Well, here we are on our last day in Scotland and our NC500 adventure – and what an adventure it has been! I know it’s almost the end of the trip for two reasons: 1) We’re definitely travelling downhill as we’re going faster (or is that the most amazing roads – more on that later) and 2) the weather has started to improve such that now we need a break to cool off not warm up! Not complaining too much though as quite honestly the weather hasn’t mattered a bit. Sunny days are a bonus not essential as far as I’m concerned.
Anyway, where were we? Oh, I know, we were at that apology of a place called John O’Groats. The hotel wasn’t much to shout about either – and charged a premium. Note to self, DO NOT bother to stay anywhere near there next time. The roads in the top corner that was Thurso – J O’G – Wick you can stick where the sun doesn’t shine frankly (and it wasn’t) and we’re definitely the worst of the whole of the NC500 route. Definitely need to speed through that bit in future. Once past there though it started to improve again and, after a cheer-us-up coffee and cake stop, the roads started to deliver the grin factor again. Happy days. What’s more, Tim got two, yes two, lighthouse visits this day – a bog-off if you please. The first was just outside Wick was, frankly, it’s only high point (see what I did there) was at Noss Head. There was a nice walk along to a derelict castle too so there we are. In the photos it’s the phone we’re the sun wasn’t shining (see above). The second was in a very lovely place. We’d stopped in again for a bit of lunch and then headed out to Tarbat Ness. The views were stunning looking out across the Moray Firth – amazing beaches, real gem of a place called Portmahomack which I swear looked more like it belonged on the French Riviera and my first encounter with a Great Skua which was very exciting indeed. Mind you reading up about them afterwards I discovered that they can be more than a bit feisty so maybe I was wise to keep my distance!
After another stop over in Inverness – and great chat with a bunch of lads from Leicestershire – we headed off again to our next stop in amongst the Speyside distilleries (oh dear). The road to begin with was quite business like but as soon as you got along the distillery trail route, the roads and scenery took a definite turn for the better. There are over 50 distilleries in Speyside region – the greatest concentration of distilleries than in any other region – and seeing all the famous names en route is quite amazing. There was only one we were interested in though and that’s Aberlour as this is Will’s favourite whisky. Our stopover for the night was the very lovely Mash Tun whisky bar in Aberlour so what could possibly go wrong?! First though, a visit to the distillery and then a super walk along the River Spey and the discovery of the Speyside trail – some of which is a disused railway line (our fave) – which we walked a bit of but clocked as something to return to with the bicycles. Then after a well earned beer/G&T and dinner it was down to checking out a few whiskies! Mind you, best not to get too carried away as they have some 1950s vintage bottles where a wee nip will set you back over £1000 plus a time. Yes. 3 noughts, no typo.
Anyway, a lovely night and great place to note for future stays. Excellent.
Next morning it was back in the saddle and off down into the Scottish Borders. The weather was sunny again – told you we were on our way home!! – and some of the nicest roads to be enjoyed to the full. First up the A95 from Aberlour to Bridge of Avon, then the A9008 to a very natty sounding place of Tomintoul, before the just as scenic A939 to Ballater and a coffee stop. I tell you, the scenery was so amazing I was beginning to wonder about house prices. Not kidding. We had entered Cairngorm National Park territory. Enough said. Then, when you thought it couldn’t get prettier or better it did both. The road from Ballater to Braemar was a beaut – no wonder Queenie has her gaff there (Balmoral to the less initiated) – and Braemar was full of bikes parked up a la Matlock Bath. Pourquoi? asks I. Then, heading out on the A93 you begin to understand. Glen Shee to Blairgowrie and views to die for – well, not preferably – but it certainly made up for a couple of similar Glens that we didn’t see to their very best advantage due to low cloud earlier in the trip. Also, apologies for all the road naming, but I really want to remember them for next time lol.
We had to hot foot it a bit after Perth so hopped onto the M90 only to have a satnav fail which ended up with us going right through the middle of Edinburgh!!! Not what was planned and took ages. It was also very busy indeed with lots of people out and about (COVID what COVID?!) but our journey was saved with the final leg to Melrose along the A7 which ended up being a nice sweepy one.
Well, tomorrow it’s off to Leicestershire and then back to Cornwall. Can’t believe we’re nearly at the end of what has been a fantastic trip and one which has seen Nev well and truly become part of the family.
Here’s to many more adventures…..