"When Piggies Fly" Part 2: "We'll be in Scotland afore ye!"

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Rhode trip, Jul 8, 2017.

  1. Turkeycreek

    Turkeycreek Gringo Viejo

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    Looking good
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  2. ben2go

    ben2go I am Ben! Hear me snore!

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    Geez it's dinna time here and I want that but no place serves that type food close to me.
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  3. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Sunday, May 27th.

    Where is Miss Marple when you need her?

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    Oh sure, you think Drumnadrochit looks like a nice quiet town. But someone has attempted to murder my motorcycle. And here's the evidence.

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    Sometime overnight, a slate has loosened from the roof, missing my bike by the narrowest of margins. It's heavy. It's sharp. It could have been ugly.

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    You think it's coincidence... Miss Marple knows better than that. But it's a quiet Sunday morning, and there's no sign of the culprit now....

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    We rode a short way south of town, to Urqhart Castle. The ruins dominate a small peninsula surrounded on three sides by the waters of Loch Ness.

    "In its 500 years of being a medieval castle, Urquhart has played several important roles and been a popular recurring feature in and of Scottish history. In particular, the castle faced a considerable amount of action and bloodshed during the 13th to 17th centuries. It was seized by the English after Edward I’s invasion, reclaimed and seized again, was under the control of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots in the 14th century and was repeatedly attacked during the 15th and 16th centuries by the MacDonald Lords of the Isles arriving from the West."

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    In typical mass-tourism fashion.... you enter through the gift shop. I paid our money and we wound our way through a mob of just disgorged bus-tourers. We watched a short film in the theater. It's a very impressive site, even if the castle is now just ruins.

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    It's a popular attraction.

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    The castle's position overlooking Loch Ness meant that whoever held it could control a main passage through the Highlands. Troops could be moved quickly by boats. Trade goods flow past, down the lochs and rivers to the seas beyond.

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    We watched a very entertaining presentation by this gentleman on the various weapons employed by a Medieval Scotsman and their relative potential for mayhem....

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    He's wielding an axe, with a blade for slashing and a pointed end for piercing chainmail. But also on offer was an assortment of arrows for different targets, a mace, a claymore: the two-handed sword almost 3 feet in length. Armor and other accoutrements. Very interesting.

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    Finally, in 1692 Castle Urqhart met it's fate.... abandoned by its English garrison during the Jacobite risings, it was blown up so that the castle could not be used again.
    More history here: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/urquhart-castle/history/

    We left the castle, back through Drumnadrochit. The Highlands are like other mountainous places. It can be hard to connect the dots with connecting roads. We avoid a lot of dead-ends because we're trying to get somewhere; unless there's something we really want to see, we rarely take them. But this afternoon, we'll ride out and back, up into the hills west of the town. We rode up Glen Urqhart, along the River Enrick.

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    Tucked up amongst the mountains is Glen Affic...'the dappled glen'. Pinewoods fill the valley. The road to Plodda Falls is gravel.

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    It's a short hike into the top of the falls. Past a smaller cascade...

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    ...and then the water tumbles away beneath you....

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    The vantage is spectacular... high in the treetops. Lord Tweedmouth, a rich brewer and a Liberal Member of Parliament, bought this estate in 1856, and planted a variety of native and exotic trees that continue to thrive: Douglas Fir, larch, grand fir, and redwoods. He built Guisachan House nearby the falls.... only ruins remain.

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    Back through the village of Tomich. Just a few houses line the single street. There is a memorial water trough in honor of Sir Dudley Coutts Majoribanks Bart: First Lord Tweedmouth,
    and his wife, Isabel Lady Tweedmouth.

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    Lord Tweedmouth… I love that name.... was an interesting fellow with a wide range of interests. A pleasant surprise.... Lord Tweedmouth was the original breeder of Golden Retrievers. Another bronze sculpture commemorates his work.

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    From the little village of Tomich, we crossed over the River Glass.

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    Past the church.

