We arrived just before dark into Scrabster. It felt like we had dragged our luggage a half a mile from the ship to the terminal – it honestly would be pretty close to that! We called a cab and he took us to the Station Hotel located quite near the train station in Thurso. Our young driver was very anxious to get out of such a small town and off to uni at Inverness to study to become a minister.
Other than the Castle of Mey and Dunnet Head, we found little else to do in this area. Since no cars were available to hire, we struck out for the info store and museum. The girl there was very helpful and gave us a bus timetable and told us how to navigate our way to the above mentioned venues. Since we had gotten up late and a slow start – time was precious. But with taking the bus, this meant a LOT of walking and quickly, too.
Our first stop out of Thurso was the Castle of Mey – our driver drove right on past the drop off, but as soon as he did, i asked him if that was where we needed off. He apologised profusely for forgetting – no worries, he let us off and we walked back only maybe 100 ft to the entrance to the castle.
However, we still had a half mile to go to the castle. We only had time for the castle tour, then we had to jog back to the end of the driveway and hopefully flag down the bus. Hooray, he stopped to pick us up, then another half hour to the Brough bus stop. This was as close as the bus gets to Dunnet Head. Just before arrival at Brough, we had to shut down the bus and wait for a herd of cows to move down and across the road.
Now we hoof it uphill for the next three miles on asphalt road. We only had two hours before the next bus back to town, so we did hurry; even took a ‘shortcut’ through the heather and grass. Good experience in learning why that sort of land is unproductive – wow! it is incredibly boggy with deep washouts under the native grasses. At least where the heather is, it will support your weight. Even a short distance (albeit a steep hill) through the bog and I was severely short of wind.
After that, we met a shepherd training both sheep and dog, moving them in a serpentine pattern down the hill. Finally, at the top, the views were fabulous. Making the trek to Dunnet Head is well worth the effort, but i do not recommend walking unless you can do so at a more leisurely rate. Better yet, get a car!
The return was easier since we were going downhill but we were still glad to reach the bus stop to sit and rest. After a bit, the bus went flying by! Thankfully, my frantic waving and running after it, the driver finally stopped and we jogged a bit down the road to board. Whew! Another two hours before the next bus! We chatted all the way back to Thurso with this driver. He’d been driving this route for ten years and NEVER had anyone been waiting at that stop for pickup! He thought, at first, that we were just being friendly with waving! Our driver had moved to this area to drive a bus and build a farm ten years ago. He was only going to drive for four months; he was a former lecturer of mechanical engineering at a University, then he tried teaching high school and it was too stressful. Currently, he is planting 24,000 trees on his 100 acres and all the cattle and sheep are sold. Once his trees are fenced, he plans to raise deer.
After drop off in Thurso, we stopped for local ice cream, then walked back to our hotel. Dallas and I went to find the train station in preparation for tomorrow’s departure, then we walked to the Co-op and bought enough food for supper.
Next morning, we enjoy another lovely breakfast at the hotel – well Dallas didn’t, he had a headache and not feeling well. He drank a lot of water, then went to rest a bit whilst Nathan and i finished brecky. He was already feeling better when we returned – probably dehydrated. Went to catch our train at the appointed time, albeit without boarding passes because the station doesn’t open for two hours after our departure and there are no self-ticketing kiosks. About 20 of us waiting and the train never shows. A girl called the Scotrail customer service and come to find out, the train driver just didn’t show up for work! Scotrail sent a bus to pick us all up. RIding a bus on a train route is quite scenic and tests the skills of the driver to be sure. We arrived about 30 minutes late to the train depot in Inverness. Picked up our car, a Toyoto Aygo from Focus Rental and I promptly tried to kill ourselves by going up a highway exit ramp. Okay, got out of that, move on, don’t screw up again! Staying at Open Views guest house.