Wrapping up the North Coast 500
Our week long journey through the remote Highlands of Scotland wrapped up with some more epic adventures. We explored the legendary Smoo Caves, full of beauty and gruesome history.
Like any good cave, it was alive with cold dripping water, damp air, and the rush of moving waters within.
Smoo Cave had some well placed lights to illumine the gorgeous rock formations and a little bridge which led to the waterfall within.
They also led tours deeper into the caverns which we opted not to embark upon.
The call to the open meadows above, leading to seemingly endless coastline, was too great. We lingered a while longer, then emerged again above ground.
While AJ was creating a short video of the waterfall, I couldn't help but sing to the cave a bit.
The sound is quite low, as there were other people around, but the little haunting humming tune can be heard if you listen closely.
Emerging out of the cave, one continues on the little path up the other side to a meadow. A short little climb and we arrived atop the rocky mountains. The area was covered in brilliant lush grass, and happy flocks of sheep lazily grazed and slept. Sheep with some of the best views in Scotland, I might add. Despite the chilly, whipping wind, we stayed here for quite some time, drinking in the views, doing a little Qigong, and relaxing in the beauty.
Once again, the little camera makes a valiant effort, but manages to convey little of the breath-taking beauty of the land.
Take my word for it, and put the Northwest tip of Scotland on your bucket list, maybe even towards the very top. You will not regret it.
After taking in the most Northern parts of the Highlands, we began our journey down the West coast, somewhat reluctantly. Dreaming vividly of returning here with companions, road bikes and good hiking shoes, we made our way down the single lane winding road. Most of the time, the one who pulls over to the side in traffic scenarios is obvious, as was the case with this flock of Highland beasts. Clearly they had the right of way and one of them didn't think we were pulled over far enough, as he missed our car with his horns by about one inch!
Down the breathtaking rugged coastline we went, making Stac Pollaidh our next destination. We stopped to take this quick panoramic of the kind of scenery we were experiencing.
This was the only day we experienced true Scotland weather on our Highlands adventure. An onslaught of constant drizzle, grey misty air, dark skies and ominous winds. We didn't mind! We threw on our plastic garbage bag covers (laughing with the girls from Germany next to us in the car park who were doing the same) and began the upward journey.
The rain fell in varied degrees of intensity, sometimes present as a fine mist and other times drenching our faces.
One of the more misty covered views, but with hilarious musical accompaniment by AJ.
Nearly there! The scrambling rock top (where the goat trail disappears and hand holds are strongly encouraged) was almost upon us.
We finally arrived at the top of Stac Pollaidh, paused to take a picture and wipe the water from our eyes, and quickly decided to head down again as our fingertips felt quite frozen at this point.
After scrambling down from the top, we were delighted to find a trail that ventured in a different direction around the back side of the Stac. We questioned a German couple and discovered neither of our parties spoke a common language. With some smiles and frantic gesturing, we ascertained that the trail did indeed loop around.
We were treated to a different misty view on the way down and it even stopped raining for a few minutes as we descended the less-steep trail.
On our final day, we stopped at two incredibly beautiful nature spots for a reprieve to our long day of driving. First up: Corrieshalloch Gorge.
Here we crossed a rickety, swaying bridge with an all-language sign posed above it bearing the image of six humans, but crossing out the seventh in bold red marks. On the other side, we were treated to a lush forest setting with ancient trees. We practiced a little Qigong and tree sitting before we continued on our way.
Next up, we strolled along Rogie Gorge. At the right time of year, this is a spectacular viewing area for salmon swimming up stream. As we had already been treated to an epic encounter with Kokanee salmon raging upstream the last time we visited the Wallowa mountains in Oregon, we were not disappointed to find there were no salmon at Rogie Falls on this day.
After taking in the vast scenery of the day, we landed in the little town of Glenrothes for our three day dog-sit with 15 year old Harvey. He was quite enthusiastic for his age and we enjoyed our daily walks through the forested paths with him, before we bid a very fond farewell to the UK.
I've said it before but it's worth repeating: Northern Scotland is epic. If you find cheap tickets to Scotland (ahem, Ryan) and have always been curious, please write to us before you go. We will be happy to share the inside scoop about places you will not want to miss.
Farewell, Scotland. Farewell, UK. We hope to return to you again someday.