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    And then along the shore of Loch Beinn a' Mheadhain.

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    We ran out of road at the end of the Loch, where the river Affric tumbles in. A hiking trail, The Affric - Kintail Way continues into the mountains beyond.

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    We turned around... retraced our steps back through the forest, and on into Drumnadrochit. Tomorrow we'll ride to the Isle of Skye....
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  4. Essbee

    Essbee Adventurer

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    Absolutely loving this! What a beautiful place....well, when it's sunny like that!
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  5. TheAdmiral

    TheAdmiral Long timer

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    +++^^^
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  6. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Monday, May 28th.

    It's the last day of the three day weekend. Despite missing the "Nessie" boat tour of Loch Ness, and never actually getting around to visiting the Nessie Museum and Giftshop, we'd pretty much exhausted what Drumnadrochit has to offer the casual visitor. Time to ramble on.....

    We rode south out of town, the way we'd come, past the site of Urqhart Castle. The round grass-topped building is the visitor center where you begin.... this is the vantage from along the A82.

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    We pulled over a few times along the way for more views of Loch Ness.

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    dappled sunlight sparkles off the water below....

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    At Invermoriston we turned west on A887.

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    Not much traffic. I pulled over for a whizz, and found this rock cairn by the roadside.

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    ...turned out to be quite the interesting place...

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    It is the site of the killing of Roderick MacKenzie, with the story told in both prose and verse...
    The short version: Roderick MacKenzie looked enough like Bonnie Prince Charlie to frequently be mistaken for him. He was cornered here by English troops in July 1746, while the Bonnie Prince was somewhere on the lam. Seeing the jig was up for him, Roderick fought bravely, preferring to die in a fight rather than on the gallows. As he succumbed to his wounds, he kept up the ruse, and shouted, "You've killed your Prince!" His heroic death helped Charlie to buy enough time to make his escape to France.

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    As we continued west, we passed along the shore of Loch Cluanie, the water as clear and smooth as a looking glass....

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    There's a house down there, in the grove of trees....

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    Past the Loch, the road curls between the mountains into a narrow pass along a riverbank.

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    Another cairn.... smaller than the last, mostly hidden by the underbrush.

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    This narrow gorge is the site of the Battle of Glenshiel, 299 years, and 12 days, before we happened on the site.
    It's steep and craggy hillsides here, on both sides of the river. The Jacobites and their Spanish allies spread out on both sides of the valley, ranging up the steep slopes, and waited as the Government troops approached from the East... along the route we just travelled.

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    Their position looked secure... but the English troops spread out on both sides as well, and dragged their mortars up the hillsides, then used them to devastating effect.
    The Jacobites were forced to flee, and their uprising was put down.... at least for a while....

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    Once past the narrow gorge, the valley opened out to Loch Duich… we rode along the north shore to the site of Eilean Donan Castle... reputed to be 'the most photgraphed castle in Scotland.' It's easy to see why....

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    Eilean Donan is actually a small island, located in a strategic spot where three sea-lochs meet: Loch Alsh, Loch Duich, and Loch Long. There is a causeway that connects it to the shore.

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    It was low tide when we were there, an ideal time to storm the castle I suppose....

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    There was a good size crowd, and a busking bagpiper to entertain the passers-by. The Scots have invented a lot of things over the years, but the bagpipes isn't one of them. They were actually invented somewhere in the Middle East, and may have been brought to Scotland by Roman troops 2000 years ago... but while most of the world has moved on to other musical instruments, the Scots have stubbornly stuck with them...

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    And while Eilean Donan is considered a "must-see" when you visit the Highlands, for us, it didn't rise to the level of a "must pay money and elbow through the crowds". So we turned back, along the Loch the way we'd come.

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    There was a sign by the roadside here: Beware of Feral Goats. And sure enough, a pack of delinquents is hanging out by the side of the road, occasionally wandering into traffic, and generally creating a nuisance. I don't know why they don't just round them up, but they seem to enjoy a special status.

