"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. TheAdmiral

    TheAdmiral Long timer

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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."


    With the description above, I thought you were talking about the City of Chicago. They did try to destroy it once by fire though I don't think it was lightening. Something about a cow and lantern right?

    Wish we had old castles here in the states to see. Instead, we have old homestead and miners cabins. Probably a social economic issue!
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  2. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Yup, Assynt used to be livelier than uptown Chicago on a Saturday night. :lol3 Not to mention the ghosts left behind.....

    "Is Ardvreck Castle Haunted?

    Ardvreck castle, loch and nearby Calda house are all thought to be haunted. As for the castle its home to two ghosts. One is seen as a tall men dressed all in grey and appears standing within the tower staring blankly at the ground, and thought to be the ghost of Montrose.

    The next ghost is that of a young girl and has quite a legend behind her. The story goes that when the MacLeod clan was in charge of the area they made a deal with the devil the help them build their castle there. In exchange for the Devils help he required a daughter of the clan's chieftain as payment, which the chieftain accepted.

    In despair of being sold to the devil the girl climbed the castle tower and jumped to her death. People claim to have heard crying noises within the tower from an unidentifiable source.

    The nearby ruins of Calda house are also supposed to be haunted. The legend says that the Mackenzie family organized a family gathering there one Saturday and that the celebrations continued past midnight into the sabbath day. At some point a fire broke out, possibly caused by a lightning strike, and all the inhabitants perished as the house burned to the ground. The causes of the fire are uncertain, but inhabitants of the Assynt area state that it was a manifestation of divine wrath as the family had been merry-making on the Lord's Sabbath day. Indeed, stories are told that there was a survivor of the fire, a piper who was spared the flames because he refused to play the pipes past the midnight hour. A number of ghost sightings have been recorded around the area of the Calda ruins, including that of a ghostly woman who haunts the site itself. Strange lights have also been seen there at night, and several people have claimed that they have seen car headlights approach them on the road there at night, but after waiting for the vehicle to pass, no car has appeared."
    (stolen from Hauntedhovel.com)

    We high-tailed it out of there well before nightfall... that's for sure!
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  3. ben2go

    ben2go I am Ben! Hear me snore!

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    I like the old dry stack stonework around EU, especially around the Scotland and Ireland border. The talent for dry stack stonework is drying up around EU. Modern advancements have left that niche behind and it's sad. Soon there won't be many talented stonemasons left. I watched a man build an arched walkway in NC. He used found stone and old hand tools of the trade. He was Scotish. In three days he has it finished. No two stones were the same shape or size, but the symmetry of the walkway was perfect.
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  4. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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  5. liv2day

    liv2day Is Anyone Here a Marine Biologist! Supporter

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    Glad to see you're still across the pond continuing the adventure. I would have had a hard time leaving Scotland, find a nice place away from the rat race but close enough to one of my favorite distilleries and just called it good...lol.

    Cool shots of the ride in England, though those rocks on the descent look to be no joke. Nothing like navigating baby heads as you make your way down.

    Looking forward to the next update @Rhode trip :D :D
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  6. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Thanks, liv2day! We spent the summer in Rhode Island earning our keep, and came back a couple of weeks ago for another bite of the apple.... or is it another pint of the cider I've been enjoying this autumn? We still have lots of Scotland to discuss... but England has not disappointed!
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  7. Kebabmonster

    Kebabmonster Adventurer

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    Read the whole RR from the start over the last couple of days. Awesome write up, and fantastic pics.

    I've done a few Scottish trips over the past few years, but didn't get there this year due to an Austrian trip, but it's on the cards for next year. I've also got an Ireland itch that I'm hoping to scratch next year, and your write up about it has only made me want to do it even more.

    Keep it coming, I'm loving your RR.

    Andy.
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  8. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Thanks, Andy! I'm glad you're enjoying the read. We're currently down in Cornwall after a truncated ride today...cut short by hard rains and wind.
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  9. boristhebold

    boristhebold Been here awhile

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    A great read, I spent last weekend riding many of the roads you rode in Scotland. Beware the wind and rain over the next 24-36 hrs !
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  10. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Thank you, Boris!

    Who-wee...the weather was wild today indeed! We rode up the coast to Barnstaple via the A39... The Atlantic Highway, the signs said. Sideways rain and the wind was blowing a gale.... gusts of 50 to 75 mph according to the news..... all I know is it was pushing us all over the place. Lots of blown down branches and leaves all over the road.
    I only took a couple of pictures today... this one at a pull-off along the A39:

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    And this one, of my new favorite things: Gore-Tex socks! Kept me warm and comfy all day in leaky boots. (well, we only rode for about 3 hours but man, are they awesome!)

