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Hazel Mackay, from our Business Group, and her family, husband Gordon, son Blair and daughter Isla, recently bought a campervan (Bonnie) with the intention of getting out and about and seeing more of our beautiful countryside, and boy, did they do it in style! So, with 1 campervan, 4 bikes and 1 boat, they set off for a three week adventure along Scotland's answer to Route 66, the North Coast 500 (NC500). Here are some of the highlights of the trip.
Setting off from Newtonmore on a sunny July day, they decided to travel East to West, saving some of the best scenery in the world to last. First stop was Rosemarkie and Chanory Point on the Moray Firth, where they watched bottlenose dolphins playing in the sea.
On to Embo and the Grannie's Heilan Hame campsite, where Hazel spent happy times as a child. However, Hazel was disappointed that the area had become much more commercialised with the passage of time - so they packed up and moved on to Duncansbay Head to see the sea stacks.
John O'Groats (pictured here) was a must visit, and then to the next campsite at Dunnet Bay and a visit to Mary-Ann's Cottage. Mary-Ann Calder's cottage was built by her grandfather in 1850 and lived in unaltered by three generations until Mary-Ann went into a nursing home in 1990 aged 93. The cottage is not a museum, all the furniture and fittings being authentic, and Hazel says well worth a visit.
Durness in the far north-west Highlands was a great hit with the kids especially a trip on a small boat into Smoo Cave (see picture below left). This spectacular sea cave has one of the largest entrances to any sea cave at 50ft high and is surrounded by legend and myth.
The next phase of the adventure hadn't been pre-booked by the family, and they enjoyed the freedom to explore and book campsites as they went along. Loch Clash at Kinlochbervie was the next stop - an ideal place to have the campervan serviced, the cost of which goes back into the local community. On to the Kylesku bridge and a "scary" drive to Achemelvich for the night with single track roads, 25% gradients and bucket lorries!
On to Achiltibuie and the scenery gets even better (if that's possible) with beautiful mountains and beaches and breath-taking views over the Summer Isles. Hazel had been given lots of advice on where to go by Matt Constable and Nick Roche from one of our clients Heart of Scotland Tours, and took the opportunity to meet up with Nick and his family to climb Stac Pollaidh. Although the day was damp and drizzling with rain, the midges were still biting at 2000 ft!
A visit to the Corrieshalloch Gorge near Ullapool had been recommended and didn't fail to impress. One of the natural wonders of the Highlands, it can be crossed by a wobbly Victorian suspension bridge - Hazel's vertigo was certainly being tested on this holiday.
Again off the beaten track, to Mellon Udrigle beach, the favourite of the many wonderful beaches visited, taking in Inverewe Gardens on the road to Gairloch. Leaving from the Independent Kingdom of Islonia, Ian the boatman took the family on a boat trip to collect seafood from the creels. A delicious dinner at the campervan of mackerel, crab, squat lobster and octopus added to the small sea of shellfish already consumed on the trip.
Another test for Hazel's vertigo, the infamous winding Bealach na Ba single track road through the mountains from Applecross (see pictured below right) - the kids loved it and thought it was "better than the rides in Florida".
Glen Nevis was the last stop, then home to reflect on an amazing family holiday. Lots of fresh air, hiking, cycling, fishing, zip wires, beaches, sunsets, seafood, good company and even the weather had been kind. However, as Hazel's auld dad always says "It's no the weather in Scotland to blame, yir just no wearin the right jackit"!