Day 6 began with promise. I had made soup in the slow cooker overnight then blended it and portioned it up for lunches on the way. I had a great chat with the other motor-homers at the lovely campsite at Gardenstown and they recommended a number of possible stop-over points on the north coast. So I set off feeling optimistic if rather tired.
The dogs were also pretty weary so I decided to take a shortish walk before we left the area along the path to Crovie, a small village harbour all but cut off from its neighbour by erosion. It was meant to be half an hour each way which was perfect. We parked up as instructed at the school and set off down the track, but it was a horrible surface (black tarmac chips) and the dogs were really struggling, so after a short time we had to turn back. Very frustrating.
In the end we abandoned seeing Crovie and continued along the coast road. We were booked into Culloden campsite and had over 100 miles to travel. The route along the Morag coast was pretty but it is all rather a blur. We arrived in Findhorn early afternoon – a beautiful harbour with ancestral connections – and called into the dog friendly Kimberley Pub for a late lunch. Their seafood platter was delicious but it was a bit stressful trying to manage the dogs and eat at the same time, not helped by the chap opposite casting disapproving glances throughout our lunch. Of course his expressions may have had nothing to do with us but I felt self-conscious and unable to fully relax. As we left the pub to return to the van the heavens opened so we got back drenched and pretty miserable (no coats had been taken as the weather was lovely when we set out!).
After drying off it was on to Culloden. I had booked a big campsite as I had washing to do and wanted a shower. We arrived to discover one washing machine for nearly 90 pitches and a long queue. It got done in the end but my whole evening was spent running up and down to the laundry. But at least there were sheep!
After a long and trying day we decided to take Day 7 fairly easy. We left Culloden, saluting our 1745 Scottish ancestors who had fought there, as we passed the battlefield. We spent the morning “fettling” the van – getting everything filled and emptied as required – then did some necessary shopping in Inverness. At lunchtime we were off again and on to the Black Isle.
This was a lovely drive – quiet roads and wonderful views. We stopped on the beach at Rosemarkie for a walk – wonderful surf that built up slowly to such a crash that it made us all jump every time!
Then we reached Cromarty, which always feels like a special place from it featuring in the Shipping Forecast. We walked along the front, visiting the tiny lighthouse and finding some lovely sculptural pieces. After a drive around the old town we continued on to Dingwall.
We stopped for the night at Evanton by the water, a free camp spot from Search for Sites, which proved to be delightful. Very quiet with great views but conveniently just off the A9.
Day 8 started dull and just got more drizzly but we had a great day anyway. From our park up we continued round to Nigg and Tarbatt. Nigg is dominated by an oil refinery but we discovered its Old Church – a treasure up a single track road. Inside the tiny church is the Nigg Stone – dating from the 8th century and carved with the earliest representation of the Eucharist in Britain, as well as birds, harps and sheep.
Balintore was our beach stop – and what a beach it was. It was massive and practically deserted when we arrived. We spent a lovely hour there before checking out the local sculpture – the Mermaid of the North (rather tacky looking to be honest) – and continuing on our way.
We had decided to free camp again and headed on to the Loch Fleet nature reserve where Search for Sites recommended the car park at Little Ferry. What a fabulous place! A huge nature reserve onto the shore of the loch with a deserted beach at the end. We completed our day with a wonderful walk where we watched seals riding the currents from the loch down to the sea. Magical.
The car park was quiet and we went to bed early and were up at dawn to enjoy another walk. As I was having my morning tea afterwards a very polite local lady came to the window to inform me that overnight parking was no longer allowed. I apologised profusely and explained I had not seen the signs (I couldn’t see them on the way out either but she assured me they were there!) and promised to make this clear in my review on Search for Sites. Such a shame as it is a wonderful park up – and I was grateful that she told me in the morning and not the previous night! She really was very polite!