it was a stunning end of the day. The surprises were waiting for us even on the way to the cliff. We suddenly noticed lots of “strange” stones on the beach near the hill. They were larger than the other ones and had an unusual smooth shape. Only when we came closer we realized: they were the seals! Not less than a hundred of seals lying along the beach and basking in the rays of the setting sun! We cannot pass down to the beach, but we were able to launch the drone and look at them from above.
Well, it is hard to describe the scenery that was waiting for us at the top of the cliff after that. Amazing sunset light, golden clouds and the sun flashes on the tops of sharp rocks – all these words don’t convey the picture that we saw and felt. Even the photo below cannot reveal the incredible calmness that we felt on the top of a rocky cliff at the edge of the Atlantics. Seeing off the last ray of light, happy and relaxed, we went to the car to have a cup of hot tea and drove to the hotel. But more on that in the next post!
This post was brought to you as a result of the blog trip in partnership with Visit Britain. Near The Lighthouse want to thank Visit Britain for all help and support provided during the travel.