Belize has a lot of coastline, and a lot of beaches–and we learned on our visit that it also has a lot of beer. But Belize is decidedly not the land of craft IPAs, as almost all of the beer here is much lighter (except perhaps one newcomer, Hobbs). For the most part, tap handles in local bars tell a singular story–about Belikin, the national beer (think Budweiser, but with an accent).
Handles that we got used to seeing in our travels here
The lineup here in Belize. Note that Belikin also brews a version of Guinness, but it’s more of a heavier version of their flagship brew and not much like Guinness in Ireland.
Souzz wasted no time, enjoys a beer at Belize International while we wait for our commuter flight to Placencia
The main bar in Placencia, watching the hometown Nationals in the World Series (in Spanish)
Belikin offers several different brews, and all are light and relatively low-alcohol—perfect for enjoying on the beach and/or in the heat.
Lots of great places to enjoy beer here! We got a complimentary Belikin when we checked into our room in Caye Caulker.
Souzz heads out onto the dock to enjoy her first beer on Caye Caulker
From the dock at Weezie’s in Caye Caulker
Belikin is a Mayan word that means “Land Facing the Sea,” and some say that it’s the origin of the name Belize–although we also heard that Belize means “muddy waters” in the Maya language. That story seems more plausible than a country named after a beer (although Souzz’s favorite beer, Oberon, would be a great name for a country, just sayin’).
Beer and chacos, a winning combo
Go Deh Strong is the slogan for the stout
Both of these are brewed in Belize City
Beer in Belize is served with a napkin artfully wrapped around the neck of the bottle–like a drinkable version of Woody from Toy Story. The napkin seems like a nice little piece of flair, but it’s there so that you have something to wipe the rust from the cap away from the mouth of the bottle.
Beers with neckwear
Woody (Fair use media, Wikipedia)
Beers with neckware
The majority of glass bottles in Belize are washed and re-used, so drinking beer here means you are basically sharing a bottle–and hopefully it wasn’t with that guy at the next table last night that was eating ceviche like it was a bowl of soup…which made me want to have three more Belikins.
In stores, beer is sold as singles and each beer generally runs about two dollars (US), although bars sell “six packs” in buckets on ice (for about $15 dollars US, hard to pass up). And when a server brings you a bucket of beer, it feels like there’s some purpose to the activity of beer drinking. With that in mind, we’ve accomplished a lot on our trip.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that Belikin is served in bottles that are smaller than those in the US, a little more than nine ounces. We didn’t notice at first because the weight of the glass gives you the sense that you’re holding a “regular” bottle of beer…but the end of the beer comes more quickly (and isn’t that always the way?).
The main bar in Placencia, watching the hometown Nationals in the World Series (in Spanish)
This friendly local watched us during every sip
As for the bottle size, there’s apparently a running joke here: “Belikin – more bottle, less beer.” That seems about right…or, as they say in Belize, “Yaaa, man!”
Yesterday in Belize we visited Xunantunich, a Maya archeological site near the Guatemala border (about three hours drive from our AirBnb in Placencia). Humans have been at this site going back at least to 3000 B.C., and the structures date to around 700 A.D. Most of the excavation at Xunantunich occurred between 1890 and 1960, but archeologists are still discovering things—including a previously untouched burial chamber that was found in 2016.
First view of the Castillo
Beautiful stone stairways
The frescoes are re-creations
While historians have no idea what this site was called in ancient times, the modern name of Xunantunich means “Stone Woman.” It gets its name from a ghost that was first reported in 1892. A local hunter said he had encountered a woman dressed completely in white with fire-red glowing eyes at the base of a pyramid-shaped structure called “El Castillo” (The Castle). As the legend goes, she ascended the stairs and disappeared into a stone wall.
A painting of the Stone Woman
Versions of that story have been repeated many times since, most recently by a tour group from Canada that claimed to have seen her just after sundown. Some believers think that she formerly lived within the city in ancient times, while others think that she was a human sacrifice victim that re-lives her last moments time and time again.
Ghost stories aside, Xunantunich is a World Heritage site–and for good reason. There are six courtyards and more than 26 structures across about a square mile. El Castillo, at the heart of the old city, is the second tallest man-made structure in Belize at 150 feet. Adventurous visitors (including us) can climb to the top through a series of steps, with wild exposure that is not for the faint of heart. Apparently three tourists have fallen here in the past few years, “but they had nothing more than broken legs,” a local told us cheerfully (if not reassuringly).