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  11. TheAdmiral

    TheAdmiral Long timer

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    I'm gonna have to try out a pair of them Gortex Waterproof socks. Thanks for posting them and planting the idea. This year I'm gonna try outriggers (training wheels) for my snow riding and will need the waterproof and warmth of these types of socks.
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  12. Oms

    Oms Adventurer

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    Found this RR couple of nights ago and read through it all. Beautiful pictures and comments. We spent a month in Scotland in 2012, rented a flat at Corpach, just out of Fort William, and day tripped from there to many of the places you reported on. Like you we had exceptional weather, 3 rainy days the whole trip. On a sunny day Scotland is magnificent and the people wonderful. Thanks for posting.
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  13. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    OK... back on track.
    Oms, thanks for your post! The Fort William area would have beeen great for a base camp!

    Thursday, May 31st

    Wednesday night, when we got back to Ceol Mor, the B&B where we were staying, we found another couple had arrived... on 2 bikes from the Netherlands. We got to talking with them, and really had a great time... when the B&B hosts came and turned off most of the lights and went to bed...we were still laughing. I will never forget how incredulous they were when we told them that you are not required to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle in Rhode Island. :dunnoI said I think it's in the constitution... 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of poor judgement...'

    Thursday morning, after breakfast, our Dutch friends headed south, towards home.... while we rode in the other direction......North. It's damp this morning. Overcast.

    Ceol Mor overlooks the Kyle of Sutherland... I had to look up the meaning of kyle, which is a Gaelic term for a river estuary. The B&B itself is on the banks of the River Oykel as it flows into the kyle and on to Dornoch Firth beyond. Popular with anglers the hosts said. 'Would I like to go fishing?' Actually I would very much enjoy giving one of those big Spey rods a whirl in the wide chalkstone streams...but not this trip. I also suspect its quite expensive by the time you get your waders wet.....

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    We followed the river, and then turned north along the River Shin until we reached Lairg again... over the bridge, topped off the petrol.

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    … and then north, out of town.

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    We followed a wide river valley, Strath Tirry…

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    Lonesome country. We rode for quite a while.... nary a soul to be seen.... just the pointy head of Ben Klibreck overlooks the road ahead.

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    Strath Tirry meets Strath Bagastie in a low saddle that marks the southern boundary of MacKay Country... the traditional homeland of the Clan MacKay.

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    an old stone pen for livestock...

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    The valley narrows at the height of land....gives rise to a new river that flows North....

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    A herd of deer graze in an enclosed field...

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    This is the hamlet of Altnaharra, and famous as a 'Sporting Estate'. The Altnaharra Hotel has been serving sportsmen since 1820... almost 200 years. They can provide you with guides
    (aka: Ghillies) if you'd like to explore the local rivers or lochs that are famously productive of both trout and salmon. There's hunting as well.... with a managed population of game.
    We passed the small church there, built in 1854. There isn't really anything there, other than the hotel and its associated services, and the church.

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    But actually, Altnaharra has another claim to fame.... there is a MET weather station there, and due to the towns northern latitude and inland location its often listed as the coldest place in the UK.... on December 30th, 1995 it recorded the coldest temperature ever in Britian at -27.2 degrees Centigrade (-17F). Oddly enough, on March 20, 2009 it recorded the highest temperature for the day in the UK at 18.5 C (65F). We rattled over the bridge over the Allt na h-Eirbhe, the stream that gives the place its name...

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    Just beyond the bridge, we turned off on the road towards Strath More.

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    Past the southern end of Loch Meadie.

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    The valley closed in the further we rode.... the mountains jostled closer to the roadsides.....

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    The only trace of habitation since Altnaharra.

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    Ben Hope towers above the narrow river valley... 927 meters...just over 3000 feet.

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    We rounded the curve, and stumbled onto the ruins of Dun Dornagil Broch.

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    It's an impressive structure... 2,000 years old!

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    It commands the river plain where the stream is funneled through the narrow pass. They are not sure what the interior was like, but it's a sophisticated structure. It's never been excavated.

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    Its big… as you can see using Mrs Trip as a ruler..... and it impressed me with how well built it was and how comfortably its residents must have lived.

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    Once through the narrow glen, the River Hope flows into Loch Hope… as the road follows its eastern shore down towards the northern coast of Scotland.

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    It's more sheltered here, and a forest grows along the shores of the Loch.

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    … an over-the-shoulder shot....

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    We reached the northern end of Loch Hope, where the road from Altnaharra meets the A838.

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    ...and we turned east, along the route of the NC500.

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    Then across the Kyle of Tongue on a causeway and a bridge... with a spectacular view south to the mountains that circle the bay.