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    We rode back and rounded the end of Loch Duich. Skye is an island, and while it's connected to the mainland by a modern bridge past Eilean Donan, we're taking the back way....

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    Once around the end of the Loch, the road climbs up into the mountains.

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    A view back the way we've come...

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    ...and over to the other shore....

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    Over the spine of the peninsula...

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    ...past an old farm on the valley floor....

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    and down to the shore of Glenelg Bay on the other side.

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    and along the shore to the ferry dock.

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    This is a 'single-track' road... you can see how narrow it is from the car that's approaching, and see the 'passing-place' on the right... The locals seem able to time their passings so they hardly even need to slow down when they meet... but that must be an acquired skill....

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    Around a couple more bends, and we arrived at the Glenelg-Skye Ferry....

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    I'd gotten this tip from one of the guys on AdvScotland.com... they'd picked up on our interest in ferries.... and this is a special one. It is the last hand-operated Turntable ferry in Scotland. The only one I've seen.... and it's pretty cool.....that's it, over on the other side....

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    And here it comes, up to the ramp....

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    The ferry... the red part.... is a revolving turntable that they push.... by hand... to line it up with the ramps on either side. My guess is that it makes for a better boat... and there's a powerful current here.... but it also gives it a Rube Goldberg quality that's amusing.

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    We're on board now, and they're loading it up behind us.

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    Bon voyage....

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    We met this couple from Newcastle, out for a weekend tour on their GS

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    As usual, Mrs Trip is dutifully following directions - holding her motorbike steady - while I'm goofing off... Our new friends offered to take our picture... and we quickly accepted...

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    It only takes a few minutes to reach the other side, and a ferryman hops off and pushes the turntable to line up with the ramp.

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    Everyone watches the show....

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    We followed the GS up the hill, and then stopped to see the others unload....

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    The ferry crosses the Kylerhea narrows.... where there has been a ferry for centuries. They were too elusive for photos.... but we saw some otters swimming nearby... the area is known for them. There's an old inn building on this side as well (private now, I think).

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    The road climbs up into the mountains that line the bay.

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    Higher.

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    A look back from the pass.

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    And a look ahead.

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    In the waters of the Inner Sound beyond: Isles of Pabay, Scalpay with its mountains....

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    We rode northwest, on the A87 again. The Cuillin Hills off to the south.

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    Then onto A863

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    Loch Bracadale

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    Out around the point at Harlosh, and then we had to double back, and ride the inner shore of Minginish.

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    Through the hills past Carbost.

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    ...and finally above the bay to the village of Portnalong.

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    We ended the day at the Skye Walker Hostel. We'd searched thoroughly and this was the only lodging we could find on the entire Isle of Skye, and only for one night. There might have been a couple of other hotel rooms at insane prices (like $500), but otherwise....this is it.

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    They had a dome in the backyard.

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    and a giant chessboard.

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    But all that they had open was a tiny room.... with bunkbeds. By the time we moved our luggage in and took off our riding gear.... well, it was a tight fit. Not to mention squeezing myself into the bottom bunk. And all we could get was the one night....

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    It was fun though... people were friendly and the hostel was very clean and convenient. I'd stay there again, especially if I could get a full size bed! We sat out in the lounge area, and used the wifi while we met some of the other travelers. Made a coffee in the kitchen.
    Later on, we walked a little ways to the village, and had a very good meal at the pub. Roast pork for me....

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    and a meat pie for Mrs Trip. Yummmmm!!

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  7. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Thanks very much, Essbee! We were SO lucky with the weather.... blue sky almost every day!
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  8. TheAdmiral

    TheAdmiral Long timer

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    Wow, more incredible pictures. I've never seen a turntable ferry before. Course, I've never seen a real fairy before either. snicker snicker.
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  9. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Tuesday, May 29th

    Packed up. Ready to roll. There is a lot of the Isle of Skye that we haven't seen, and unfortunately, we're not going to. We gotta go to Gairloch.

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    Along Loch Harport, south from Portnalong.

