Driving to Durness

One of the reasons I wanted to visit the northern part of Scotland was because my latest book is set there. (Actually parts of the last three.) My Notorious Highlander takes place in June and July in the Durness and Assynt area, and I wanted to be sure I was getting the setting and climate correct. I've been to Scotland mostly when it's cold, windy and rainy, but I knew it had to be warmer in summer, right? Yes! :) It was a beautiful sunny day when we drove from Ullapool up to Durness. It was in the 60s or around 70 degrees.

Ardmair Beach
 Three miles north of Ullapool we spotted a beautiful view over a loch with a good pull off parking spot. I had to stop and take pictures. (I do this a lot.)

Ardmair Beach looks out over Loch Kanaird and Isle Martin, to the right. Isle Martin is a nature reserve owned and managed by a charitable trust of the local community. A ferry transports visitors out in summer. Ardmair is a fishing village. You can see the peak of Ben Mor Coigach to the north (above.) Lots of visitors and tourists climb this mountain.

 I found the pebble beach at Ardmair to be the most fascinating and interesting one I've ever visited. As you can see, the pebbles are all flat, round disk shaped stones of various sizes, smaller ones closer to the water and bigger ones closer to the bank.

We stopped beside the road to view Stac Pollaidh (Anglicized to Stack Polly,) apparently from the Norse, Stakkr Polla which means "the pinnacle of the pool river." This is a really beautiful and interesting mountain, just over 2000 feet in height. We didn't get to walk to it but apparently there's a good path up most of it. I hope to go back and visit it one day! I love walking and hiking in Scotland, as long as it isn't too difficult. I've read that it's a three hour walk. It is said the views from up there are amazing. You need a beautiful, calm, warm day such as this to hike up a mountain.

Stac Pollaidh

Loch Awe
We stopped at a small beautiful loch, which we were surprised to find was named Loch Awe. There is another much larger Loch Awe in Argyll. The loch is so subtle, with soft edges of grass, it's almost difficult to see. Men were out in a boat, fishing there.

Loch Awe

Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt
Our next stop was Ardvreck Castle and Calda House. We'd visited Ardvreck once before, but this was our first stop at Calda House. I was glad the weather was so much nicer than our last trip. I'll do separate blog posts about our stops here, but I wanted to show you a few pics. The natural beauty of this castle's surroundings is stunning. Ever since the first time I passed by this castle, going 60 MPH on a tour bus, I've been determined to go back and visit as often as possible. This place speaks to me on a deep level, and I had to use the setting in my books. The MacLeods of Assynt built the castle and lived here. The hero of My Notorious Highlander is a MacLeod. And though I've renamed my castle Munrick, it is based on Ardvreck.

Calda House

Ardvreck Castle

Here I am with Ardvreck Castle ruin and the incredible mountains behind me.

Loch Assynt
 My husband and I were taking turns driving, and after our stop here was when our brilliant GPS took us ten miles out of the way. Instead of turning onto the A894 to Durness, we kept going straight on the A837. But I have to say it was a very scenic and beautiful drive along Loch Assynt, and through the mountains to the coastal village of Lochinver. I didn't take any photos in this village because I was busy navigating the very narrow streets. Plus, we were kind of annoyed at the GPS and trying to figure out what went wrong. I parked in a tiny spot by the street that wasn't really a parking place, and my husband didn't like it. But, I'll be honest, I had to find a restroom. :)  Public toilets, as they are called in Scotland, are difficult to find in this area of the Highlands because the villages and towns are few and far between. The beautiful mountains and nature rule here.

 I was on the lookout for heather, and we saw lots of it in bloom on the rocky road banks.

It's about 67 miles from Ullapool to Durness, so we needed to make quick time if we were going to spend any time looking around Durness. The map says it takes 1 hour and 44 minutes to drive it, but with our side trip, my frequent pull-offs to take pictures, spending 30 – 45 minutes at Ardvreck, and the fact that I don't drive 60 MPH on those tiny, narrow roads, it took us far longer than that to reach Durness.

The two lane road and pull off with the mountains in the distance.
Road construction was also going on, which delayed us. Once you get closer to Durness, the roads turn from two lane to one lane, or single track as it's called in the UK. So we had to reduce our speed even more and pull over often to allow oncoming cars to pass. There was quite a bit of traffic. It was July, so I suppose it's the main tourist season for them. Driving on a single track road where there is a lot of traffic can be a real pain, especially considering some of the pull off places are only big enough for one car, so if there are two or three vehicles in a row, it can cause a traffic jam or cause someone to have to drive on the grass. LOL But all in all, it's an adventure and I loved it. It is customary to raise your hand at those who pull off for you, in order to thank them, or vice versa (to say you're welcome if you were the one who pulled over.) Most people are very friendly, whether residents or visitors.

 Single track road leading down to Balnakeil Bay where much of My Notorious Highlander is set.

 I'm not sure the name of this loch, but you can see the mood of the Highlands is starting to change.

