Scotland Day #8: Happiness at Cape Wrath

September 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

Day Eight was the last of our “Driving North, North, Northest!” days.  Unoftunately, the country ended at one point and we had to loop back down.  And, while the looping down was (almost) always entertaining and full of its own adventures, it did not have the same awe-striking grandeur that our Highland Adventures had.  So, in a sense, this was our last day in the “wilderness” of Scotland.  What a great last day it was though!

Our day started a bit before 5 AM, when I rolled over and cracked my eyelids open- only to see the horizon begin to glow orange and the layers of mountains bathed in different shades of purple.  There was a wall window right by our bed, which made for wonderful sky gazing all night, and a marvelously warm and comfortable sunrise of the purest, undiluted colors imaginable.

A couple of hours later, we migrated upstairs for a breakfast that turned into a brunch, and then into a lunch.

HighlandsBBEggBreakfast
The couple that was were staying with grew many of their own fruits and veggies, and made their own butter and yoghurt and breads and teas, and everything tasted fresh and delicious.  From the granola mix, to the cheeeses, to the poofiest scrambled eggs that I have ever tasted, this morning lounge session was thoroughly enjoyed as we chatted away about art and life and Scotland.

Eventually, we  found the strength to force ourselves to repack our bags and once again get back into the car.  We passed more hidden lochs and hilltop benches:

Highlands10
, before turning left at a sign pointing to Cape Wrath:

CapeWrath
Conditions were good for crossing!  So we waited and watched the little boat transfer people across, eight by eight.  And, just as it was our turn to get on the boat… I turned around and said, “let’s go for a walk.”

CapeWrathBeachBoat

I’m not sure why.  Cape Wrath was the uppermost destination of our road trip through Scotland, and the lighthouse that I wanted most to see.  Mayhaps the skies were too sunny; I had always envisioned seeing the lighthouse with grey clouds and a light drizzle and mighty waves beneath.  Mayhaps I was tired of sitting in cars, and spending two hours in a van on the other side of the water wasn’t too appealing at the moment.  But, whatever the reason was, I just… didn’t feel like it.

What I did feel like doing, though, was taking a walk.  Along the coastline, on the cliffs:

CapeWrathBeach

So that is what we did.  We started along the unmarked path, and then scaled down the rocks to the perfectly white sand below:

CapeWrathLowTide9

It was ridiculous, this clarity of colours.  I mean, does this look real?  I felt like I was walking through some CGI beach in some adventure video game:

CapeWrathBeachClarity

This is not what I think of, when I think of northern Scotland.  Bu, here it was.  Just white sand, blue waters, and little waterfalls trickling off mossy rocks:

CapeWrathBeachDribbles

And, as if this wasn’t cool enough, something truly magical happened as we were strolling along the beach.  The low tide came in.

CapeWrathLowTide
To the north of us was the Atlantic Ocean (or is it the Norwegian Sea? or the Arctic Ocean), to the south of us was the Kyle of Durness.  And between these two bodies of water, usually connected, the sand came up to play and presented us with all sorts of crazy patterns.

CapeWrathLowTide2

Fun stuff!

CapeWrathLowTide6
This year, I had planned to go see the salt mines at Uyuni, but fate made me postpone that travel until 2015.  Instead, I ended up here, in the quicksands of northern Scotland– and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.  We tried to cross all the way to the other side, onto the Cape Wrath Peninsula, but were stopped by a mini river of currents right by the western shore.  But, that’s alright- walking on the bottom of the ocean was fun enough by itself:

CapeWrathLowTideSimba3
Then, we drove another couple of miles to the little seaside town of Durness.  We stopped at the seaside cemetery (I would like to be cremated and my ashes released in the Isle of Skye, but if I had to get buried, this place wouldn’t be too shabby):

Durness
, and took an art/chocolate pit stop at the Balnakeil Art  Village, a series of old war bunkers converted into art galleries and chocolate stores.  I think that it’s a nifty idea, and added a really unique feel to the ginger cookies.  After that, a short stroll through Durness:

Durness2
, and a mini hike down to SMOO Cave- referred to as Subsurface Military Onshore Operations during the war.  It is one of Britain’s largest caves (the largest cave?), and you can take a small boat tour inside:

DurnessCavesOfSmoo2

Then, we took one last stroll to the northern cliffside, where we were accompanied by bunnies as we stared off into the distance.  I loved the fact that there was nothing separating you from the North Pole.  Between you and the Arctic, just water.

DurnessCavesOfSmooRabbitPath
After that, we started our trip back down south.  It was the first time we drove south in over a week, and our hearts weren’t feelin’ the beat.  It was uncomfortable, to be driving back… and away from the water!  There was nothing between Durness and Inverness (thank goodness for those two not-too-yummy ginger cookies, for that was dinner), though I doubt that we would have been able to bring ourselves to stop anywhere had there been something.

Inverness was a dark and scary place.  We pulled into the outskirts of it around 10 PM, and already from the distance, all of the light pollution made us cringe.  The giant stores and neon signs and parking lots and ugly cement buildings did nothing to cheer up our spirits.  Our minds and hearts were still in the Highland Wilderness, and we did not want to be there.

Inverness
So we took a fast-paced stroll around the city center, stocked up on digestive cookies, and left.  We drove for another half hour before starting to look for a place to pull over for the night- without much luck, despite our multiple detours down tiny roads and into deserted parking lots.  We ended up in scary parks and in a private airport and driving around the perimeter of an army base… until finally giving up and pulling into one of those parking areas at the side of the highway, next to a couple of 18-wheelers.

Not the most scenic sleeping spot, but we were exhausted and had no motivation to keep driving.  We crossed our fingers that the morning sun would illuminate us with some inspiration, curled up with three layers of socks, closed our eyes, and smiled nostalgically at the thought that twelve hours earlier, we were somewhere between a homegrown breakfast and the sunny bottom of the ocean.

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