North Coast 500 Day 1 – Inverness to Wick… via Inverness (Unplanned)

Once I finally got on the road, things started to get beautiful.

At A Glance:

  • Depart Inverness (Craigmonie Hotel) 09:30
  • First Stop – Chanonry Point to try and spot Dolphins Arr 10:30, Dep: 12:00. Saw lots of seagulls and one seal but no dolphins.
  • Second Stop – Glenmorangie Distillery Shop to buy some whisky. They do Distillery Tours, but I don’t. Just want to buy it and drink it. Arr 12:30
  • Third stop – Clynelish Distillery Shop. (as above) Arr 13:15
  • Fourth stop – Whaligo Steps. Wild, rugged, remote, and cliffy. Need a head for hights and walking poles advisable. Tremendous Pictures. Arr 15:00, Dep 16:00. NOTE: Not the best place to catch the sunset. Too sheltered by surrounding cliffs.
  • Arrived in Wick Hotel (Impala Guest House) around 16:30
  • Dinner – Spice Tandoori in Wick Town Centre. Very nice. First time I have come across Honey Masala. Loved it.
  • Road en route – very busy dual carriageway at Inverness got narrower and quieter as we headed north on A9. Tight bends and quite hairy past Brora on the approach to Dunbeath.

Multiple Crossing of the Beauly Firth

Typically, one should only expect to cross the Beauly Firth once in any NC500 trip. Either northerly on the way out (direction I am going) or southerly on the final stretch. It takes about 10 minutes to cross. I crossed it 5 times over 2 days. 3 times north, 2 times south but, true to the route, only once when I was actually meant to be on it. So began day 1…

Sea And Nature at Chanonry Point

Though slightly off route, it is definitely worth straying into the area known as the Black Isle and skirting its southern shores to a small town called Fortrose and a feature known as Chanonry Point. Turning right out of Fortrose you find yourself on a natural causeway that juts right out into the Beauly Firth. If you want to see dolphins without getting on a boat, this is the place to do it.

I have to say the first thing I came across at Chanonry point was a sad and horrible story about a scary guy called the Barhan Seer. In a nutshell…

This guy generally, and accurately told the future by looking through a hole in a stone with an eye he was blind in… I know…. the story verges a bit closer to reality when he foretold her husband’s infidelity in Paris to a Countess called Isabella. She took it bad.

Apparently, the Seer was burned in a spiked barrel of tar. His dying act was to curse Isabella’s family who then suffered accidents, stupidity and death for generations.

I came here for dolphins! Geez!

You won’t always see the dolphins from here. Today I didn’t. That said, I did spot a seal lolling about just off shore and got some great shots of some seagulls over the water and patiently waiting on fenceposts for me to share my breakfast that I didn’t actually have.

Whisky Trail

I have to say I’ve been impressed with the number of distilleries dotted about in the Highlands. The concentration is almost, but not quite, reminiscent of Speyside where there is arguably the highest concentration of distilleries in Scotland.

Glenmorangie Distillery Shop

I stopped off at Glenmorangie just past Tain. They had just released 3 new … releases… and there was a large variety of malts having been matured in every kind of other drink’s barrels you can imagine.

For me, the next whisky stop was at the Clynelish Distillery just past Brora. I had visited here around 20 years ago and got a bottle of their standard malt which I remember was amazing. For those who like Blended Whisky, Clynelish belongs to the Johnny Walker Group and is an ingredient in some of the different coloured labelled blended whiskies such as Johnny Walker Black Label.

Clynelish Distillery

Whaligo Steps

If I was going to make wrong turns and have to double back at the start of the day, might as well do it at the other end also. I never found the Whaligo Steps until I parked up in Lidle at Wick fully realizing that I must have driven past them somewhere.

Following the trusty old Satnav and chasing an ever-developing sunset, I was back at the steps in about 15 minutes. Seeing a picture of Billy Connely, I thought I was more lost than planned for a horrible second before I realized the picture was actually meant to be there. Our famous comic genius had visited this very place in 1994 during his world tour of Scotland.

Be warned, you won’t see the sunset when descending these steps. They are set into a steep cliffside taking you down into a deep cove. Be warned, you need a head for heights. The descent is steep and you have to look down unless you want to cliff dive or fall to your death. Depending on how strong your knees are, you might want to bring a set of trekking poles for balance. Mine were in the car but I missed them.


Finally, in the dark, I made my way back to Wick and the Impala Guest House where I’m staying for the night. The Impala Guest house is a wee bit out of town, about a mile from the centre, and does not have a bar. It is a lovely wee place; the rooms are spotless and the welcome from Julie was warm.

I drove downtown and had an Indian in a wee place just by the harbour called the Spice Tandoori. The service was great as was the food.

Storm Barra

There’s a storm coming. Storm Barra. Winds of up to 90mph and up to 10cm of snow. This has caused me to spend a lot of this evening pouring over the weather forecast for the next few days.

Looks like I can get to my next overnight stop, Bettyhill, before the storm hits this part of the country tomorrow afternoon. It is going to batter us through tomorrow night and will still be in full force when I am due to leave Bettyhill on Wednesday Morning. I will get to Bettyhill tomorrow and then ride out the storm and see what the plan is when it passes.


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