En route to Durness, we stopped at the Strathnaver Museum in Bettyhill (opens at 10). The museum gives excellent coverage of the Highland Clearances. It is hard to believe that the Clearances actually took place. They involved the forced eviction of inhabitants of the Highlands and western islands of Scotland, beginning in the mid to late 18th century and continuing intermittently into the mid 19th Century. The removals cleared the land of people primarily to allow for the introduction of sheep farming. Poor crofters’ houses were torched with no regard for preservation of life or possessions. Crofters were expected to make a new living fishing, inhabiting land near the sea. As they only had experience of farming and livestock, this was no mean feat. Many emigrated to New Zealand, Canada and the States, but some ended up in the industrial cities like Glasgow instead. A sorry tale indeed.
The single track road to Durness wound through heather covered moorland all around the edge of Loch Eriboll – a huge, deep loch – up to 60m in places.
Durness is the most northwesterly village on the British mainland. The village sits above idyllic Sango Sands bay where John Lennon came as a teenager on family holidays and inspired the song “In My Life”.
Orkney Gold ale – deeply satisfying after a long walk in the rain!
The bitter-sweet hot chocolate topped off by white chocolate at Cocoa Mountain in Balnakeil Craft Village.
Sango Sands Bay.
Smoo Cave a mile east of Durness – a limestone cave which promised to be an interesting stop, but was shut to tours due to adverse weather conditions the previous day.
Balnakeil Craft Village sounded much better than it actually turned out to be – hot chocolate aside. It is an ex-military installation which was turned into a craft complex in the 1960s, but there was very little there at this time of the year. It maybe that there were more stalls open in the Summer?
The tourist information centre in Durness had no maps and no walks leaflets. We managed to photocopy the maps that were pinned to the wall for tomorrow’s walks – but buy your maps ahead to avoid disappointment!