Ducky’s meanderings – 1
|14/04/2014||Filled under caravanning, Scotland, weather|
Late one afternoon we pull off the road at a sign indicating forest walks and a public toilet, both of which seem like a good idea and together, even better. We are confident that a night spent here will be undisturbed since Scotland’s laws respect this behaviour, so long as we are doing no harm, so we follow the path which takes us downstream to another bridge then stroll back up again on the other bank as the evening sunlight slopes through the trees. After cooking up a meal in the car park we draw the curtains and sleep, with not a soul to disturb us.
Several days later and we stop at the Clachtoll campsite which nestles into the machair between a couple of rocky headlands. Jim Galway (not the flautist, the campsite manager) makes us feel welcome then invites us to a ceilidh later in the evening. He plays the whistle with some skill but we think his namesake might just have the edge on him.
Clachtoll, meaning ‘cleft rock’, is an apt description of the formation visible from our campsite with a backdrop of the Coigach mountains we had explored earlier in the day. The rocks here are mudstone, more resistant to erosion than that name suggests, overlaying a bed of Lewisian gneiss, the oldest rocks found anywhere in the British Isles. Mudstone breaks into regular chunks, which made it a good building material for the ancient broch we set off to explore before cooking our evening meal. The signs of earlier settlements are plain to see on the landscape, raised mounds across the grassy slopes showing clearly where farming once took place on ‘lazy-beds’, and of course there are more recent ruins everywhere, houses abandoned to the Highland clearances.
To get here, earlier in the day we had followed a minor road, the road to end all roads, that hugs the Inverpolly coastline as best it can through some incredible terrain. Shown only as a fine yellow line on our OS map it cuts through amazing scenery and for its entire length the road is barely wide enough to fit a vehicle like ours. In places there were rocks sticking out jaggedly to the right while a stone wall to the left tried to guard us from sliding off into the sea some distance below. Without a doubt Ducky is the largest vehicle one would want to drive along here and the experience was at times a little over-exciting. This thin, tortured, strip of tarmac between the settlement at Badnagyle and the village of Strathan ranks as the most enjoyable piece of road we have ever encountered and driven along. Breath-taking views appear around every turn, once we are skirting the edge of a small loch then next, twisting down a tree-filled river valley (the river being in spate) before turning another corner where tiny inlets cut into the splintered coastline. It is best not to be in a hurry here for who knows whether another like-minded driver will appear around the next corner or when a meandering sheep will materialise in the middle of the road.
And all the while the sun shone for us while the breeze lifted rain clouds over our heads onto the mountains further inland. At Lochinver we took a break to recuperate in the heritage centre, one of the best we have seen, and particularly informative about the geological past of this area, the land having been shaped and re-shaped by ice of immense depth that once covered everything except the biggest summits. The scars left behind are everywhere to see and erratics, boulders transported on the ice and deposited on its melting, lie dotted about like lonely monoliths.
More meandering roads soon bring us to Durness, a place where the road turns east as the land runs out. There are fewer roads to choose from now so we might have seen the last of our tiny yellow twisting lanes for a while but we plan to spend a few days here so this doesn’t matter. Then the campsite manager delivers unsettling news about a spell of bad weather which would prevent us taking the small passenger ferry across the Kyle to visit Cape Wrath. This really does concern us since in this part of the world a local’s definition of bad weather is inevitably going to be pretty extreme, by the standards of those of us from more southerly climes. What concerns us even more is that the campsite seems to offer no pitches which might offer any shelter from the south-westerly gale that is coming and the position we eventually choose feels exposed already even before the gale gets going. In the night that follows we are shaken from side to side as the wind roars around us while torrential wind-blown rain hammers away on the roof. Sleep comes in small parcels as the storm builds to its peak around three in the morning but bang on cue as forecast at seven the sun comes out in force, just like the night never happened.