Day 6 -Haste Ye Back! The slogan greets us on a road sign as we drive out of Brora on the A9, heading South and back into England. First, the long drive towards Inverness, Perth and then Stirling, by-passing Glasgow over into Carlisle on the M74. The scenery is spectacular, as you can imagine. Hills, valleys, meandering rivers and streams, snow-capped mountains, sheep and cattle. We had brilliant sunshine, rain, sleet and snow all within a few minutes of leaving. That is the weather in the Highlands in winter time, according to the locals we met, ah, nothing to worry about.
I leave Scotland with a heavy heart, with the Paris attacks fresh in my mind as we watched it unfold on live tv on Friday evening last. Had I not planned this Scottish road trip, I would have gone to Paris Photo this very same weekend, as did several of my photography friends. Thank God they are all safe.
Photographically, I didn’t shoot much on this 1,500-mile road trip, save to say the weather foiled many attempts at trying, what with Storm Abigail blowing 90mph winds on the Days 2 and 3 whilst we sat out the Amber warning. Cameras and horizontal rain do not get along well.
Dornoch Sands, dusk.
DAY 4 /5 It has been raining constantly the whole day, the sort of rain that seems like mist, because of the fine droplets mixed in gusts of wind. Even the high-speed setting on the wiper blades can’t seem to offer a clear view. We spent the day walking on the local beaches, with the dog, and slowly getting drenched by the misty rain. Brora has a sandy beach but strewn with washed up clumps of dark blue seaweed. Later, we drove further south to Embo to catch some harbour seals. A stretch on Loch Fleet is known to hosts seals, depending on the tide. Luck has it and I only saw two, swimming close but weren’t basking as it was high tide.
We head back to England tomorrow, with a long drive ahead.
Day 3 – After the awful event in Paris last night, a city so close and familiar to me, I couldn’t really sleep, but managed to get a few hours rest from watching the streaming breaking news on TV. We had a 4 hour drive the next morning, which was today, 14th November. Leaving the West coast and crossing the Highlands down to Brora on the East coast, under leaden skies. It had been raining and sleeting non-stop the whole night, and the clouds are low and menacing.
There is a light dusting of snow on the mountain peaks above 500m and the temperature is hovering around 5C. So no ice. More particularly, no black ice. The A832 to A835 route across from Poolewe to Lairg via Ullapool is spectacular. We practically encounter no other motorists for at least 50 miles on this route. Amazingly raw landscapes of valleys, and mountains, rivers, streams, waterfalls, sheep and huge black cattle. Boggy heather knolls and dark grey granite crags. Just hoping the car not breaking down or the tyres getting a puncture.
Day 2, and Storm Abigail is upon us. High winds and squally showers, mixed with sleet and driving rain was the order of the day. Some snow settled on higher ground. Shot this amazing storm cloud as it approached Loch Ewe, which opens out to the North Sea.
I did little photographing today as it was raining pretty much the entire day, and went in search for food. However, as it is out of season for now, many establishments are closed. We did locate a real hippie joint in Gairloch called the Happy Mountain Coffee cafe, which served deliciously hot and creamy potato and spring onion soup with crusty seedy bread.
Tomorrow, we head east.
Lone tree, road to Shieldag on the A896, Western Highlands, Scotland. Taking a week to tour the NorthCoast500 route around the Scottish Highlands. Day 1 on the route and Abigail, the first storm of the season is battering the North Scotland, right where we are with 90mph winds, rain and snow forecasted for the next 24hours. The winds are howling through the gaps of the window of our hotel in Poolewe, holed up here for to sit out the Amber warning. We will have to change our itinerary. The scenery is astounding. More later.