No trip to Edinburgh seems right without a visit to the castle on The Rock. This guy is one of many, who take shifts, to play the pipes outside the entrance to the castle.
To be honest, the castle was a disappointment to us. Perhaps if a person has some Scottish connection, it would be more significant, but for us it was a bit of a damp squib. However it did give us this view. which intrigued us and we decided that it would be a good place to and get a view of the city from. The bump on the left is known as Arthur's Seat (perhaps as in King Arthur?) and the cliffs face is called The Crags.
But before we could go anywhere, we needed a little sustenance and we found this delightful Mediterranean restaurant down a side street off the Royal mile.
The gorse was out in full bloom! We have gorse down south, but it never, ever gives us such prolific and beautiful displays as this!
Aaaah! The two love birds on a stroll. The wind was ferocious and my cap was almost blown off several times and the lady has an interesting hairstyle!
Once we got back to town we found an interesting sign that really piqued my interest
The following morning we went to see a Tartan store and found that they have an official South African Tartan, along with many other countries too.
Here is a short video of Tartan being created:
We had a brilliant Cypriot breakfast at this cafe, the two mornings that we were in Edinburgh. Basically a green salad with 2 peeled boiled eggs (and Turkish sausage for me :) )
We then found our way to Hertz where we had rented a car. The last time we rented, in SA, we had a free upgrade to an Audi A4. This time, because the car we had chosen wasn't available, we were upgraded to a top of the range Nissan Qashqai - really pleasant indeed!
A long drive ensued - 5 and a half rainy hours up to John O'Groats, where I deposited my dear lady for her knitting retreat while I carried on driving to Thurso where I was based for a couple of days.
The region of Scotland we were in is called Caithness.
On my first day of being a single man, I wandered off to Dunnet Head, but found this view of Dunnet Beach first.
Dunnet Head is the furthest north one can go on the British island.
I just loved all the different could formations. Usually clouds (in the south) are just grey amorphous masses with no definition, so these were delightful to see.
Beyond the mainland are the Orkney Islands. This is Hoy and the finger of stone sticking up to the left is The Old Man of Hoy, which I hope to visit one day.
Some of the local wildlife - northern grey seals. They are quite skittish, so I snuck a quick photo then jumped back into the car.
I stopped off at Dunnet Beach on my way back and took this photo across the bay, before walking along it.
In the middle of this very long beach, I found these abandoned sandcastles.
After a good night's rest, I woke up to a drizzly day, but was determined to walk to Holborn Head. Along the way I walked this path which has flagstones to demarcate the fields. This was a very common way of doing it in days gone by, especially as Thurso was the centre of the flagstone industry, exporting to all parts of England and Europe, before concrete stones took over the market.
The sun beginning to peek out from the rainclouds lit the lighthouse at Scrabster beautifully!
The heroes who do sea rescue have this beautiful little beast to do their work with. Hats off to all of these volunteers.
Not much, but a bit of wildlife, other than the ubiquitous sheep!
At Holborn Head there is a cairn which was increased by yours truly with a smallish stone that I found along the way.
You can see the strata in the rocks that would have been split for flagstones. Nature is persistent and the plant has found a small spot to flourish.
On the way back I found some bluebells on a ledge overlooking the beach - beautiful!
As I was admiring these bluebells, I was accosted by a furry creature demanding attention!
What a gorgeous girl.
And then there was this.....
It is actually a model of HMS Valiant in the local museum
It was time for me to fetch my better half from her sojourn at John O'Groats and then we were off south again, but this time to spend a week at Berriedale. The roads here are not very wide and this was taken on a hairpin bend, looking down at the property we were to stay in, the last one on the left. A couple of days later we were in the town of Wick, where a fabric store had enticed someone in only to discover that the owner lived at no 2 Portland Terrace and we were in No 3!!! Talk about a small world.
I love trees. I love rivers. I love old stone bridges and I love that lady crossing the bridge - a whole lotta love going on here.
Notice the colour of the water rushing under the bridge. This comes from the tannins released by the peat.
And the trees were all covered in lichens - just wonderful.
This is the view from the hill we climbed on the other side. It is such a beautiful place.
Then there was more local wildlife - first this beetle scurrying about.....
...and then this butterfly.
On our wanderings, we came across some strange towns. This was the small harbour at Latheronwheel. You can see the degree to which they have to go to protect their boats from the storms. Plenty of little harbours, all with similar designs against the weather.
Did you know that Scotland had it's very own Gold Rush?
You can still go panning for gold here. All you need to do is to write your name and address on some paper and deposit it into a box and that allows you to pan! As we did not have the hardware to do so, we settled for a walk along the river. Here we found these falls.
A little further up, I got down really close to water level for this shot of the babbling brook.
And then high into the hills we found this abandoned corral. There are many examples of abandoned buildings of all kinds in the countryside, reminders of the Scottish Clearances. A very traumatic event in their history. Humans can be such unpleasant people sometimes.
As we decided to turn back we noticed that we were being watched from the top of the hills...
There is a wonderful cafe at Whaligo Steps (http://www.whaligoesteps.co.uk)which is well worth a stop (if you can find it!!!) if you are up this far north. There is a flight of steps to the "harbour" below. There used to be 365 of them, but a few have been replaced with grass now that they are no longer hauling their catch up and all sorts of things down. The womenfolk used to haul the catch up to the top, then carry it to the town of Wick 7 miles away - hard life in this days! The barrels of salted herrings were taken away by ship from below.
Anyway, for us there were a number of birds nesting on the cliffs and here we have the Shag
And the Razorbill
This is a view of the steps from the bottom.The "chimney" looking hole is where a mast was stuck up so they could dry and mend the nest from it. The other hole was for a parafine lamp.