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    Then we rode up the eastern shore of the kyle towards the town of Coldbackie.

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    Climbed up from the shore road, back on the main route A836. There was a coffee shop there, and we stopped for a cup and a brownie. When we came back out, there was a snail on the wall near my bike.

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    Not knowing much about snails, especially in Scotland, I googled it... and found some interesting information on a Wiki... Uncyclopedia:
    "Snails are rich slugs who can afford housing. Essentially, a snail is the equivalent of a capitalist scum American imperialist flaunting its superior living condition in the poor slug's face as the slug tirelessly eats cabbage in your garden. Or, alternatively, a snail is the equivalent of a hard-working slug achieving the American dream, thanks to the grace of God and Sam Walton. Snails are also hermaphrodites. Kinky." Never know what you're going to find on the internet.

    Fog boils in off the ocean... starts to obscure a couple of cottages along the road....

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    We turned off A836, onto the road out to Skerray.

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    Across a cattle guard, and amongst a herd of highland cows.

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    I had to shoo a few out of our way...

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    The road winds it way out to Skerry, a tiny hamlet huddled between the hills that protect it from the ocean beyond.

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    The call box now houses the library.

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    The road snakes around the hillsides.

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    Its a beautiful, quiet place. Here and there, crofters cottages mark tiny farms tucked into the little glens.

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    The even smaller township of Achnabat…

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    Down to the sea at Skerray Harbour... the name means "between the rocks and the sea." A hundred years ago, 25 boats and 120 men worked the fisheries from this tiny port. Today, only a couple of small skiffs bob at their moorings, protected by the old pier.

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    There's the ruins of the old church at Torrisdale, along the River Borgie, and the old cemetery that overlooks the water and the sandy shore beyond.

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    Followed the road along the Borgie all the way back to A836.

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    a cottage over on the other side.

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    Riding east, we turned off the main road to ride out to the some of the promontories that extend into the sea... here and there....a small farm or a fisherman's cottage....

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    I think this is Farr Point. A high rocky headland above a cove with a stony beach. They bring fishing boats into the cove below, and then use block and tackle to move the catch to the top of the cliffs... just a steep, narrow path descends the rockface.

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    Here on the top.... racks for drying nets or sails...

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    Back along the main road.... I'm impressed by the sheep farm of the year..... that seems like it would be quite an accomplishment here...…

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    This is the village of Armadale... and Strathy Point across the bay...

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    … and this is Armadale beach

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    We hiked over the bluff, down to the beach, on a sandy path.

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    On the way back, you can see across to the old Armadale House.

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    A836 took us past the front of the house, and up the hills beyond. Rode east, then turned onto B874 to take us into Thurso. Through Achreamie, Shebster, Westfield and Glengolly….named places, perhaps.... but not that you'd notice. It was large, flat fields...spreading out in either direction. A lot of the fields were edged with fences made from large, thin stone slabs... very unusual....

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    4 miles more, into the northernmost town in Scotland.... Thurso. The fog rolled in as we reached the town and emphasized the Victorian feel of the place. Originally a Norse port, Thurso grew fat on trade and fishing, a rich port with ships ranging to the continent and beyond. On a foggy evening, the town seems quiet, as if set for a macabre novel. That may be Dr. Jeckyll's Audi there..... The question is, 'Where is Mr Hyde?

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    We found our small hotel, a room upstairs from an old pub, and stashed our gear. Went out for a walk. Thurso is an old, corseted town...straight-laced...no games here....

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    Actually, I'm sure its not. Seemed a very nice town. But strangely quiet on a Thursday evening.

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    We rambled around the streets for a while. Found an Indian restaurant, up a flight of stairs. It was very good. Oh sure, those other ride reports will show you delicious looking food.
    As for us, we ate it, with nothing to show except some empty plates!

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  14. ubermick

    ubermick Long timer

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    Don’t sell yerself short - there’s some bits of tomato and lettuce garnish leftover, as well as some onions from the tandoori. Plenty of instagram-worthy stuff!!

    But if you were drinkin Irn-Bru like a proper local, you wouldn’t even need to stop!
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  15. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Ha, ha. Well, it does look like I've saved you some nice Naan bread, at least.
    I had to Google Irn-Bru, and now I wish I tried it.

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    This is why I love all things Scottish: first I googled 'what does Irn-Bru taste like?' Well, there seems to be quite a range of opinions.....
    "A bubbling highland stream mixed with casual violence. But in a good way."
    "It's orange but not orange flavoured but it's exactly how you would imagine an orange drink that isn't orange flavoured would taste, all orangey (but not orange)."
    "It tastes of unicorn blood, thistle juice, and the sweet, sweet tears of the English women mourning their dead at Stirling Bridge...with a dash of Rabbie Burns' jism."
    "Irn Bru is the taste of prideful regret and glorious failure, of a people who could have ruled the world if they could've been arsed to. No point comparing it to other flavours- that's like asking what a banana tastes like."