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    Glen Drynoch has been blackened by a wildfire. It doesn't look it.... but Scotland has been dry this year.

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    The Skye Bridge was completed in 1995, replacing the old ferry. It reaches from Kyleakin on Skye across Loch Alsh to Kyle of Lochalsh

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    And then we turned north, along the shore of Loch Carron.

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    Mountains surround the inner reaches of the Loch.

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    a few small towns along the way.

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    At a viewpoint overlooking the loch... a guide to the peaks beyond.

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    Fuar Tholl….. also known as "Wellington's Nose"

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    In a narrow spot between the Loch and the mountain.... a combination railroad and road tunnel.... my guess is that it's protection from landslides and rockfall.

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    ...kind of like this....



    Metal netting on the other side.

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    We rounded the end of the Loch, and started riding west again.

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    Past Ardarroch, turned onto Bealach Na Ba... lots of warnings...

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    good thing it's not winter.....

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    Bealach Na Ba, "the pass of the cattle" is the third highest pass in Scotland, and the steepest ascent of any road in the whole UK.

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    It starts off gradually enough, but it gets steeper as it approaches the top. More congested too... we ran into a bunch of bicyclists on the switchbacks....

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    The view from the top is spectacular.

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    The road descends less steeply down to the town of Applecross....

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    Applecross is an idyllic little village, cut off from the outside world. They built the road over the pass in 1822, and for over a hundred years it was the only way in and out. Now, a narrow roads leaves to the north, hugging the shore of the Inner Sound.

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    There's only one road. We followed it as it turned east again, along Loch Torridon.

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    This is the heart of Wester Ross.

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    As we left the end of the Loch, we rode beneath the peaks of Beinn Eighe, a long ridge capped with Cambrian basalt quartzite that gives the mountain a distinctive light color.

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    And then along the narrow Loch Maree,,, that mountain is Slioch on the other side.

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    Left the inland Loch Maree, and through some hills brought us down to the shoreline, and the sea-side of Loch Gairloch.

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    The town lines a single street that follows the contour of the bay. A few houses straggle uphill behind it.

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    There's a rocky beach with just a bit of sand.

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    A church reflects the evening light across a small inlet.

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    A view of the town from the boat ramp.

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    We stayed in a little house next door to the owners, and just across from the bay. It had four or five rooms, with a shared bath and a kitchen. All the rooms were booked, and it was an interesting assortment of guests. Just the room...no breakfast included, but we have our own coffee supplies: instant with an electric kettle that we frequently find handy. And now I remember... we had to pay extra for linens as well.

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  10. TheAdmiral

    TheAdmiral Long timer

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    Who knew. I wouldn't have thunk it dry enough to have a range fire. Interesting.

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    You sure you ain't riding around Idaho. It looks a lot like it. :lol3

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  11. liv2day

    liv2day Is Anyone Here a Marine Biologist! Supporter

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    Been so consumed in planning the Baja trip that I lost track of this :doh.

    Going to catch up over lunch, but I can already tell in looking through your shots from Thursday the 24th that I REALLY need to get to Scotland, rent a couple of bikes for me and my wife, and explore. I'm surprised to see so much sunshine and blue sky, seems Scotland isn't always overcast and raining...lol.

    Incredible pics @Rhode trip, what a beautiful place to ride through and experience. The lack of lodging isn't great, but it sounds like you guys kept adventure in the adventure :lol3:lol3.

    I really hate cubes ala office life.
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  12. liv2day

    liv2day Is Anyone Here a Marine Biologist! Supporter

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    Curious - how much distance do you two typically cover in a day of riding? Asking as when I look at your pictures and envision the landscape you're riding through, I'd be lucky to make it 10 or 12 miles with how stunning everything is. I like to stop and take lots of pictures (just ask any on the yahoos that ride with me...lol), not sure I'd make it very far in Scotland.

