So we continue our journey through Scotland (here is the link to the part 1, if you missed). After watching the sunset on Duncansby Head we set off to the mountains and particularly to the town of Tongue where we stayed in the hotel of the same name: The Tongue Hotel. This is the hotel that was on our minds when we mentioned the tartan curtains! In addition, there is a cozy living room, old wood-burning stove in the restaurant and pub on the ground floor where live music is performed every night. Besides, the place is worth visiting just to see the view of Ben Loyal right out of your window!
By the way, thanks to this hotel we found a completely new place to watch the dawn. There was a picture on the wall of the restaurant, where the majestic mountain Ben Loyal reflected in the smooth surface of the lake. When we asked the waiter the name of that place he said that it was Loch Hakel. But when we looked for it on the map we realized that the name wasn’t there. Finally, we found out the way in some web chat of Scottish fishermen and checked the information at the reception in the morning. As it turned out, the place was very close to Tongue. You just have to drive through the village, then always go to the right and in 10 minutes you will see the lake on your left. This lake is remarkable as it is surrounded by the hills and you have a great chance to see a smooth reflection of the mountains even if the wind is strong.
Despite of the beaches with white sand we felt the real power of the Atlantic wind in Talmine Bay. But that wind matched this atmosphere really well. Sitting on the trunk of fishing ship at one of the local beaches, we admired the huge waves crashing on the rocks for an hour or so.
The way to Loch Assynt.
From Talmine Bay we headed to Loch Assynt. And frankly speaking, at this point it becomes absolutely impossible to give the list of all the beautiful places we saw as they were waiting for us at every turn. You just drive at the mountain serpentine and make a stop every 10 minutes because you pass by the Scottish highland cows (yes, the shaggy ones), the epic mountain views, the deer that come quite close to the road. When we heard from locals that deer are almost domestic there, we couldn’t believe it, but without any exaggeration we saw about 30 deer that day: sometimes 2 or 3 if not 5 at a time! Of course they don’t come too close to cars, but you can easily watch them.
Because of constant stops our trip to Loch Assynt took most of the day. But when we saw it in the sunset light we realized that it was worth it. The ruins of Advrek Castle were in the middle of the lake and the snow-capped mountains towered around it. Their tops reflected the sunset rays and painted the surface of water in pink.
Well, after that we had quite a simple routine: the way back to the Aultbea hotel (by the way it was a charming one too!), last dinner in Scotland and sleep, as the next day we went to Inverness again to finish the North Coast 500 route and took the flight to get back home. By the way, we almost missed the plane. The reason was the same: the incredible landscapes and permanent stops made our journey a little bit longer than we planned :)
This was our small but quite vivid trip to the north of Scotland. This journey wasn’t just about beautiful moments, emotions and photos, it also gave us experience and helped to understand how to trip to the UK. We clarified some points and dispelled some myths. That is why we made some tips to sum up.
Travelling to the UK is not as expensive as it seems. We heard a lot about the prices in the UK, in fact, it was quite affordable. You can easily find cheap tickets to London or fly inexpensively to Scotland with a change in Europe. You can live there on a budget, as there is a great variety of offerings from small 5-star hotels to campsites and hostels, while the prices in the shops and cafes are quite European. If you want to rent a car take a diesel one. It has much better fuel consumption and it is cheaper. We refueled only once for the entire route: on the way back to the airport to return the car.
When you hear about the little villages and wild places, it seems that the lack of civilization is their attribute. But this is not the case. As we wrote in the first post, roads in the UK are excellent (you’ll get used to the right-hand traffic in a day), and you’ll find a room in every single village on your way. There is just a different approach: instead of chain hotels there are small domestic ones. It was just additional positive experience for us as we immersed in the atmosphere of the north of Scotland even more! It's the same with food. You won’t see supermarkets and shopping centers, but there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops in every village. Yes, take into account that most of the restaurants can be found inside hotels there, so if you want to eat, look for the hotel sign.
Season and off-season.
In fact, North Coast 500 gains popularity quite rapidly, so there are more tourists in summer, and you need to plan and book everything in advance. But as we were there in autumn, there were few people, while the weather was still quite comfortable. Be sure to bring your raincoats! Actually, it is good advice for any seasons:) And of course it is particularly beautiful there in autumn. The mountain peaks are covered with the first snow; trees turn red and grass on the coast turn yellow, contrasting wonderfully with the cold tones of the North Sea.
In the last paragraph we are probably to conclude either you should come to Scotland or not. But let our stories and photos speak for us. Its natural diversity, stunning sceneries, comfort of local villages, and most importantly, atmosphere left us with a quite definite answer! Sitting in a warm living room and feeling your cheeks burn after a day in the mountains or at the windy seaside, you know that the travels like this help you to find inspiration and push you to new challenges. And at some point in the hustle and bustle of working days you’ll get the need for this feeling again.
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.