    OK...... Maybe I can learn something from the TV commercials....







    :lol3 An hour and a half later, I've watched about 20 commercials.... and still have no idea. :photog
  16. TheAdmiral

    TheAdmiral Long timer

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    Don't get me hooked on those videos. They are funny though!
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  17. ubermick

    ubermick Long timer

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    The love of Irn Bru north of the border is legendary...

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  18. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Friday, June 1st

    Thurso stayed in character.... cool and gloomy, with a grey mist floating in from the sea. The streets were still quiet, though we managed to find AAA lithium batteries for Lynn's Spot tracker in a combo Chemist/Photo Shop along the main street... then rode through town... heading east.

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    along the waterfront... a few morning strollers taking in the sea air....

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    Then inland, avoiding the 'A' road for now.

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    "wait, wait, wait... stop here."

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    A nice view of the rolling farm fields. Its good agricultural land here... along the northern coast.... very different than the high barren country we crossed yesterday. But what is catching my eye...… the stone fences. "Wow... look at that!" I'm bending Mrs Trip's ear, excited...waving at the fences...

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    The stone fences run off, into the mist.... as far as the foggy eye can see. It turns out they are Caithness Flagstones... and they were big business once upon a time. There were 10 or more quarries in the area, and short rail lines down to the harbors at Thurso and at Castle Hill. Thousands of quarrymen cut the stones, split them with small wedges, and loaded them onto ships. Caithness Flagstones paved the Strand in London... they paved the streets of Paris... and were shipped as far as North and South America.... even paving factory floors in Argentina. I'm fascinated.
    Mrs Trip.... not so much. "Yeah, there's a lot of flat stones all right" she deadpanned.

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    We wound down off the hill, and passed through a large farmyard.

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    And then we crossed back over the 'A' road in Castletown.

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    ...and rode back to the shore at Castlehill.

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    Out there's the remains of the old port, some in use, some abandoned.... strung together along the sea front by a grassy double track road.

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    Around the edge of Dunnet Bay, through the hamlet of Brough...

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    and out to the end of Dunnet Head.

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    Walked down to view the lighthouse...

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    and peer over the edge of Dunnet Head to the misty rocks below....

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    Back across the moors that make up the interior of the headland. Dunnet head sticks out like a thumb, thrust northward into the waters of Pentland Firth.

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    Through the few houses of Brough, tucked in amongst the yellow gourse.

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    We're still riding eastbound, the low clouds obscuring the shore nearby...

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    the road curled around the bay at Skarfskerry… continued on....

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    not far at all, to the Castle of Mey.

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    First built in 1566, the castle had fallen into ruin when it was purchased in 1952 by Queen Elizabeth... The Queen Mum, whose husband King George VI had recently died. She set about restoring the castle, and kept it as a holiday house.... visiting in August and October each year until her death in 2002. On a clear day, the views extend north to the Orkney Islands.
    In 1996, The Queen Mother gave the property to the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust, which has opened the castle and garden to the public since her death. It is now open seven days a week from 1 May until 30 September each year, with a closed period of ten days at the end of July and the beginning of August, when Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay usually stay at Mey.

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    Needless to say, we didn't go in. We continued past the castle, along the shoreline on an unpaved road. There was a good crowd at the castle, from the looks of it, but where we were was deserted.

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    We followed the road, looking less and less traveled as it went on.

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    I joked to Mrs Trip, "We're probably about to get surprised by a squad of Royal Marines wanting to know what we're doing!" She laughed it off.

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    but the further we rode, the more it looked as if there might be security, keeping an eye on the Royals.... and she may have been having second thoughts....

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    "Any Marines ahead? Maybe a jump jet?"

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    Nope. The coast was clear.

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    Never saw any Marines... but this guy wasn't happy to have us trespassing.

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  19. Blader54

    Blader54 Long timer

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    Great chapter in this fine report! Now I guess if someone were to ask you "have you ever thought about riding to the most northerly mainland point in Britain?" You can smile an enigmatic smile and simply say "Dunnet." And I must ask....did you feel at all, well, superior, when you rode through Brough?
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  20. DunkingBird

    DunkingBird Been here awhile

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    Hi Rode trip

    The stone fences in your pictures remind me of my TET trip in Italy this year. From Lake Garda via Passo-Fittanze I came across similar fences and the ground was covered with the corresponding rocks.

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    Now that winter is coming, your report is a welcome distraction.
    Thanks a lot !


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