Altnaharra to Bettyhill

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Started the day with a photograph of the two of us and The Beast to send to Arthritis Research UK. Zoe there has been sending out press releases to some of the local newspapers and needed a photo with the both of us in and hopefully, a nice Scottish backdrop too. It’s a problem with only two of us. One is always behind the camera. Anyway, we recruited one of the hotel staff to snap us on my phone camera – that way I can email it to Zoe. After sorting that out we set off, turning almost immediately to run along the northern shores of Loch Naver. It provided us of some lovely views of the loch and Ben Klibreck, 3,152 feet with its head in the clouds. There were a surprising number of people driving along the little road though several were fisheries vehicles. I would imagine poaching for the big salmon in the Loch is a problem here.

Loch Naver. Despite some showers and a few climbs at the end of the day, it was a good days riding, first following the loch then the River Naver to the sea at Bettyhill.

Loch Naver. Despite some showers and a few climbs at the end of the day, it was a good days riding, first following the loch then the River Naver to the sea at Bettyhill.

Gradually we left the big hills behind and, by the time we reached the far end of the Loch, the surrounding hills were much lower. Now we turned almost due North to run alongside the river Naver. There were more houses and farm buildings along here and immediately we felt like we were back in civilisation. But this valley was the scene of brutal clearances, when the families in several small villages were evicted by the landlord and the houses set on fire. In at least one case there were elderly or infirm people inside and they were left to their fate. There’s little evidence now of those old communities but we saw a memorial and a few piles of stones that were once buildings.

By now the rain, which had already made a few feeble attempts to get going, finally succeeded so we pulled over to get covered up, eat some chocolate and talk to some horses in a roadside field. We were in the lee of some low trees so were in no hurry to move on. When we did we started to encounter a few bigger climbs and in the distance, the hills were shrouded in a light mist, which I thought might be sea spray. The river, too was wider and more sluggish and the rocky banks had gradually given way to ones of sand. Then I saw a ‘T’ junction road sign up ahead and knew we had reached the end of the valley. We turned on to the coast road to head East and dropped to cross the river. As we climbed away and on towards Bettyhill we got our first glimpse of the grey waters of the North Atlantic.

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We were ready for lunch by now so pulled in to the Bettyhill Hotel but it was closed for renovation. We found a corner shop to buy a bottle of wine to have with our evening meal at our B&B and asked if there was a pub. “Down the hill”. Down the hill we saw the Bettyhill cafe and pulled in there, not seeing a pub. It was a bit chaotic and there was a sign on the menu saying ‘no fish’. Still, we managed some food and hot drinks. Our B&B was just beyond Bettyhill on the next headland. It was a bit of a climb then drop to get to Farr Cottage but the views back to Farr Bay and Torrisdale Bay is stunning.

So, tomorrow we have a climb straight away to get back over the headland and it’ll be a day of quite big ups and downs as we run along the coast to Thurso.