After the exceedingly pleasant crossing of the Pentland Firth we set a course for Dornoch Firth Caravan Park.
Google, in its wisdom, sent us immediately past Ferry View and into the wilds, instead of to John O’Groats and the A9 to Wick. Although we were on the minnowiest roads, they were pretty straight and we hardly saw another vehicle. In 45 minutes we did 24 miles of meandering before finally being brought back to the coast road. A reminder that you should always check up on the Sat nav and not follow it blindly.
We lunched at the side of the road, with a sea view mind, and passed back through the likes of Dunbeath, Helmsdale and Golspie – all of which merit further investigation, and we showed up at Dornoch about 4 ish.
I spoke to Mrs Woman, who showed me on the map where we were and told me about the “Paviliion” for facilities, playground and a walk to the waters edge.
When we drove down past the multiple mobile homes, some of which had very arresting displays of animal statues on their terraces, we saw that we would be parked on grass, between the “Pavillion”, a lovely hedge hiding the train track and another hedge bordering the main road. A tad unexpected.
There were other campers on the grass too, our next door neighbour had a roof tent and an inflatable windbreak, which kept KB transfixed for minutes at a time trying to fathom the engineering of it.
The site was really well manicured and clean. They provided sprays and that for the “Pavillion” which they are trying to enter in to the loo of the year award. Before I went in the shower I might have said they had a shot, as they were very shiny. But the aroma of the shower room put me off, and they really should have door mats to keep out the grass clippings.
We set up the John, but decided it was off limits due to the ridiculous proximity to the “Pavillion”, so it saved us a few bags.
We had a quick pasta tea, followed by chocolate mousse and took a walk past the cows to the waters edge with a view of the bridge over the firth.
We noted the times of passing trains, the last one we noticed passed at half sevenish, so we weren’t too worried about being disturbed.
Good interweb here, so social media updates were dispatched, and the kids were headspaced to sleep with the Antique Watch Shop.
5 ruddy 45 am the first train roared past and then another handful by 8 o clock, at which time, the whole site was up and about. The youth who had pitched his peedie tent in front of the “Pavillion” had already packed up and left, so we decided to make a move too.
We left Dornoch firth after a frankly lackadaisical morning. Full use was made of “the Pavillion” and bacon, square sausage and fried egg were dispensed to the majority. The weather was disconcerting- clear, bright, sunny, warm and not windy, so we were a bit wrong footed.
Packed away by 5 to 10 and on the road, which I suppose, since we had been listening to the trains coming in and going out again since 5.45am shouldn’t really be a surprise.
Ready for a stop off after an hour and a half or so I googled potential spots and found the Ralia Cafe, which turned out to be a good shout and worth remembering.
I had been mildly amused how the laybys on the A9 were sequentially numbered, but all were tiny roadside pull-ins and not conducive to a restful roadside picnic. The Ralia however was down a turn off, with a spacious car park and picnic benches, clean johns, a cafe doing takeaways and a one way system, a gift shop and even a statue of a heilan coo.
We ate knackis and doritos, but then bought ice-cream in the caff, the kids had keyrings from the shop before we took our lives in our hands trying to cross the carriageway to get back on to the A9 south.
It was a long journey, just above 4hrs, but generally traffic wasn’t too bad. We were in need of another stop along the way though, so we pulled in at a “Smartbucks” (H) and had warm drinks and cakes.
Interestingly when we got to the roundabout for our new favourite services, the turnoff to our campsite was nearby. The scenery took a turn from dull pine fringed dual carriageway to smaller , bendier, hillier roads amongst large, heathery hills.
We pulled in to see this ⬇️ and were given a choice of spots. We took the hardstanding in the corner, facing the landscape, because why wouldn’t you?
Mrs Woman was lovely, and joined us at the gate. Any quicker on her part and she would have caught me mid flow letting loose the pint of Smartbucks tea into the Popaloo.
Site has room for about 5 on one field and about the same on another. EHU, water and disposal, but other facilities closed due to covid. Cost us the princely sum of a tenner – best value on this trip.
We set up and changed into shorts and sunhats and enjoyed a libation in the warmth. No interwebs or phone signal here, so maximum enjoyment of the surroundings.
We explored the environs after a tea of chicken pesto and spaghetti, and played pooh sticks with grass from the Billy goats gruff bridge.
We watched a buzzard circling over the hill and a troupe of bunnies frolicking across the way as it started to get dark.
We had discovered a minuscule amount of 4G if you stood in a particular spot by the fence, but it wasn’t enough for anything more than receiving notifications, we retired relatively early and, I discovered during a nocturnal visit to the John that we had acquired motorhome neighbours immediately over the fence. Stealthy!
The following morning the sunshine eluded us in favour of mist, murk and midges so we packed up and legged it.
Rather than proceeding willy-nilly, we set a course for Mainsgill Farm Shop, on the A66 (between the M74 and the A1), which was where we spotted roadside Bactrians and noted the farm shop/cafe on site.
It was massively popular and the car park was a bun fight. Luckily we dropped on a spot and proceeded to the shop.
No pics to verify, but posh, pricey and packed. We spent a fortune on sarnies, cakes and drinks and retired to the van out of the hordes.
And so back home. Final mileage was 1424. Bottle tally was 1 large and 3 small rum, 2 gin, 3 whisky. 2 beautiful glass items, and a lot less anxiety and stress.
Until the next one…