What a beautiful morning
I had heard the tide coming in during the night and the waves crashing on the rocks below us, and now it was fully in. As soon as it was a suitable time I phoned to see if I could get a trip on the ferry - The ferryboat and the bus trip across to the Cape Wrath Lighthouse combined their timings so I would be able to get to the lighthouse after taking the ferry. In the event the bus driver was one of the passengers on the ferry boat.
Eleven o'clock was the departure time, and the ferry man seemed to think there would be plenty of room so - 'just turn up'. Was their space for Thebus in the carpark,. Yes just park diagonally
The view from the carpark was breath-taking so I took some photos while waiting for the ferry boat to appear. There were only two other passengers waiting, but I really hadn’t expected such a tiny boat to actually be the ferry, and had to rush down to the jetty when I realised the ferry had arrived. I spent most of the time using the little video on my phone, and I know the clips were there, but now I can't find them. If I do I will upload some
The trip across the kyle (which means a narrows) was magical. The water was crystal clear, and the sun shone, but my nervousness of the water, and my awareness of the smallness of the boat and how close the lip (is that the right terminology) seemed to the surface of the water stopped me taking many photos
It turned out that a further six passengers had been ferried across before us, so nine of us set out in the mini-bus to cross the barren heather peat moor, most of which was used as an EU forces training ground. Though there were one or two personal in evidence, probably to see we weren’t used as target practice, there was no obvious military presence, other than a lot of warnings not to touch anything which looked remotely like a bomb, as it probably was, and might be unexploded.
The guy who drove the minibus over the bumpy ten miles or so to the lighthouse was a mine of information, and made the journey pass far more quickly than the fifty or so minutes that it took us. We were so lucky with the day, not only was the sunshine clear and hot, but the wind had dropped, so if you tucked yourself into the corners of the many buildings surrounding the lighthouse you felt the full strength of the sun. I am sure it would have been interesting, but very bleak, on a grey, foggy or rainy day.
The clear blue skies reflected in the seas beneath made the views from the lighthouse look even more spectacular. It was one of the ones built by Stevenson – Robert Louis Stevenson's grandfather. Many of them being built in the very early part of the 19th C. before Victoria ascended the throne. What an undertaking in those days to quarry stone and take it by sea and then haul it up the immense cliffs on which these structures are by necessity sited. And then the enormous glass lanterns to be manhandled into place. Amazing.
Ferry man on left and bus tour driver on right
Cape Wrath Foghorn
looking out to sea
with the sky snd sea an impossible blue
Cape Wrath with the stone garden walls Stevenson always built so the keepers could grow things
A few clouds are appearing as the air mass meets the land
This top north west corner is accessible though not by road, however when we arrived there were three intrepid hikers, all different nationalities, all converged from different paths, and all waiting hopefully for a ride back on the bus. The last guy came rushing up a few minutes after the bus had parked, desperate that he might have been late and missed it. He said on the journey back that he had run the last quarter of mile when he saw the bus approaching. One French hiker on her own said she had seen the bus from across the moors the day before, but couldn’t reach it in time and had to spend a night there, but preferred to do that than walk another ten miles over the barren moors, or on the bumpy and potholed road. Apparently the road was built in Victorian times, tarmaced once in 1950 and that was it, though our tour driver may have been exaggerating, but as no one lives on the island now there is probably little reason for maintenance.
We had passed another three hikers on the way there, though they had reached the ferry before we saw them again, otherwise I am pretty sure they would have also joined us - even if it meant sitting on someone else's knee. The middle-aged lady who was one of the party looked almost on her knees, and by the thunderous glances and deathly quietness between the three of them when we got back I would guess it will be the last time they hiked together as a group.
On the way back our driver and guide told us this stone got so hot it was used by the locals for frying eggs on. I think it must be called The Blarney Stone
We landed back from the ferry at about two thirty and as it was still sunny I decided to look at the Smoo Caves. I had passed them the day before, but the steps looked long and difficult. Perhaps the sunshine rather than the damp fog was making my knees feel better. Whatever, I managed to make it down there, and was all for taking the boat trip further on into the deeper recesses, but the boatman seeing my walking stick wisely decided it was not for me, and I had to agree when I looked at the metal ladder descending vertically to the rubber dinghy some twelve feet beneath the bridge.
Chatting with the 'Caveman' I mentioned the 'Ferryman' who, when I said I might be going to Smoo Caves, had pointedly told me 'Not to believe a word that Caveman says!' Apparently some tourists viewing the sites in the reverse order had been told by the Caveman that the Ferryman was just recovering from a very delicate operation on a rather personal part of his anatomy – and since then there is banter between the two of them relayed by the various tourists who visit.
Smoo Cave looking in
Smoo Cave looking out
I needed bread and had seen a sign for Artisan Bakery pointing towards the Craft Village not far from Durness. I normally stay away from “Craft” type places, as there is really nothing I am going to want to buy from them and basically that is what they are there for, and I feel embarrassed if I 'browse' with no intention of buying – probably too many years in the retail trade.
But I did need bread so off I went. Its a strange place, having been originally built at the height of the Cold War as some sort of early warning depot, but part way through they decided the system would not work and just left it, half finished as an eyesore on the landscape. Hippydom back in the seventies decided to make an artists' community of it, but I would say it did not really succeed as such. There is a large commercial garage of some description, a hairdresser's, a closed book shop, oh, and a closed bread shop. Still at least that was open sometimes!
As I didn’t want a haircut, plus it was a Gent's Hairdressers, I went to the only other place open – Chocolate Mountain. This is a cafe specialising, unsurprisingingly, in chocolate. So I asked for a hot chocolate and also had a croissant with white and toffee chocolate on it. Had I know how rich the cup of chocolate was to be I think I might have asked for a plain sponge finger, but I was committed by the time it arrived.
Chocolate Mountain Durness Craft Centre
It was delicious but certainly delivered a strong sugar and chocolate rush. Ideal if you had just hiked back from Cape Wrath on a cold day. Probably a bit too chocolatey for me ------- But I forced it down :-)
Huge Cliffs of Cape Wrath.
Apparently the name is old Nord and means turning point,
as it was the headland where the Viking raiders turned for home