In future posts, I'll share more pics of Ardvreck Castle, Calda House, Balnakeil Bay and Sango Bay.
Thanks!! :)

Chief Torrin MacLeod vows to possess and wed the spirited lady who stole his heart the previous winter. But Lady Jessie MacKay wants naught to do with the dangerous warrior, no matter how devilishly handsome and charming he is. When Torrin arrives unexpectedly at Jessie's home, along with Gregor MacBain, a man Jessie was formerly handfasted to, she is thrown off-kilter. She never wanted to see either man again, but now they are vying for her hand. Torrin promises to protect her from the devious MacBain, but how can she trust Torrin when she has witnessed how lethal he is? 

The more time Torrin spends with the strong and independent Jessie, the more determined he is to win her heart. Once she allows him a kiss, he feels her passion flame as hot as his own. After she knows Torrin better, Jessie finds herself falling for the fearsome Highlander. But the odds are stacked against them. The sinister MacBain is bent on kidnapping Jessie, making her his bride and killing Torrin, while Jessie's conniving younger brother, Haldane, is determined to use Jessie to take over the castle in his older brother's absence. Jessie fears she can never be with the man she loves, while Torrin will do everything in his power to ensure they are together forever. In his heart, she is the only lady for him. 
Read Chapter One!

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Lyn Horner said...

Glorious photos! And your book sounds like a great read.

Terri Brisbin said...

I made the same drive in mid-September and it is spectacular! I drove for nearly 45 minutes on the single-track road without seeing another car!

Can't wait to go back!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks so much, Lyn!

Vonda Sinclair said...

It is one of the most awesome drives, isn't it, Terri? I loved it! In the off season there are very few cars on those roads, which makes it way easier to drive, but on the other hand that makes it seem so remote, like you are alone in the world. We have also driven it in May when there was less traffic.

Alexa Bourne said...

OMG, I miss Scotland so much! Beautiful pics and a great sounding book. Thanks for sharing!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Alexa! So glad you like them. I miss it too! :(

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Loch Assynt is absolutely gorgeous. I am thinking the GPS just wanted to make sure you wouldn't miss it. :)

You know your photos made me homesick again. What a great day for all of your photos. Thanks, Vonda.

Vonda Sinclair said...

I'm sure that's it, Paisley! The GPS wanted to make sure we saw more of the beauty of Scotland. And there's lots of it on these side roads. Thanks for checking it out!

Vanessa Holland said...

What a beautiful place! I love that rock beach. The views there are spectacular. Thanks for sharing!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks for checking it out, Vanessa! It was one of my favorite beaches, so fascinating with the flat round stones.

Lana Williams said...

Absolutely gorgeous photos! Tweeted as well!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thank you, Lana!!

Carole St-Laurent said...

This makes me want to visit Scotland. Bad. Thanks for sharing!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Carol, great! I'm glad it has inspired you to start planning your trip! :) Go for it!

Unknown said...

Some day I shall make note of all the wonderful places you share with us and take a tour of it all. Thanks for sharing your delightful journey. The photos are amazing and pull me right in. Wishing you lots of success with your book!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thank you, Gemma! I'm so happy to share my travels with you guys. If you or anyone is interested, I'm keeping a list of my Scotland blog posts at my website www.vondasinclair.com under "Scotland" on the menu. I don't have them all there yet, but hopefully one day I'll get them all updated. :)

Randy said...

Gorgeous as always, Vonda. Are the colors really that vibrant?? I could swear there was Photoshopping involved. :)

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Randy! Yes, the colors are actually that vibrant. LOL No photoshopping on these pics at all. All I did was crop and shrink them down to size. That's one reason Scotland is so beautiful, the colors. On clear days, the sky is bright blue. In May and June the grass is so green in the sunshine it's almost blinding. I was stunned the first time I saw it. After several days of clouds on that first trip, the sun finally came out and everything became bright technicolor.

sandy said...

Thanks for sharing your photos. Really helps to bring the books to life. Just finished torrin and jessie's story, loved it. Cant wait for rebbie's story and more pics. Again, thanks!!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Sandy, Thanks so much for reading Torrin and Jessie's story!! I'm so glad you liked it and the pics! I look forward to seeing what trouble Rebbie gets into. :)

BBT said...

Beautiful photos of a gorgeous place. My cousin and I drove on several single track roads trying to reach an attraction. They can be daunting. I took my own Garmin GPS. It is mostly accurate and saved my neck on several occasions since I did all of the driving. Thanks for the tour.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks BB! We took our own Garmin GPS too. LOL But she must have spaced out for a few minutes. We always turn the sound off now because I find the constant talking too distracting and would just rather follow it visually. A few times the GPS has taken us to weird places but most of the time it works great.

Gerri Bowen said...

Thank you so much for all these photos, Vonda!

Mary Gillgannon said...

Beautiful! Can't wait for the Celtic Hearts trip to Scotland this fall.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks for checking them out, Gerri!

Mary, thanks! You will enjoy the trip SOOO much!