11am on Sunday, day 6 of our Scottish tour and we were on the road again after leaving Brora Caravan and Motorhome site. Our last site on the east coast as we head up to Scotlands northern ridge to Dunnet Bay Caravan and Motorhome site.
Satnav gave us two options, one across the beautiful open countryside or via Wick, we opted for the countryside route to get our fill of the changing landscape.
Drove through Helmsdale with the sun again beaming above us, looking back we stopped for a quick picture of Pod and the Duster and whilst doing so our heads were filled with the fabulous smell of coconut floating down from the beautiful yellow Gorse growing along the roadside. Apparently, ‘When gorse is in bloom, kissing is in season’.
Arrived on site without any hassle, roads had been good again, no issues at all. Rolled up and booked in as usual, we couldn’t help but see people on the dunes with cameras of every shape and conceivable size, wardens said it could be anything; orcas, dolphins or surfers.
Couldn’t believe our luck either, the site was quite busy but we managed to nab one of the front pitches. Gave a lovely view through the sand dunes down to the beach.
Didn’t take long to set up, just needed a couple of blocks to level out, the tarp and pup tent were working a treat so far too and after a bite to eat were down on that beautiful beach.
Decision was made to make the most of the day that remained so off we went to John O’Groats, about half an hour from the site and easy enough to find. The obligatory picture was taken at the well known sign and we had a walk round the small selection of shops set in a rectangular position facing the sign. Other options seemed a little limited so we decided to head for Dunnet Head as we had been reliably informed this was actually the most northern location in Scotland.
After a little research we discovered that both places had a claim to fame, John O’Groats claimed to be the furthest north inhabited location and Dunnet Head the furthest north location on mainland Britain.
Dunnet Head can be found between the caravan site and O’Groats and it takes you on a winding single track road through what looks like open moor land. We eventually reached a sizeable carpark with the Lighthouse peeping over the ridge.
After a very short walk to the small platform we walked past the Lighthouse and up to the viewing point, brilliant 360deg views were to be had and also some very interesting information about those that served during WW2. ‘Twas a very lonely place to be stationed it seemed.
Back at Pod we availed ourselves of the onsite facilities, this was a new development, spotlessly clean and good hot showers.
Day 7 and we woke to rain, it had rained through the night too and we kind of hoped it would have cleared, but no. It was that really fine stuff that drenched you too, horrible stuff.
A walk had been planned but the weather seemed to be doing its best to cancel that one so we looked at other options.
Castle and Gardens of Mey were about 20 minutes away and a gin distillery was just round the corner from the site. We decided to hit the castle first and call in on the distillery on the way back.
£11.75 ea was handed over and as the next tour wasn’t due for half an hour we ate lunch in the café. Very nice it was too.
We eventually entered the summer home of the late HRH The Queen Mother, no photos were permitted but it was a guided tour and our guide Hazel was a local lass who knew her stuff.
It was lovely to walk through the house and discover her quirky but strong feisty nature. She may have been tiny but she was a force not to be reconnected with.
There’s also a small walled garden and a farm animal petting zoo, should this interest you.
Back in the car we went and yes, it was still raining. We pulled into the carpark of the gin distillery to see most of the cars driving out, it was just after 3pm and we feared we’d missed our chance to look round. After a quick chat with the staff we discovered we had indeed missed our chance, last tour was at 2pm, so for those who would love this, make sure you check the tour timetable.
Feeling a bit miffed we drove back to Pod and the Scrabble board and Glayva came out, not all bad you see.
We whiled away a few hours and after dinner Mat just happened to clock the red sky seeping through the sand dunes.
A mad dash then ensued to get down onto the beach in the hope of a sunset, like two giddy teenagers we ran out of Pod (as best as you can you understand), pulled on coats and were on the beach in seconds.
We just managed to catch it as it disappeared behind Dunnet Head, this didn’t stop us from jogging along the beach though in the hope of that all important shot.
We eventually turned to find the beach to ourselves and we strolled along as the remaining reds and yellows finally dipped below the horizon.
Day 8 arrived, it didn’t look brilliant to start with but it promised to be a dry day, we were on the move again so we hoped the dry weather would be moving with us. Sango Sands was waiting for us, just over 2 hours away.
The scenery was as you’d expect, breathtaking, no doubt the weather helped as the sun was out in all her glory. We could have stopped many times to take pictures but we wanted to get to the site.
The roads were again in good condition, some single track roads but plenty of passing places, some were bigger than others but all doable with a little bit of patience on both sides.
We pulled into Sango Sands Oasis and checked in easy enough, all names of those arriving were displayed on the door with your relevant pitch. We’d been given 13 and were pointed in its general direction.
Couldn’t believe our luck again, rolling along the path we saw 13 and a small yellow reserved sign with our name on. Pod was unhitched and pulled into place at which point we took the few steps to the back to see that we were on the cliff edge, looking down onto the wonderful beach below.
We were now half way round our Scottish trip and were slowly running out of clothes, the sun was out with a breeze blowing in from the sea so a decision was made to make it an ‘admin day’, get our clothes washed and smelling fresh as daisies again, we’d then spend the rest of the day absorbing the beautiful location we had found ourselves in.
Shower blocks were interesting, there are two blocks, one on the right as you enter the site and one on the left, set back into the landscape. We opted for the one set back as it was the nearest and this was the newly built block.
