After driving from Dumfries to Balloch (top of Loch Lomond) we enjoyed a cruise on Loch Lomond, even though the loch and surrounding mountains were shrouded in misty rain. Most of the day has been raining a persistent fine drizzle. We embarked on a delightful cruise up and down the Loch and were greeted by the sight of grand towering stone mansions which stood sentinel along the banks of the loch. Many are now hotels or golf clubs. With the drizzling rain, the scene was reminiscent of a Gothic novel. Luss near the top of the loch is a picturesque historic stone village. Driving on around stunning scenes of lochs surrounded by brilliant shades of green grasses and bracken, and pinky mauves of stubbly heather you could see where the inspiration for the colours of the many colourful tartans came from.
Dunstaffnage was built ono a rocky outcrop over looking the sea – a perfect defensive position. This bleak castle was owned by the McDonalds and then the Campbells. Fiona McDonald who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape to Skye, was imprisoned here for a time.
We drove along stunning scenery of misty mountains, lochs glistening in the sun, occasionally dotted with salmon pens. Even though the rain persisted we explored Glencoe and Fort William at the base of Ben Nevis.
As we drove further into the highlands we were lashed by wind and rain. Flashes of purple and pink, green and yellow spiked the dark green conifer forests hanging with garlands of irish moss. Finally we arrived at Loch Carron, a long narrow loch.
Driving the North 500 was a terrific experience, mainly on genuine single tracks with passing places every 100 yards or so. From Loch Carron to Applecross across the famous Pass of the Cattle – the steepest and highest road (2048 feet) in Great Britain, with 11 hairpin bends and a gradient of 15% all on single tracks. The vistas were magnificent, vast and breathtaking of the lochs sparkling below surrounded by the windswept mountains, peaty bogs and cascading waterfalls sparkled across the rocky landscape whenever the sun managed to peep through the swirling clouds. Shamrock gobbled up the miles and terrain efficiently and tirelessly. GO SHAMROCK WELL DONE!
After Applecross we continued on to Shieldaig, Torridon and onto Scourie. The scenery becoming more rugged and bleak with every mile. What a place I can’t imagine what would make anyone want to live here!
From Scourie we drove on to Thurso up North. We visited John O’Groat and visited the gardens and Castle of Mey – the castle owned by the Queen Mother.
We were given a delightful tour of this quaint castle situated on the cliffs of Mey which has been left the way the Queen Mother would have lived in it. It was like going back in a time capsule to the 50’s. Definitely gave you an impression of a woman who had a sense of humour and fairly modest tastes. in her living room she has a tapestry on the wall and on the very top of the rail there is a little stuffed toy of the Loch Ness monster which someone had placed there as an ongoing joke and she left it there.