Wednesday, March 29, 2017

March 10th: Rainy Lighthouses and Whisky by the Fire

We got up the next morning, had breakfast in the hotel, then decided to explore Dornoch a little bit before getting back in the car for some more driving.

The outside of the hotel. It's not often you get to spend the night in an old castle.  :)

The Dornoch Cathedral is right across the street from the hotel. We walked around town a bit more, then eventually went back to the hotel, hopped in the car, and drove to our first stop.

Luckily, we didn't have far to go! The Glenmorangie distillery was only about 20 minutes away. We did a distillery tour here, which was really cool. They don't let you take pictures, though, so I'll just let you imagine how pretty and delicious-smelling it was here.

They do let you taste pretty much whatever you want after the tour, though, so we took full advantage of that. Mark tried little sips since he was driving. I took a bit more advantage of the tasty glasses in front of me.  :)   I wound up buying a bottle that's a bit tricky to find in the US, then we hopped back in the car and started driving north.

We made a short stop at Dunrobin Castle along the way. They offer tours here but we decided to just wander around the grounds a little bit instead to save some time.

I certainly wouldn't mind a castle with a fancy garden overlooking the Dornoch Firth! We spent a few minutes wandering around, then hopped back in the car and kept going.

We wound up stopping again a little while later. We kept getting glimpses of some pretty dramatic scenery along the water, and Mark wanted to try to see some of it up close. We wound up pulling off the main road at Latheronwheel, drove down to a little harbor area, and stopped to wander around for a little while. We wandered around down by the water...

...then followed a path over a small bridge and up a little hill.

There was a pretty neat view of the coast from the top.

This was the little gate you had to pass through to get through the top of the hill. I thought it was neat that Scotland was a bit like Norway: there are lots of random hikes throughout the countryside, and you're free to hike through private fields and a lot of private property.

We spent a few minutes checking out the old abandoned house down by the water before we left. I wouldn't mind a view like this from my house!

We drove for a while longer...

...then eventually got to our next stop: John 'o Groats. It's way in the northeast corner of Scotland. We stopped for lunch and coffee in a small cafe, then drove a few minutes to check out the Duncansby Head Lighthouse.

There were some pretty neat views from the parking area. It was starting to get cold and rainy, but we weren't going to let that stop us.

The Duncansby Head Lightouse. This is the most northeasterly part of mainland Scotland.

It was getting a bit muddy, but we followed a path up over a small rise and were rewarded with a pretty sweet view of the Duncansby Stacks.

I would have loved to follow the path all the way out to see them up close, but the weather was getting pretty miserable, even for me. I settled for grabbing a few shots with my zoom lens, then sloshed my way back to the car.

We had some company on the road back out of the parking area.

Our next stop wasn't very far away; we went to the Dunnet Head Lighthouse, which is the most northern point of mainland Scotland. The weather seemed to have followed us, but we figured we'd at least spend a few minutes looking around.

There were pretty nice views of the coast here, too.

We followed a path around to the top of a hill and got a neat view of the surrounding area. There were a few old buildings along the path, leftover from a radar station and bunker used between World War II and the Cold War, but it was getting cold and rainy again so we power walked back to the car and started to drive south toward the hotel.

It took a while to get back to Dornoch, so we broke up the trip with a short stop in Golspie to wander along the beach.

The weather was much nicer down here! We walked along the beach for a little while, made our way back to the hotel, found some dry socks and shoes, and hung out in the lounge for a little while with a drink before dinner.

I decided to try the fish and chips, and it was absolutely fantastic.

Since it was our last night in the hotel, and Mark's last chance to try some crazy rare whiskies, he kind of went for broke. The bartender lined up everything he tried along the bar; this picture was toward the end of the night. There were some really tasty things in there, and I think Mark even got the last dram from one of the bottles.

You know they're serious when they're pulling chairs up to the shelves of super fancy stuff.  :)

Mark eventually decided he'd tried enough samples, then we went upstairs, drank our room sherry by the fire in the upstairs lounge, and went to bed. 

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