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North Coast 500: Part 3 – Explore the East Coast

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The North Coast 500 route finally reaches the north east corner of mainland Scotland at John O’Groats. Be sure to take the obligatory photo at the famous sign, then head a whisker further east along the single track road to Duncansby Head. From the lighthouse it’s a three kilometre walk across the grassy cliff tops to the Stacks of Duncansby, two stunning sea-stacks with dramatic cliffs as their backdrop.

Duncansby Stacks

Duncansby Stacks

From here the journey turns south. The north east coast has a stark beauty with open fields and rugged sea views. For history buffs there are a number of prehistoric sites located slightly inland but well signposted from the main road, including the Cairn o’ Get, Hill o’ Many Stanes and Grey Cairns of Camster.

Whaligoe Steps

Less easy to find are the Whaligoe Steps. Keep an eye out for the crossroads where a sign points to the Cairn o’Get monument. Take the road opposite past a row of fishermen’s cot-tages until you come to a car park. You can then walk down the steep man-made stairway of 365 flagstone steps that leads to a natural harbour. Protected by two 250ft-high sea cliffs, the harbour provides a popular nesting place for terns and oystercatchers. In the 1700s the steps were used by fisherwomen to carry creels of fish from the vessels landing at the harbour below.

Dunrobin Castle, Golspie

Dunrobin Castle, Golspie

Just outside Golspie is Dunrobin Castle, the largest castle in the Northern Highlands. Its origins lie in the Middle Ages although most of the current castle was built in the 19th Century. There are regular falconry displays and the beautiful gardens are great for a wander.

Further south is the historic village of Dornoch, famed for its stunning beaches and the Royal Dornoch links course which is consistently been voted among the world’s top golf courses.

Looking north from the Black-Isle to Easter Ross

Looking north from the Black-Isle to Easter Ross

This east coast stretch of the NC500 route has much to offer for whisky fans, starting with Old Pulteney in Wick. While the popular seaside village of Brora is known for its unspoiled beach (you may spot dolphins and minke whales), it’s also home to the Clynelish Distillery. There’s also the famous Glenmorangie near Tain, as well Balblair near Edderton and Dal-more near Alness. All five distilleries offer tours and samplings.

It’s worth making a final pit stop at the Storehouse of Foulis at Evanton. You can enjoy home cooking including enormous fresh scones while taking in views of the Cromarty Firth and Black Isle. There are often seals lounging on the shoreline nearby. From there it’s a short drive back to Inverness to finish your epic journey.

Inverness City

Inverness City

With huge thanks to Michael Surmon of Out there Campervans for this fabulous tour of the North Coast 500 – now get out there and do it!

Inverness Photo © Jiri Skripsky. For more pictures visit www.skripsky-foto.ch
All others © Dennis Hardley www.dennishardley.com

For North Coast 500 route map and GPS information visit the NC 500 website

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