Toilets were set at the front in a separate block, pot washing and campers cooking area set to its right, with washing machines set into the rear of the toilet block.
The new shower block was set behind the toilet block and consisted of unisex showers with two separate family rooms on the left of it. The shower units within the block were very modern, each had a sink and the shower area was large, separated from the sink by a glass barrier. Clothes were washed using the onsite facilities and each cycle of washer and dryer was £2.00ea.
Spar was just off the main road, past the site and within easy walking distance, well stocked but didn’t seem to cater for vegetarians very well, but we bought enough to get us through the next few days and at some point we planned to eat at the sites bar/restaurant.
Once all admin was done and dinner was eaten we walked out of the gate to the left of Pod and down to the bay which had been teasing us all day. A beautiful clean beach surround by the high walls of the bay, idillic, reminded us somewhat of Barricane beach in Devon.
The sun began to set as we walked along the waters edge, out of the sea breeze we clambered along the rock edge doing our best not to get stranded as the tide came in.
Bed time called and the shower block was used, well laid out facilities, worked a treat.
Wednesday morning and day 9. The sun was out and the temperatures were slowly rising, awesome and long may it stay.
Smoo Cave was about 10 minutes away so off we went to explore, the cave is a combined sea and freshwater cave and depending on weather conditions a boat ride is available which takes you to the inner chambers and past the waterfall.
We managed to squeeze onto the small carpark, which also had a toilet block to hand. No charge for parking or entry so on down the well marked path we went.
Once down on the beach entry is gained to the cave via a small wooden bridge, here you get to see the wonderful colours of the rock face and you can hear the waterfall through another smaller entrance which is reached by a small wooden roofed platform.
Water levels were high due to the recent weather so no boat ride today, still a spectacular sight to see.
Once out we walked up the path on the other side of the cave and worked our way to the headland. No breeze blowing and the sun was beating down, no one else was around and the peacefulness was only broken by the occasional call from a pair of arguing seagulls, we could easily of lain on the grassy bank and stayed for the day, totally undisturbed.
We eventually worked our way back to the car and back to Pod, lunch was eaten and we decided to explore the other side of the coastline, so out we went through that gate and turned left up the coastline.
Through the farmers field we went and after scaling a few styles we found ourselves on another unspoilt beach, here we sat and did our best to take it all in. Behind us we could hear the farmer on her quad back as she called her sheepdog back and forth, we couldn’t believe our good fortune with the site and the weather.
Dinner was eaten at the bar/restaurant next to the caravan site, it appears to be affiliated to the site and open to all. Food was good, nothing extra special, the staff were extremely courteous and very polite and helpful, to us that meant more than any fancy meal.
Day 10 arrived with the sun appearing over the headland, it was already heating up and we would soon be on the move, this time we had a 3 hour journey to Gairlock and Sands Caravan and Camping Site. Breakfast was had from the on site butty wagon and within an hour we were on the road again.
The countryside was passed to was amazing, so beautiful. The bright blue sky above, the varying shades of green and brown from the rolling hills to the deep blue of the loch were incredible and add the wildlife to the picture its unbelievable.
A badger made a mad dash across the road in front of us, a weasel did a quick U-turn in the road and to top it all, deer were crossing one of the lochs as they were watched by a young stag way up in the hills.
We eventually reached the site and once booked in we were told we could go anywhere to the right of the site and as long as we were 6m away from any other van we were ok, suited us, so with map in hand on the hunt for a pitch we went.
Down to the huge sand dunes we went and found a sweet little spot backing onto them, great pitch but it meant walking all the way back up to the main area to use any of the facilities, this was okay with us and a worthy price to pay for the location.
Pitched up and beach towels in hand, onto the beach we went, another breathtaking view to be had, sprawling sands in front of us and mountains off in the distance, here we sat until the wind picked up and stomachs called for some attention.
So far we’d spent the holiday sight seeing and we were in need of a few ‘chill days’, this seemed like the perfect location so the decision was made to make our stay at Sands a beach only one and why not.
No Wifi to be had though, with either 3, O2 or EE, for a few pounds we eventually resorted to Highland Wifi, but even this was a bit hit and miss.
Site facilities were spotlessly clean of which there were three areas, two was sited near the caravans and the other in the middle of the camping and motorhome area.
We didn’t venture to two of them, but can say the block near us consisted of toilets and wash basins but only one shower unit, which also included a toilet. On the outside of the block there was a unit for those with mobility issues and a family unit. During our stay here we never experienced an issue getting access to the shower, either people used their ‘vans or we were just lucky with our timing.
Day 11 and we treated ourselves to a wonderful cooked breakfast at the on site café/restaurant, the veggie option wasn’t particularly inspiring so pancakes were ordered instead, we also had access to the cafés Wifi which enabled us to catch up on a few things.
Bank Holiday weekend was soon to be upon us and on leaving the café the population of the site had increased some what, but everyone respected the rules and no one appeared to be encroached upon, including us.
The day was spent on the beach, this was great until the wind changed direction and we then spent a few hours hunting down that warm hidden spot amongst the dunes, soon found one that gave a spectacular view across the cove towards the mountains.
Day 12, on the move again and for a change a ferry is involved …. Part 3.