    Not sure where you ended, but looking through 5/24 and 5/25 sure has been a delight :nod:thumb
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  13. liv2day

    liv2day Is Anyone Here a Marine Biologist! Supporter

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    LOL...great comment; and had no idea the Scots didn't invent the bagpipes. While I wouldn't want to listen non-stop, I really dig bagpipe music.

    Killer pics @Rhode trip, I'm up through the 28th now. I really enjoy the historical pieces you're including in the report. The cairn for Roderick and back story is really neat, and the shots of the still water reflecting the mountains beyond is spectacular :D :nod
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  14. liv2day

    liv2day Is Anyone Here a Marine Biologist! Supporter

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    All caught up now and hoping for more. The images are truly incredible @Rhode trip, what a fantastic adventure!
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  15. Tinman Tim

    Tinman Tim Adventurer

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    You definitely get the award for the most miles with a set of my racks Trip
    Ride safe
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  16. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Admiral, thanks for posting. I was surprised by the burned area as well, but after looking into it, it appears the fires are not that uncommon... there was one while we were there in the Torridon Hills as well... although we didn't see signs of it when we rode through them.

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    And there is sure a lot of diversity in Scotland.... you mentioned Colorado in a previous post, we also thought some of the moors could pass for Wyoming high plains.... and some seemed a lot like home: New England!

    liv2day, thanks for the comments!
    We usually ride between 100 and 150 miles per day. We stop a lot... just to soak it in...and I'll often take a couple of hundred photos a day. It'll take us all day to cover that distance....

    The places we visit are almost totally at random... just things we come across as we ride. I think all the history is fascinating...and I'm too often disappointed by the "destinations".... we're all about the journey. I made some new stickers before this ride, with our motto on them:

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  17. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Ha. Thanks Tim. They are a crucial part of our kit! :thumb
  18. Essbee

    Essbee Adventurer

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    WOW! The beauty of this place is just jaw-dropping.
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  19. JimRidesThis

    JimRidesThis Local celebrity

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    While it was a very dry spring and unusually dry and hot in the early summer in the north of the UK this year (consistently hotter than the western Mediterranean), most of the fires are started deliberately as a way of managing heather growth and ground cover for grouse. Shooting, game stalking and Salmon angling are huge contributors to the economy of highland Scotland and have, to a very large extent, defined the look of the landscape.

    It’s great to hear the comparisons between Scotland and various parts of the States.
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  20. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Wednesday, May 30th

    We rode into Gairloch along the water yesterday ...today we're leaving through the hills behind the town.

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    Snake up through the hills, and down again, and along Loch Ewe.

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    It's confusing in Scotland... they call everything a Loch. You've got your sea-lochs, your fresh water lochs. Some are big; some are very small. Some are landlocked, some open to the sea. In New England, there's all sorts of names: bays, coves, lakes, ponds, inlets, kettleponds, basins, and more.; you can get pretty specific. Here...not so much. Loch Ewe that we're coming to is a sea-loch...open to the sea channel they call The Minch.

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    Up and over another ridge

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    and a different loch on the other side.

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    While we were stopped for a photo, I noticed something amiss with my bike. It couldn't have been too serious.... since I can't remember what it was....

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    ...but it probably involved a zip-tie...since I have my clippers in hand. I do remember telling Mrs Trip how glad I am that we stopped here: "I found a Penny!"

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    I think that's 'The Minch' out there beyond the land.... the wide channel that separates the Outer Hebrides from the Scottish mainland.

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    We left the shore as we crossed another of Scotland's bony fingers reaching northwest, as if to grab the islands beyond.
    We stopped when we came to Corrieshalloch Gorge, a deep box canyon carved by the River Droma. You can see our shadows as we stand on the bridge above it.

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    It's more than 60 meters... about 200 feet... down to the river below.

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    The Victorian era suspension bridge was built by John Fowler, the pioneering engineer responsible for the world’s first underground railway and joint chief engineer on the iconic Forth Railway Bridge.

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    It's a long way down....

