North Coast 500: Part three

Day Five

12 things we learned on our trip today:

1. Whilst you can take a short cut, the detour is always better.
2. The Highland Mile is longer than your average mile (I would say it’s approximately double the length).
3. I’m unable to pronounce any Scottish place names correctly.
4. When you have so much scenery you need to master your best Japanese tourist routine. Car, shot, car.
5. This sheer amount of scenery is overwhelming. I’m now emotional.
6. If a restaurant is good enough for Michael Winner, it’s good enough for us. (Lochinver Larder)
7. It’s okay to eat pie at 11.30am.
8. is a real thing.
9. Ullapool should win an award for the petrol station with the best view.
10. You can get formal gardens this far north – Inverewe is a gorgeous 1930s house on the banks of Loch Ewe.
11. Scottish pot holes are bigger than English ones.
12 We can beat the hotel view from yesterday, just throw in a massive Scottish Munro.

We finally reached The Torridon, our last hotel on the 500, the very hotel that kick started the idea of this trip for us when I was inspired by the photo of a friend of their floor to ceiling whisky collection. It looked like Mecca for Hubby. We arrived to all its turreted glory, happy in the thought of having the chance of two nights in one place. Packing & unpacking is our least favourite part of a road trip, especially as we don’t know how to travel light.

We dined at the local inn that evening & were more than pleasantly surprised to find some great live music. It was just a chap & a few guitars doing covers but putting his own stamp on each tune. He did an incredible rendition of Romeo and Juliet that I will always remember. Music is transportive so we settled in for the night, Hubby accompanied by a whisky or two…or maybe more.

Day Six

We had a rare opportunity to explore the local area. We set our heart on getting some height so on went the walking gear, & off we went in search of a Golden Eagle in the Beinn Eighe range. We didn’t have the best of starts, finding the visitor centre closed, but found a mountain walk that would give us some views. We weren’t disappointed & the weather was kind. The eagles less so, nowhere to be seen. Although finding a stag later on our journey back more than made up for it. We had lunch in a cute little cafe called the WhistleStop, soon to be no more. Then it was back to the Hotel to relax & enjoy its comforts. It was a hot chocolate kind of an afternoon! We read a little & had a doze. You know the sort of afternoon I mean.

We had a wonderful dinner in the 1887 hotel restaurant. It was fine dining Scottish style. It’s a small hotel with only 18 rooms so the guests are friendly and there was lots of chatting. And whisky drinking on Hubby’s part (there’s a theme here).

Day Seven

We fuelled on a decent Scottish breakfast (more tattie scones) & were on the road again. This was our final coastline stretch that travelled west along Loch Torridon then south down to Applecross. It was just before this point that we hit our own 500-mile marker. This was just a few miles before we took on Bealach na ba, a very steep overpass that culminated in a hairpin descent down to Loch Kishom. It was a slightly nervy drive as our turbo was omitting a rather unpleasant burning smell. It wouldn’t have been a fun place to breakdown. We took respite at the bottom to let the engine cool & have a coffee & cake.

Our final miles took us back across to Inverness, a very easy road just above the Stratchconon Forest. I ensured we popped into the Glen Ord Distillery, home of the Singleton whisky. The name has nothing to do with the Singleton family name, it’s really based on words that denotes it’s a single malt. What we also learned is that the Singleton of Dufftown (that you find in supermarkets) is for a British market, Hubby really hates it. They ship the better whisky for the European & Asian markets which Hubby was much more enamoured with. A few purchases later & we were ready for the finish line. We crossed the Inverness bridge with pride & 580miles under our belt. We didn’t stop & continued on down to Perth via a short stop for Fish and Chips in Aviemore.

Day Eight

There was a special reason for staying in Perth as I had my heart set on visiting Scone Palace. I have for some years wanted to see the original Dido Elizabeth Murray painting, subject of the film ‘Belle’. This was a visit of indulgence & I was blessed to see it early on a Monday morning, meaning I had some quiet time with the painting. No photos allowed, just memories. We had a wander around the grounds, we took on the maze, we got photo bombed by an albino peacock. Our visit ended at a cafe with a plethora of baked treats. One ploughman’s, a tea for two, and two home-made biscuits later, we very reluctantly set off.

The End of the Road

NC500 is definitely related to our Route 66 trip, but more like a distant cousin, several times removed. Just as incredible, astonishing & somewhat overwhelming. So that’s us done.
One route with;
Two drivers
Three stags
Four hotels
Five bottles of whisky
Six official days

And you know what? It was a good reminder to move forward and not focus too much on that rear-view mirror!