Our days had passed quickly and before we knew it we were on the homestretch.
It was our final morning yet for the first time on our trip, we woke up in a structurally sound bedroom. Our lodgings that night had been somewhat unconventional but more than comfortable. The boys affectionately referred to it as the trailer park, but honestly, I think it was more special than that. I would recommend Sleeperzzz to anyone looking for an affordable nights sleep with a truly unique twist.
Our first adventure of the day was a trip to Rogie Falls, not far from Inverness. It wasn’t the first waterfall of our trip, but it was the first that we actually experienced in the sunshine which made it all the more scenic. It also meant the short walk from the car to the falls was more enjoyable, as the sun’s rays pushed through the leafy trees above us and shone a glittering light on our path.
Once back in the car we drove towards Clootie Well. While I had done a little research, I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and when we arrived I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it… Said to be an old pilgrim tradition, strips of cloth were tied to trees surrounding springs and wells as part of a healing ritual.
However, the modern day manifestation of this practice, I’d imagine, is somewhat different to what it was originally. As we walked through the woodland we saw old clothes, flags, tea towels and even shoes tied to the trees. I appreciate most of these tributes were made with some attempt at keeping the old tradition alive, but it really just seemed like glorified littering to me. Maybe I’m just a snob though.
We continued our drive east towards Rosemarkie and the very picturesque Fairy Glen where we took a short walk through the woods. I think it would be easy to dismiss these woods as a dark, slightly damp, almost swampy environment. However, if you really took a minute to really appreciate your surroundings, there was something quite magical about it and it was easy to see why it was called the Fairy Glen.
After our walk it was time for lunch so we made our way to the Plough Inn, the quaint little pub we had passed on our way in to town. Here, I ordered my first Diet Coke of many that day, while the boys ordered their first beer. In a form of Karma their beers were on the warm side which wasn’t great for a hot day like this.
While in the Black Isle area, it would be rude not to stop in at the Black Isle Brewery, as they make one of my favourite beers – Black Isle Blonde. The brewery fulfilled all of my hippie expectations. At the end of a little pothole infested road we found a quirky metal building surrounded by a fairly rustic garden. It was the type of place that I just wanted to hover around long enough for them to offer me a job.
Inside, we were informed that Black Isle had actually opened a tap room in the centre of Inverness, just down the street from a gelataria. This was enough persuasion for us to put any of our other plans for the day on hold. While I couldn’t have a beer, my ice cream options were unrestricted so it seemed like a winning option all round. I was kindly allowed to eat an ice cream in the beer garden while posing with a beer for effect.
Although we had planned for multiple other stops, time dictated that we would have to just choose one. We decided Duffus castle would be our grande finale. Much like the other castles we had visited, there wasn’t much left of it. Often with ruins, it is this that makes them so interesting as you can wander round and imagine what was once there. The planning and engineering that once went it to building such structures is quite formidable really and the fact that so many of them are in part still standing really is a testament to this.
We drove to Buckie, where we said farewell to Dave before beginning our drive back to Aberdeen. While we didn’t do anything particularly outstanding on our last day, it is still the day with some of my fondest memories. I guess sometimes it’s the little laughs with your closest friends that make the best memories.
The North Coast 500 was an enchanting but at times, challenging experience. However, it is one that I would happily repeat. With nicer weather and a little more time, I imagine we could greatly improve on our first experience.
While the weather in Scotland is difficult to predict, our time is a factor we have greater control over. Making more to time to do what we love is something we can all benefit from, as it’s the memories we make in this time that will become our most valuable possessions.