Souzz delicately balances down a steep stairway
Looking out to Guatemala
There is great significance in how Xunantunich is laid out against the “axis mundi,” which is the intersection of the two cardinal lines of the old city. And all of the features (stairs, openings, etc.) are prime numbers. The Mayans were quite good with geometry and math, among other things.
We didn’t see any ghosts, but we still enjoyed our time walking through the courtyards and climbing the three main structures. It’s easy to see why this location was chosen by the Mayans, as there are commanding views in all directions.
I’m not sure I believe in the Stone Woman, although Souzz does sometimes have fire-red eyes and occasionally disappears—but usually just into the beer tent.
Snorkeling and cooking may be an odd pairing, but odd pairings have never stopped us before. So with odd pairings (and snorkeling) in mind, we headed out of Placencia in southern Belize by boat to Lark Caye, and then hit a reef at Bugel Caye on the way back.Placencia Eagle Ray Tourswas our outfitter of choice–and Rene and Dido knew their stuff, and also seemed to genuinely enjoy their work. Lark Caye was only about a 40 minute boat ride from Placencia, so it set up well for our trip.
Dido, Rene, and me
Off to Lark Caye
Souzz and I had never been snorkeling before, so we had a few things to learn. For starters, it’s important to sense when waves are overtopping your snorkel and you are getting ready to inhale saltwater…and a few gulps of saltwater is its own kind of motivation to figure that out. There are also a some dangers to be aware of–coral that can sting, jellyfish that “would ruin your whole day,” the occasional stingray, and of course sunburn–so it’s not a “check your brain at the door” kind of activity.
But once we got going, there were amazing colors of coral and fish, a whole world below us that I had never really thought much about before. I can totally see how people get into snorkeling and diving, and we are already plotting our next trip.
These fish were called Sergeant Majors
We followed our time snorkeling with some beach time and then we went to a cooking class in town that we set up through a company called Taste Belize. Chef Radiance generously shared her home with us and together we made a conch dish with rice, peppers, and zucchini.
Chef Radiance’s home
Chef Radiance with Souzz
In addition to our lovely conversation with Chef Radiance–which touched on a range of topics that included Belize’s independence from Great Britain in 1981, changes brought by tourism, Hurricane Iris, traditional Mayan cooking, and Anthony Bourdain–we learned a lot about how to prepare Belizian cuisine. We squeezed out coconut milk from the pulp (very hands-on), enjoyed cooking with traditionally made coconut oil (a much different taste than what you get at a store in the US), and learned about a new (to us) Belizian spice/condiment called recado.
Rice in coconut milk
Rice in coconut milk
Souzz getting down and dirty with the Recado.
Adding zucchini late, to ensure that it isn’t over-cooked
Conch and spices
Conch rubbed with Recado
Recado is a deep red-colored paste made from seeds of the achiote tree (which is native to the tropics). We smeared the conch meat with it before cooking, which gave it a bit of color and also a bit of a nutty and peppery flavor. For our dish, we also used lime, salt, turmeric, Italian spices, garlic powder, and hot sauce.
The finished meal
Souzz and Chef Radiance at dinner
There were lots of flavors going on in Chef Radiance’s kitchen, but yet everything seemed elegantly simple.
Aaaah, yes, elegantly simple. Snorkeling and traditional dinners are both elegantly simple in their own way, and they are two more things that are helping us fall more in love with Belize with every passing day.
Souzz and I had so much fun in Scotland and the Faroes this summer that we decided we needed another trip abroad this year. With limited vacation time, we had to look for a place that was “relatively” close. We considered Canada and Mexico, but we wanted to go a little further afield.
Enter Belize, a country of 375,000 that is just 1600 miles away–which is closer to us than Las Vegas. Further enticing us was the promise of warm weather, 240 miles of coastline, Mayan ruins, barrier reefs, and a very interesting culture. And as if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s a coconut rum-based drink in Belize called a Panti Rippa.
Barefoot Bar, Placencia
South end of Placencia
We arrived in Belize City this afternoon and took a short 25 minute flight in a Cessna Caravan to the village of Placencia (which would have been about four hours by road, wow). Placencia has a population of about 3500, a blossoming adventure travel scene, and a friendly small town feel.
We’re staying at a lovely Airbnb right on the beach, and first impressions are pretty great. There’s a nice breeze, the town is lively and welcoming, and the ocean is delightfully clear and warm.
