July 31 2019
The North Coast 500 is a 500 mile drive along the Northern coast of Scotland through a very scenic though rural and quite bleak area of the country. This route and its promoted drive were developed to bring tourism and its subsequent influx money to this struggling area. We set off to drive half of the route on yet another chilly and damp grey day towards the largest city in Northern Scotland – Inverness. Stopping soon after passing the city we stopped in the village of Avoch and explored some of its port area. A bit farther along the our route we stoped at the small Cromarty Brewing Company for a few bottles of their beer. The village of Comarty is located on a small peninsula and our roadway ended at its tiny two car ferry that shuttled us across the bay and agin North. Along the eastern coast we were stopped by another police roadblock, where we were told that the road is closed due to a large accident and we would have to detour well off our route via a 34-mile diversion to circumvent the wreckage. We later learned of the three car accident resulting in one death.
Back on the route we stopped at Brora Beach running along the same named historic golf club. At Scotlands Northeastern most point is the village of John o’ Groats. Renowned among the throngs of tourists arriving in busses solely for its location, this ugly stopover is simply an excuse to take photos of a sign post covered in stickers and visit various tacky gift and snack shops.
The village of Thurso was our stop for the night. The name Thurso originates from an Old Norse phrase which translates as ‘Thor’s River’. The area was originally settled by Vikings who built a fortress at the month of the river. In the mid 1600s a castle was erected, partly destroyed, rebuilt again in a grand fashion but of poor quality construction and eventually torn down for safety reasons in 1952. The history of this castle is symbolic of the surrounding town. Ugly grey with an air of desperation. Its great cathedral shut down, stripped and now up for sale. The ruins of Old St Peter’s Church are found at the dock area of town and dates to 1125. The ground include a graveyard where in 1786 there were reports of much dung and rubbish were being dumped on graves.
The several area pubs keep the locals inebriated, the local take outs are chip shops or Chinese. Checking in at our hotel with us were two bus-loads of Austrians on holiday. We were told three such busses per week arrive.