Friday 7th October – Balnakiel to Scourie

Friday 7th October – Balnakiel to Scourie

I had an interesting night at Balnakiel Craft Village last night, it’s worth a visit to the craft centres & locally made chocolate cafe/shop. Interestingly there are around 26 permanent & several more seasonal residents, there are no children of school age. The village offers a unique way of life to people with initiative & imagination!

Today I left the north coast & headed for Scourie on the west coast, before leaving I had a quick ride to Balnakiel beach it’s a lovely quiet sandy cove.

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A couple of miles from Balnakiel I followed the shoreline which looks over to Cape Wrath, I passed the jetty where the boat goes over there, it was deserted as the service stopped at the end of September for the winter. I then came upon the mother of all hills – ‘the beast of Riconnich’ , I knew about as I’d been warned it was a long long climb, a narrow road with passing places. On the way I passed a well mounted in concrete, dedicated to those who built the road in 1883. There is also the site of a crashed WW2 Mosquito aircraft somewhere up here but it’s location is only known to a few people. There is also a legend that a wolf was seen in the Glen centuries after the last wolf in Scotland was shot centuries before between Brora & Helmsdale. There’s another legend that some 20 or so years ago the body of a man was found in a tent on the hillside (unconnected to the wolf!), he apparently died in mysterious circumstances. The Glen appears to be a bit of an altogether eerie place.

After the long climb I was rewarded with a long sweeping descent during which I had to dodge a couple of Morgan sports cars & a number of motor homes coming the other way. I then came upon the Riconnich Hotel, it wasn’t open at the time but obviously does do B&B there, however they are obviously anti cyclist as there is a sign saying no cycles allowed inside the reception.

Opposite the hotel was a police house/post, the house & hotel are situated in the most remote of parts, the police post was still in operation but no one lives there & I assume it’s only staffed when needed. It must have been a brilliant posting ‘back in the day’ as it’s the most north westerly police post in Britain, it’s actually situated on the edge of Lovh Inchard & its title is/was Kinlochbervie police post, currently part of Police Scotland but formerly part of the Northern Constabulary (now a defunct police force). img_1951-edited

I carried on came to Laxford Bridge, there’s a road junction here where one of them goes to the town of Lairg 30 miles away. I need to come back to this junction tomorrow when I head in that direction. My destination of Scourie was 6 miles from here & it was a bit of an undulating road, it’s got a couple of hills but they shouldn’t be a problem when I come back tomorrow.

I reached the village of Scourie where I’m staying tonight at 16:00hrs & checked out the local hotel so I could eat there later. It was closed & obviously has been for a while. I located my B&B just down the road from the hotel, stabled up Diana for the night, dropped my bags in my room & wandered down to the local beach & harbour, it was almost sunset so I sat for a while watching the sun go down. It was the best sunset I saw on this trip!

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img_1969Scourie (Scots GaelicĀ Sgobhairigh) is a village situated halfway between Ullapool & Durness, it’s in the traditional county of Surherland. It’s the birthplace of Hugh Mackay, a British General in the 17th century. Nearby is the island of Handa, a nature reserve & site of a large seabird colony including puffins, skuas, guillemots & razorbills. Scourie House down by the harbour has palm trees in its grounds claimed to be the most northerly specimens in the world not grown in artificial conditions, however this is contested as they are native of New Zealand & the people of Cornwall are annoyed that no one takes any notice of the palm trees which grow down there. Scourie plays host to the home matches of shinty team ‘Kinlochbervie Camanachd Club’ (great name!). Shinty is a team game played with sticks & balls played in the Scottish Highlands, in essence it’s probably a violent game of rounders played by drunk Scotsmen.

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