Drinking too much tea during the day always keeps me awake in the wee hours. Still, I got a solid four hours and the bed was comfy. Simply waking up to the fantastic view makes a stay here worthwhile, even in the rain and wind. It’s amazingly peaceful – we didn’t see more than one car pass every twenty minutes or so, and Mandy – our hostess with the mostest, said last night that during the thick of Winter she can drive for 65 miles and not see another vehicle. The nearest large supermarket is in Inverness so they do a big shop once a month, and then shop locally for odds and ends. Not many city folk could cope with having to make do like that. You have to be hardy to live out in the wilds like this. It’s worth it though for the surroundings, and to have 22 wild ducks land in your back garden, all eager for snacks!
Over a gluten free version of a full Scottish breakfast, Mandy informed us that the wind gusts would be increasing from 50mph to 90mph that afternoon. She and her husband are very keen rock and ice climbers, and won’t let any guests attempt a route which they might not be fit for. We know that nature is king however, so sensibly deciding to stay low rather than attempting to walk up Ben Klibreck, we settled for a walk from the Crask Inn, along the valley. This would still give us a good measure of the isolation of the place, and in the conditions meant that we could easily backtrack when we reached the by now unpassable river. We’d like to have made it as far as the head of Loch a’Bhealaich, but it’s a good job we turned round when we did as the wind did indeed pick up and we struggled to stay upright on our way back to the car. You’ve not lived until you’ve felt the sting of wind and rain on your bare bottom whilst making an emergency loo stop in the great outdoors. For us though, this is Heaven. It doesn’t matter that the way is wet underfoot, and the weather slightly adverse. Or that your snot has mingled with sweat, tears and rain and there’s little point in wiping it away because everything is sodden. Give us this over sitting inside and watching Eastenders any day.
Back at the Crask we talked briefly with the caretaker, who even as a Scot agreed that the weather was slightly adverse, and after making the most of the car’s heated seats headed back to the Ferrycroft Visitor Centre at Lairg for a much needed hot chocolate. The weather had kept the coach trips away so we were able to enjoy a proper look around, and buy some handmade Cocoa Mountain chocolates from Durness as we’d not been able to reach it and Smoo cave in person during this trip. We then stopped at the Loch Shin car park for a quick lunch, and headed back to the cottage along the north coast of the Dornoch Firth so that we could cross the road bridge.
The sea was so choppy that we felt obliged to drive back into Portmahomack and watch the waves crashing on to the beach and over the harbour walls. Fishermen were frantically trying to bale out their boats, and whilst it makes an impressive sight for holiday makers like us, it’s obviously an extremely tough way of life for the residents.
As always, it felt as if we’d been away for longer than one night. Cyn cooked a tasty dinner of fresh sea bass from the fish shop in Tain, and we dug into the Cocoa Mountain chocolates for pudding. Whilst Pete then settled down to finish his book, the three of us made ourselves cosy in the conservatory and watched one of my favourite films – ‘Like Water for Chocolate’, a fabulous Mexican film which always makes me want to travel, eat and cook even more, and fills our dreams with chocolate fountains.