This afternoon, we reached the north coast of Scotland, that flat-looking bit along the top, which we’d loosely targeted as our ‘starting point’ for a journey back down all the lovely twiddly bits of the West Coast. We’d already decided to avoid John O’Groats (there’s nothing there, advised two travelling nephews who’d been. Little realising that, in our very limited experience, this actually summed up most of the entire North Coast and not just the JO’G bit.)
The unusually-named village of Tongue, nestling unassumedly on the shores of the Kyle of Tongue has therefore become the 4th overnight stop of our journey to date. (You, dear Reader, should also know that every time I type the word Tongue, it makes me smile vaguely idiotically – although despite numerous connotations, I’ve struggled to come up with a witty play on words for the title of this piece, which I guess therefore makes me a bit tongue-tied? There you go, I had to squeeze it in somewhere.)
Following our delightful evening in Tongue, we managed to blag a free water-tank refill from the amusingly-named Tongue Hotel (which stuck-out – geddit?) on the main road – and set off towards Durness, sadly no longer anticipative of a passenger-ferry crossing and minibus excursion to Cape Wrath, the enigmatically-named north-westerly tip of Great Britain, as (of course) nothing opened until Easter, still two weeks ahead of us.
Our meanderings followed the coastline as much as possible, as we were keen to visit the self-named ‘Pete’s Beach’ in Sutherland, claimed as such by Peter Irvine, author of the excellent ‘Scotland The Best 100 Places’ – parts of which have informed and directed our route-planning to date. The beach in question is indeed a perfectly proportioned cove of white sand, viewed this morning in perfect conditions, and thus walked to it’s southern extremity – a fascinatingly striated rock-cliff face in brown & grey, shot through with almost perfectly vertical grooves of a geological format I-know-not-what.
Further west at Durness, a visit to the coastal Smoo Cave also diverted us, where – having previously seen no sign of human life for about 200 miles – we managed to coincide our self-guided walkabout with an arriving coachload of German tourists, all of whom joined us and jostled Germanically for the best position on the rickety timber viewing platform within the cave itself.
Unavoidably joining their throng for a subsequent amble to view the North Atlantic pounding the very top of our country, we did however remain behind long enough to witness two seals besporting themselves in the rolling spume and were secretly smug that – as the Germans had efficiently already re-boarded their coach – we were the seals’ only witnesses.
Back on the road to find that the only other Durness attraction – a memorial garden dedicated to John Lennon (who visited regularly during his childhood) appeared singularly unattractive – and with that we turned ourselves south, in effect properly commencing our West Coast Voyage of Secondary Exploration.