It’s called Oceanview for a reason
Our rooftop deck
Tomorrow we head out snorkeling and then have a cooking class in the evening. As we settle into the mellow pace here, our plan seems a little ambitious–especially now that I’m into my second Panti Rippa.
We are headed out of the Faroe Islands today, are back to Scotland for a quick overnight in Edinburgh before heading back to the USA tomorrow.
Nice photo bomb, need to work on my framing
low clouds, but they seem used to it
We capped off our trip yesterday with a ferry out to the island of Nolsoy, about a 20 minute ride from the capital in Torshavn, where we hiked around the town and explored a bit. Later we visited a church in Sandavágur before enjoying a nice meal at a restaurant called Arrstova (“House By the Brook”) on Torshavn harbor. Arrstova is in a wooden building built in the 1600s, but the menu is decidedly modern (my favorite was the lamb tartare, and the multi-course meal was the best of our trip by far).
Torshavn from the ferry
The surf pounding Nolsoy
Contemplative during lunch
Our ride home
Aarstova (“The House by the Brook”)
The main course
As is true with any adventure, we didn’t know what to expect here…even more so because we didn’t know a single person that had visited the Faroes (well, at least nobody that we had asked). What we found was a rich history and stunning natural beauty, along with more than enough tourist-oriented services and a lot of great people.
The church in Sandavágur
Tinganes, the historic location of the Faroese landsstýri (government)
Tinganes, the historic location of the Faroese landsstýri (government)
While there is not a lot of lodging (and just a handful of campgrounds), the choices are growing through new construction and through services like AirBnb. We really enjoyed our AirBnb house, and our host was super-helpful and responsive.
Our AirBnB in Hoyvik
Lovely view from the dining area
A full kitchen
We enjoyed local seafood
Kicking back in the moonlight
There’s a Faroese proverb that nobody lives in the Faroes for practical reasons. I’m not even sure what that means, but I can say that we’ve encountered people that are welcoming, curious, and eager to share their culture. And what a fabulous culture it is, with a deep respect for the past, optimism for the future, understandable pride, and a friendly approach to outsiders.
The Faroese are also very trusting. Nobody pays attention to locking anything here, the honor system is everywhere, fancy bikes are out leaning against fences and buildings in town, and the Faroese version of a key swap is to leave the door unlocked and the key on the table.
An honor system store
People are also very active and fit, and many of them were pushing baby strollers up trails that we thought were challenging ourselves. And pretty much every dog in the country is a black and white border collie (ok, so I’m not sure what that has to do with culture, but it does stand out).
Topics of conversation with the locals have spanned a huge range, including politics, energy independence, education, and the economics of tunnel building (important stuff when you live in a mountainous country made up of 18 islands).
The front page of the English-language newspaper, local.fo
One of many tunnels
A quick example of the differences in culture: many of the rental cars are emblazoned with huge rental car logos, which would probably alert drivers in the US to pass at the first chance and maybe give you a “hand signal” if you weren’t up to standard. In contrast, a local in the Faroes told us that he saw the logos as encouraging folks to be more understanding when a tourist drives erratically (like us), too slowly (we did), or seems lost (we were, even though there’s basically one main road through the islands).
Based on our experiences, tourists are greeted with patience, whether fumbling for the right coins to pay, puzzling over a road or trail sign, mangling the pronunciation of a place name, or queueing in the wrong place (not that we ever did any of that, at least not in writing).
There is explosive growth on the islands right now, and people seem realistic about what tourism might mean for their country–both good and bad. For example, the introduction of new visitor fees—some with credit card enabled turnstiles–at the more popular attractions is something that the country seems to be struggling with (a lot of people were talking about it). Coming from the pay-as-you-go culture of the US, it all seemed fair to us–but I’m not sure how it would feel to pay for a hike if I were local.
DKK75 is about $12USD
Not too remote to take a credit card
Puzzling over the gate
Lots of stories on fees to access trails
It says something that the people made such an impression on us, as we don’t speak Faroese–but English is commonly spoken here. And the people were friendly, were interested in our story, and live in a beautiful country. That’s a nice combination for a wayward traveler.
You can’t understand a place in four days, but the Faroes–and their people–showed itself as a world destination. And just as nobody lives in the Faroes for practical reasons, it isn’t the most practical destination from the US. But as we get closer to wheels up, we are already talking about our next visit.