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    We're laughing.... as Mrs Trip walks briskly off the bridge.... the sign says 'no more than 4 persons on the bridge at the same time'... and here comes a bunch!

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    From Corrieshalloch Gorge, we rode A835 north along Loch Broom... through the town of Ullapool.

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    Past Ullapool, inland again, we rode through Srathcanaird. Srath means 'broad flat river valley' in Gaelic.

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    Then into the Cromalt Hills...

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    Headed northeast, up a valley lined with narrow lochs.

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    The lochs all linked together by a river running down to the sea.

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    A cattle guard...to keep the sheep at bay.

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    Then the road led us back closer to the shore, an area called Inverkirkeig.

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    The rock-walled road winds up and down, squeezed between the water and the steep banks of the hills.

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    Well, that was a pretty spectacular roller coaster ride. This route up to Lochinver was suggested by one of the guys on AdvScotland. "But the real reason to go to Lochinver," he informed us, "is to go to the pie shop."
    And so we did. It's a tiny town.... so it wasn't hard to find. Lochinver's Larder.

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    Mmmmm….pie. Mrs Trip is smiling. They had all sorts of fancy pies on the menu. Many that would make a fine meal.... but we are just looking for a snack. We'll start with coffee...

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    And then we both had an apple pie.... with ice cream! It was very good.

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    We left Lochinver in a pie-induced stupor. Heading east.... inland. If we hadn't been impaired, we would have remembered to get petrol when we had the chance. Oops....

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    Along the shore of Loch Assynt... past the ruins of Ardvreck Castle.

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    Ardvreck Castle was the 15th century stronghold of the Macleods of Assynt.

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    Throughout it's life, the castle was the scene of frequent violence, with murders, executions, and sieges by both traditional enemies and quarrelsome branches of the Macleod clan.
    In 1672, a 14 day siege by the MacKenzies of Wester Ross brought MacLeod ownership of the castle to an end. The final blow came in 1795 when the castle was hit by lightning, and destroyed.

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    Fortunately, in 1726, Kenneth MacKenzie II of Assynt, commissioned a new, modern house built a little further along the loch. This was the first house of symmetrical design in the northwest Highlands, and it influenced many later homes built by MacKenzie lairds throughout Wester Ross.
    What once was a fabulous mansion..... well, it's not looking so good today.

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    the mountains in back.

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    Out of the mountains.... we followed the River Oykel south and east along a wide valley.

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    By this point, we realize we're cutting it close on fuel. There are few towns in the interior. We change our course a bit, and head towards Lairg, at the south end of Loch Shin. Lairg is the largest village in the northern Highlands that isn't on the coast. It'll have a gas station... after all, its got a population of almost 900 people!

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    The reason that Lairg is such a metropolis is that four roads meet here: it was once known as "The Crossroads of the North."
    And they've got a petrol station. We rolled in on fumes...Mrs Trip is relieved we're not walking.

    We followed the winding road south from Lairg through Archany Glen, along the river to the Falls of Shin. The water tumbles over a series of falls, pressed between stone walls. It's known for its dramatic salmon run. But when we came across it, it was closed. We snuck in, over the fence, and had a look. They were rebuilding the walk.

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    it would have been fun to explore more... you can see the fancy wrought iron railing along the pathway.
    A few more miles, and we arrived at Ceol Mor, a bed and breakfast at Inveran,
    overlooking the Kyle of Sutherland. We couldn't find anything north of Lochinver along the north west coast - the route of the NC500. This B&B was the only lodging we could find... anywhere. But it was very nice, run by a friendly couple. They directed us to a pub, several miles away for dinner, and suggested we visit the secret falls along the way....known only to the locals. And so we did.

    Cassley Falls. It's down a path, through a pasture....

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    A beautiful, contemplative place, in the faltering evening light...

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    You can bury me here.... a cemetery beside the falls....

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    We left Cassley Falls, and rode a short ways to the country pub. Dinner...then back to Ceol Mor.

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    Oms, B10Dave, VTbeemer and 3 others like this.