The night before we were to return, there was a bit of a storm brewing! We could hear the howling wind as we were cooking dinner and having a night-in with our group mates at the Orcades Hostel. Even as we left the next morning, the wind was still blowing and the rain kept falling. The wind and the rain doesn’t really bother us – being from Raincouver and all! But we were a bit nervous about the ferry ride back to the mainland.
This ferry ride was completely different from our ride to the Orkney islands. That time, we were bathed in sunshine on the upper deck. This time, the ferry tossed from side to side and splashed up and down as we crossed back to mainland Scotland. Ioana and I decided to hide out inside. I will admit – I did feel a bit queasy 🤢 There may or may not have been stories of people throwing up on the upper deck… A great piece of advice we got from our group mates… don’t stand downwind from someone who might throw up! It most probably won’t end well for you!
At last, we arrived back to mainland Scotland and back on solid ground.
Our first mini-stop was only a couple of minutes from the ferry terminal. Unfortunately this stop is “mini” because we could not actually access it!
This is The Castle of Mey – purchased by the Queen Mother in 1952. Prior to that, it was known as Barrogill Castle and was the seat of the Earls of Caithness. This castle, the most northerly on the British mainland, was restored and renovated by the Queen Mother. The castle also includes several gardens, which the Queen Mother took much interest in selecting the plants and tending to them. You can even purchase fresh veggies grown from the gardens here!
Although we did not go inside for a visit this time, it is possible to visit the Castle, garden and grounds. More information on admission and visiting can be found here. I think it would be interesting to visit the Castle of Mey. It is said that much of the interiors is still set out as the Queen Mother had it, along with furniture, bathroom fittings, photographs and portraits that she chose herself.
Alas, we would have to resign ourselves to a faraway photograph on this trip!
After reveling in our little Royal visit, we hopped back onto the bus for a short ride to Dunnet Bay. Even though it was still windy and spitting rain, I found it beautiful and calming – even with the rolling waves. Perhaps it was because we had this beach all to ourselves.
From Dunnet Bay, you can even get a glimpse of Dunnet Head – the most Northerly point on the British mainland.
After a bit of a reprieve from the storm, it picked up again, just as we arrived at our next destination – Dunbeath Harbour.
Check out this spectacular and wild coastal scene. The white castle perched up on those cliffs, with the storm brewing all around it and the waves crashing underneath.
What a wild and rugged picture. I’m actually glad we saw this on a stormy day – it kinda fits the picture that I have in my head of Scotland. But I imagine it would look quite different and beautiful on a clear, sunny day.
This building is Dunbeath Castle. As it is a private home, it is not open to the public. So I will have to just imagine the stunning views from the windows of this castle – stormy or not!
Heading out of Dunbeath, we continued south towards our next stop. This next stop was a sobering history lesson.
We soon arrived at Badbea Clearance Village. As it was pretty miserable outside, Andy did give us the option to stay on the bus. But most of us wanted to learn more about the Highland Clearances, so we followed Andy out into rain.
Walking through this area with the rain and wind around us set a solemn tone for us as we listened to Andy explain the history and factors behind the Highland Clearances.
The Highland Clearances occurred mostly during the 18th and 19th centuries. Entire Highland families were evicted from their homes and farms, some forcibly and some with their homes and villages burnt to the ground. Instead of being resettled to green pastures where they could continue farming, these families were given small plots of land, which were often not well suited to farming.
One such Clearance Village is the Badbea Clearance Village. Located on the rugged coast and on a steep slope, residents had to clear the land for farming and build their own homes with whatever they could find.
The village is no longer inhabited and has fallen into ruin. But even just looking at the land and the ruins, it was easy to see that this is not very good farmland. Villagers tried to make the best of the situation – some turned to fishing and its associated industries, while others took on spinning and carding wool. But ultimately, the village’s last resident left in 1911. All that is left here are the ruins of their homes, which nature has already taken over again.
The monument here, erected by a descendent of a Badbea villager, commemorates the people of Badbea.
The Highland Clearances had other far reaching and permanent effects. The culture of the Highlands was forever changed. The old, traditional Clan system, their way of living and their settlements were no more. Wearing of Highland Dress, including tartan and kilts, was banned with the Dress Act 1746. Even speaking Scottish Gaelic could be met with punishments. It also led to the emigration of Scots to all corners of the globe – for example Nova Scotia or New Scotland. Even though the Dress Act 1746 was repealed and there are now efforts to revive and promote Scottish Gaelic, all of this has had a huge impact on the cultural fabric of present day Scotland.
After a tragic and reflective history lesson, we headed off to our next stop still deep in thought.
Half an hour later, Andy pulled the bus over and our group took a stroll down this pretty laneway to our next stop.
Can you spot our destination yet?
What a grand entrance into Dunrobin Castle!
We didn’t get the chance to go inside but we admired its beautiful facade, architecture and…
… its beautiful clock tower!
We also noticed these little features on the walls – can you spot the cannons?
Before heading off to our next destination, we stopped for a quick afternoon snack 😋 We could never resist dessert! This time it was a beautiful and sparkly blueberry and white chocolate cheesecake. Although this cake was really yummy, the cheesecake we got at Beauly was still the most delicious!
Stay tuned for our next post – it’s going to feature another one of my favourite photographs from this entire Scotland trip!
From Vancouver with Love,
Ioana and Natalie
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