Yesterday in the Faroes we started with a visit to the historic village of Kirkjubøur, about twenty minutes drive from the capital of Torshavn. Kirkjubøur is generally considered the country’s most historically important site, with structures that go back to medieval times. We visited ruins of 14th-century Magnus Cathedral along with a beautiful 13th-century church, Olavskirkjan, and Kirkjubøargarður, an 11th century farmhouse.
Kirkjubøargarður may be the oldest wooden structure in the world that is still occupied—and the same family, the Paturrsons, has lived there for 17 generations. How a wooden structure can last a thousand years is beyond me, especially as I have a fence back home that’s falling apart after a few seasons.
Magnus Cathedral ruins
Saint Olav’s Church, 11th century
A gargoyle in Magnus
Another view of Kirkjubøargarður
My new friend Fram
Old-style cooking in Kirkjubøargarður
The upstairs room in Kirkjubøargarður
Suzy with artifacts in Kirkjubøargarður
The settlement of Kirkjubøur was founded in part because it was a spot that collected a lot of driftwood, which was an incredibly important commodity in a land with almost no trees. We saw a piece of driftwood on the beach during our visit and I caught myself wondering where it’d come from. If only a tree could talk…well, if a tree could talk, it probably wouldn’t be able to get a word in edgewise.
Before the Reformation, Kirkjubøur was the center of Catholicism across all of Scandinavia, and the Bishop at the time wrote the “Sheep Letter” there in 1298. The Sheep Letter is a Constitution of sorts, and is the oldest surviving document on the islands. Kirkjubøur dwindled after the Reformation, and then was hit by a devastating hurricane in the 1600s. The Cathedral was never finished.
We followed our visit to Kirkjubøur with a drive an hour north to the village of Saksun, where we enjoyed a beautiful (and super-windy) five mile hike out to the ocean and back, passing a huge mountainside waterfall along the way. We had to watch the tides, as parts of the hike are cut off with an incoming tide, but there was good signage to help out a few foreigners.
Good signage to help out tourists
Many of the popular hikes charge for access now, although they all take credit cards (despite the remoteness)
Tides, good information to know
We were blown away by–and because of–the hike. I know everybody exaggerates wind speeds, but I’m pretty confident that there were sustained winds of 30-40mph and gusts above 50. Even the locals seemed a bit winded.
Souzz forgot her hat, so she fashioned one out of a scarf
Looking down the start of the hike, pretty civilized
Saksun, heading to the beach
The waterfall along the way
Wind in my hair
The western Atlantic
From there, we drove another half hour up a narrow one-lane road to the village of Tjørnuvík, the northernmost village on the island of Streymoy and a popular destination with surfers (easy to see why, as a powerful surf pounded the beach the entire time we were there). We enjoyed a lovely lunch at the café there, and also looked out over an old Viking burial grounds.
The road into Tjornuvik
Exciting driving, and sheep all around, too.
Love those two haystacks in the background
Lunch at Sand Restaurant, Tjornuvik
Our lunchtime view
Viking Burial Grounds (we think!)
Sand Restauratn, Tjornuvik
This is what it looks like when the surf is up! Photo used by permission by Erlendur Thor Magnusson
We closed out the day back in Kirkjubøur, where we joined a friendly rancher tending to the Paturrson family cows.
Headed to the ranch
lots of food for the cows
These two were very friendly
Making new friends
Evening light was stunning
The diversity of experiences that are possible on the 500 square miles of land of the Faroes is remarkable; I’m pretty sure that this was the first day of our lives that started with medieval ruins and ended with feeding cows. (Oh, and we fed ourselves, too, with local salmon, and a nice view at our lovely AirBnB in Hoyvik).
Souzz and I are into the next leg of our vacation and arrived in the Faroe Islands last night by way of Edinburgh, Scotland (one of a handful of cities that offer direct flights). The Faroes are a collection of 18 islands that are halfway between Iceland and Norway. They are a part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but they are very independent. They have their own government, their own language (Faroese), lots of services/amenities, and a very interesting culture.
Less than 50,000 people live here, although there are supposedly nearly twice as many sheep. That said, it’s a very modern destination with a lot to offer–dramatic scenery as well as wonderfully friendly people.
As to how we got interested in visiting the Faroes, there’s a famous waterfall here called Múlafossur, and it popped up one day on my dad’s cable TV screensaver (doesn’t everyone get trip ideas from screensavers?).
