NC500 – Day Seven
169.2 miles travelled and 18,741 steps
A 7am breakfast and leaving the hotel just after 8am meant we had left the car and were on route to the Fairy Pools just after 9am. People were already returning from their even earlier morning swims but the car park was still enough to get a good spot. The Fairy Pools are a collection of pools formed from the waterfalls at the base of the Cuillin mountains and their crystal clear water makes them a popular spot for wild swimming despite the cold temperature. I love a river swim in our local and was desperate to get in there! It was a nice stroll down to the pools from the car park and we took some photos before assessing which one we planned to get into. It was all about access to the pool and depth was second. JD’s favourite looked tricky to access so we opted for the next one along which was shallower but had a small waterfall dropping into it. JD went in first so I could get a photo and he won’t allow me to publish it here but the shock on his face says it all! I followed him in and we spent a good 30 minutes paddling and enjoying the cold ‘jacuzzi’ feeling of the waterfall on our backs. Getting out was easy but getting changed not so much as the steady stream of tourists now began to appear.
We both managed to get dry and dressed with our dignity still intact and headed a bit further up to see the rest of the waterfall before we left. Another pin as I’d like to brave one of the deeper main pools (maybe with a wetsuit on!)
Following a delicious coffee and ham and cheese toastie in a red roadside café called Donald John’s, which I highly recommend if you are driving past it near Carbost, our next stop was Dunvegan Castle which I had booked tickets for back in Gairloch. The Castle itself wasn’t open but the Gardens were and we enjoyed a stroll around to learn the names of some of the plants we had been trampling underfoot over the past week! There were some more scenic photo opportunities with the castle in the back or foreground;but I have to admit it didn’t wow me as Dunrobin had done. From Dunvegan we drove down a farm track to Claigan and the beautiful white ‘sand’ of Coral Beach. I had learnt my Ullapool lesson and took my waterproof with me despite the sunny skies; whilst JD did not. He would live to regret that as at 4pm with about 10 minutes left to walk to the car, the heavens opened again. I have decided it rains at 4pm every day on Skye and on the two days were there have yet to be proved wrong! Coral Beach was a 25-minute walk across farmland but a view well worth seeing. The walk was another reminder of what we had learnt on our North Coast 500 trip: the things worth seeing had to be found and worked for. The Cairn O’Get, Sandwood Bay, The Green Cruachan, the Inchnadamph Bone Caves, and now Coral Beach: all had to be sought out and ventured to and were not simply handed out as a packaged, easily accessible tourist experience. It’s part of the journey: do your research first, look out for the hard to read signs, and find those precious car parks! Coral Beach was home to hundreds of jellyfish in the turquoise water which we excitedly photographer while the sun still shone; but they certainly put me off any thoughts of wild swimming here.
From Coral Beach it was time to head back to the mainland. We hadn’t done the Old Man of Storr or Neist Point Lighthouse but Skye has a huge pin in it for our return. Strathpeffer was our final day’s destination and bed for the night and it was a good 2.5 hours away. The spreadsheet had a potential stop at Attadale Gardens and Rogie Falls where we rejoined the North Coast 500; but we decided Attadale would have to wait for our return visit and Rogie Falls would most likely be our final excursion the next day before we tackled the nine hours home. Strathview Guest House was tricky to find when we landed into Strathpeffer and dinner options seemed limited too. The Guest House is in fact two rooms in a house that is occupied by a family so that was an unexpected addition to the trip. The owner was lovely and friendly and it seemed things were beginning to open again in Strathpeffer post Covid so we walked down into the small town in search of sustenance. The first place was closing for the day and the second still closed but luckily the Ben Wyvis Hotel provided good food and whisky after our day’s travels. They seemed to be just back to work and most of the waiting staff were a little flustered; but we got our food and drink and were happy with that! Tomatin was my new whisky find of the day although Jura and Bowmore remain my firm favourites, despite the nostalgia in every sip of Old Pulteney. I am yet to try the gins so will keep you updated! Every sip of whisky is like tasting the land from which it comes and that now brings such wonderful memories for me of a week where life seemed more simple, more splendid, and more satisfying.