Via: Inverewe Gardens, Ullapool
Distance: 119 miles
We had a long lie in this morning followed be a leisurely breakfast as our first stop was less than a mile away from the hotel and didn't open until 10 a.m.
We spent a good hour and a half exploring the Inverewe Gardens, part of the National Trust for Scotland in the late morning sunshine. One of Scotland's most visited botanical attractions it's described as a subtropical-style oasis perched on a peninsular on the edge of Loch Ewe.
We then set off up the small single track coast roads towards Ullapool.
At Ullapool we pulled up on the harbour side and had lunch outside the Arch Inn. We both had some very good Cullen Skink. This dish is a thick Scottish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. An authentic Cullen Skink will use finnan haddie, but it may be prepared with any other un-dyed smoked haddock.
Sat in the sunshine in this little fishing village that feels somewhat like the end of the world, we laughed as we listened to a group of Edinburgh lads recovering from their stag. They had clearly just got out of bed or had carried straight through from the night before. It appeared that though Dougie's I-phone was still ringing, it was probably at the bottom of the sea bed after he had jumped naked off the pier at about 4 a.m. in the morning along with some local girls.
Ullapool is both remote and small. The last time I was here was in 2008 on an Iron Butt motorcycle rally, I arrived late at night, ate fish and chips on the front and then found that I was stuck there as the only petrol station was closed. Locals took me into the pub where they found the petrol station owner who kindly opened up so that I could continue the rally. I have fond memories of riding into Ullapool as the sunset that night and it was nice to spend a little time revisiting the place.
After a well earned break we took a relaxing wander round the town and checking out the local craft market and tourist stores. It's nice to have a few activities off the bike today.
From Ullapool we took the A835 and then the A837 riding for an hour or so to Ardvreck Castle, the 13th century seat of the MacLeods of Assynt, a picturesque ruin on the edge of a Loch Assynt worthy of a role in any Highlander movie.
After Ardvreck we were soon back on single track roads again, many of which were lined with bright yellow flowering scrub which we supposed might be Broom. Though the roads are narrow and windy in this part of the world, they are invariably very quiet, allowing a biker to make good progress or just potter on at low speeds - its nice to travel without the requirement or urge to keep up with, or pass other traffic. It's rare in the UK to have the roads to yourself.
After the very occasional stop on the single track road to let others by, or for others to let us past, we pulled up in the north west corner of Scotland at Durness.
We were staying at the Mackays Rooms, a chic B&B which is part of a local complex including a boarding house, B&B and some high-end eco-pod type abodes. We heartily recommend it.
In the evening we walked down to the road to the Sango Sands Oasis a 1970s style pub/restaurant affair attached to the local campsite. We had a couple of beers while watching Andy Murray play in the French Open and then ate in the restaurant.
The meals were true to the 1970's feel of the place with salads that included, boiled egg, grated cheese, strawberries, tinned peach and greens. I had the Crofter's Grill which included gammon, sirloin, venison, sausages, black pudding and tinned baby carrots and peas! We finished off the meal with a retro ice cream dessert. Its tacky retro-ness, and tastiness made it one of the most fun meals we have had on the trip.
To work of dinner we went for a walk on the local sandy beach making the most of the late evening light this far north. This part of the world has lots of remote, and quiet sandy beaches, definitely a good way to spend a day if you have the time (and weather) when touring Scotland.