there are few 'Tourist Attractions', the real riches of the North
Coast lie in continuing to discover and explore within a fascinating environment. Opportunities for a wide range of outdoor
activities abound and both houses contain a good supply
of books, maps and
pamphlets to help you plan these. Quite often it is our visitors who
introduce us to new aspects of our surroundings. We are still finding new
things to see and do after fifty years of staying up here.
way of life
On the North Coast you will find a way of life which
is dying out. Too much hard work for too little reward and often the young
people make their livelihoods elsewhere. Crofting involves much communal work with activities following the seasons round.
Many crofters have boats and trips to
the islands or just to fish can sometimes be arranged. If you want to do
something ask around. People know people who know people who can help. Try never
in a hurry and always have time in hand. Time is a somewhat flexible concept up
here and things take much longer to achieve than you would expect. Hospitality
can extend the most mundane of transactions and it is always a good idea to be
prepared for visitors.
from the land
Although some of the finest food in Britain grows in the area
you will seldom find it in the shops. You can buy fresh salmon from the nets
at Strathy and sometimes lobsters and crabs from the fishermen in the
various harbours along the coast (they keep the lobsters alive in floating boxes
tethered to the sea bed). There is also local produce such as eggs and
honey from crofts signposted from the
road and Oysters at Achininver to the north of Melness. (these are the big Pacific oysters and
very succulent). A lot of food grows wild. Mussels on the rocks (these are best
where fresh water flows into the sea). Cockles in the sand, especially by the
causeway across the Kyle of Tongue, Chanterelles in the woods east of Tongue,
Mushrooms almost anywhere if you are lucky. Under 'Fishing', below, is mentioned
that which you can catch yourself.
Beasts and Flowers
Wherever you go, if you keep your eyes open, you will find new and
interesting things. Rare plants, such as the Scottish
Primula and Greater Sundew can be found locally in profusion. There are three
different species of orchid in the glen. Golden Eagles are
seen from time to time, Peregrines and Great Skuas are common. But it is not the
rarities but the constant presence of birds doing interesting things which
appeal to most people. Being dive bombed by Bonxies, as the Skuas are called up here,
or just watching Fulmars trying to land on their cliff nests - or a squadron of
Gannets fishing a shoal of mackerel - all can provide endless hours of pleasure. Wherever you go
and whatever you do you will find a rich diversity of nature. Along this coast
Atlantic Grey Seal breed. About 500 pups are born on open beaches each year.
This is unique in mainland Britain and provides an indication of how undisturbed life can
be up here. Many of our visitors leave records of the things that they have seen
and a log is kept to which contributions are most welcome.
Whatever you want is here if the conditions are right and you can get a permit.
The Naver, Borgie and Halladale are fine Salmon rivers and also hold good Trout.
In the hills around, there are innumerable small trout lochs. Boats are
available on the bigger lochs at very reasonable rates and there is good estuary
fishing for Sea Trout. The waters offshore abound with fish; we have caught Mackerel, Haddock, Codling, Pollack, Dogfish, Gurnard,
Coaly and Conger Eel (the
last not recommended!). It can be difficult to find someone to take you out in a
so some people bring their own up with them. Just to be in a boat off the coast
is an enthralling experience and the offshore islands are well worth exploring.
There are however strong currents and tide rips and both caution and experience
Being exposed to the swell of the northern North
Atlantic, the many beaches provide surf to suit every taste. The bays around
Thurso provide some of the best conditions in Europe for very experienced surfers
Our own bay is ideal for beginners and people with a little experience.
Canoe surfing is very good indeed. A friend managed an 80 second ride on a
single wave off Coldbackie beach. Torrisdale and Farr often provide exciting
conditions. Sea canoeing provides access to otherwise inaccessible
islands, caves and sea caverns.
Artists have been coming to this area for many
years as they find the combination of light and scenery very attractive. The
keen photographer will find landscapes, seascapes and wildlife to keep him or
her enthralled for hours. The well known Swiss photographer Jost von Allmen
stayed in the neighbouring croft in 1999 and has promised to come back. A selection of his
work is hung in the Cottage. A number of artists live locally and courses are
sometimes run. If you are interested - ask at Jimson's.
Archaeology & Geology
west of Skerray is the Moine thrust plain which is one of the most studied
geological features in the world. Every year parties of students can be found
with their rock hammers examining the strata and observing exposed features. To the west of the
oldest rocks in Europe, Lewisian Gneiss, create a bare and unusual landscape. Caithness to the East has Old Red Sandstone with a wealth of
fossils in it. We find the evidence of the constantly eroding coastline particularly fascinating. The sea, with air entrapped, drives long tunnels into
fissures in the rock, the far end of which eventually collapses in a
sink hole. Years later the roof of the tunnel caves in, often leaving another
island separated by a deep but very narrow channel from the land from which it
calved. Prehistoric remains and artefacts have been well recorded and
described. There is a pamphlet in the cottage telling you how and where to find
them. The Pictish Broch at Dun Dornagilla, just south of Loch Hope, is
There are walks to cater for all tastes. There is a
book in the cottage describing some local ones and you will discover something different
wherever you go. A
camera and binoculars are useful at all times. Whilst warm sunshine provides for
a pleasant walk, the most spectacular and memorable walks are those when the
weather has been a bit rougher. The clearest, brightest light usually comes
between heavy showers, A northerly gale will blow spray and spume over 300ft
cliffs and well inland. A walk along Torrisdale or other exposed beach when the
surf is high is unforgettable. Animals and birds will lie tighter when the
weather is wet and windy and it its often easier to get up close to them under
these conditions. In winter, another world of magic and beauty arrives with the
Whilst it may seem from the list above that Strathan is
ideal for the hearty and hardy, most people who stay just potter around, unwinding from the stresses of day to day life. With no street lights to pollute
the sky, the stars and moon seem unusually bright and in Winter the Aurora
Borealis can often be seen lighting up the sky. The air always seems especially
soft and fragrant when we stop the car and open the doors. Just wandering round the glen
or down to the beach and back can provide the basis of a thoroughly worthwhile day. It
is a place to make your own amusement and there are unlimited opportunities for
doing so. Every year we take up books to read when the weather is foul and every
year we take them back south unread. Just living takes time and that time always
seems remarkably rewarding.
This whole area has
an appeal that is more profound than mere facts can comprehend.
for a word picture of what I find that makes it so attractive.
Area Activities Booking