When I saw that photo, I asked “Where is that?” As one might expect, my dad hadn’t memorized the screensaver shots; he was more interested in the Georgia Tech football game that we’d paused while we freshened up our drinks. Later, I tried (unsuccessfully) to find the location of the photo through the web. I finally took a picture of the TV screen (after waiting waiting waiting for the same image) and did areverse photo search with Google.
It’s not the first time I’ve gotten a crazy idea for a trip in an unlikely place (see Pegman Meets Viking) and something tells me it won’t be the last.
We’ve just started our visit to the Faroes, but it’s clear that this is a special place. Cliffs plunge hundreds of feet into the ocean all around, the human history goes back to Vikings more than a thousand years ago, birds are everywhere, the roads and tunnels between islands are an engineering marvel, and the people are fantastic.
For our visit, we are basing out of an AirBnB in Hoyvik, just outside of the capital city of Torshavn. Our AirBnB host Sarah Ann has been super-helpful, and there’s a full kitchen so we have been able to pursue some local dishes. Most everything is imported from Denmark or Iceland, but the stores are full of choices.
The view from our AirBnB
Windows to the south
Souzz relaxing in the spacious living room
As for the food, it’s always interesting to go grocery shopping when you are far away (much as it was in Scotland last week). The main store in Torshavn, called Miklagarður, was very well stocked, but with labels in Faroese that we couldn’t easily translate. A quick example: Toskaflak is what we cooked for dinner tonight. We’re confident that it’s fish…but we have no idea what kind.
This morning we spent some time in and around Torshavn, a vibrant town with a fabulous harbor. We really weren’t expecting so much culture here, and I felt sheepish about pre-judging this place (insert your own joke here re sheepish in the Faroes).
Looking back into the harbor
The historic government buildings
The harbor water was so clear!
Torshavn lighthouse and fortress, dating to 1629
And with such a compact geography, we had time this afternoon to visit Múlafossur Waterfall (which inspired the trip) and to hike about five miles to a viewpoint above Sørvágsvatn. With only 500 square miles of land, everything on the road system is totally within reach. For the part of the Faroes on the road system, it’s probably only about an hour end-to-end (there are ferries to a few of the outlying islands).
The tunnel into Gasadalur
Looking out at the ocean from Sørvágsvatn
Souzz near Sørvágsvatn
Self-serve bakery, a nice touch
All in all, we had a great time taking in the culture, hiking in the tree-less terrain, and enjoying the incredible vistas. One is never more than three miles from the ocean here, so it’s not hard to find an interesting view.
It’s easy to see why this place shows up in screen savers…and travel blogs. We are here a few more days, so we are looking forward to more time in a part of the world that isn’t as well known (at least in the US) as it should be!
Wikipedia tells me that the name Ogilvie (also commonly spelled Ogilvy) is well known in Scotland. This has been reinforced a few times during our travels, like when we introduced ourselves to our innkeeper in Nethy Bridge and she responded “aaah, Ogilvie, that’s quite the aristocratic surname (I had to look up the word aristocratic, which means I’m probably not). And then a few days later, while paddling on the River Spey, our new friend Jerry said “Ogilvie? You have your own tartan. There’s some yellow in it, right?”
Clan Ogilvie crest
Earl of Airlie Coat of Arms
I’m hundreds of years (probably more) removed from anybody important, but it’s still interesting history. The name Ogilvie originally comes from the Earls of Angus, and it is derived from the Old British word Ocelfa, which means high plain. I’d rather be named for a mountaintop, but I guess high plain is better than some other options. In any case, it’s fun to visit my roots, however distant.
There are several Ogilvie castles in Scotland, and we tried to visit two of them, Airlie and Cortachy. Airlie Castle is a bit more “modern” (it was rebuilt in the late 1800s after it was badly burned in 1640; more on that later). It is often used for weddings, events, and “lodging.” I’m not very aristocratic, so it was out of my price range for this trip.
Cortachy Castle dates to the 1400s and most recently was the private home of the 13th Earl of Airle, LordDavid George Coke Patrick Ogilvy. Lord Ogilvy served as Lord Chamberlain to the Queen, and he is one of the last surviving attendees of the Queen’s Coronation in 1937. His younger brother Angus married Princess Alexandra of Kent in 1963, so there are some interesting connections to the royal family.
I had to laugh as I learned more about Ogilvie/Ogilvy lineage for this trip, as it conjured up memories of a visit to the Ogilvie Mountains in the Yukon a few years back. The Ogilvie Mountains are named for the famous Canadian explorer William Ogilvie (a descendant of the same British family), and I tried hard to find a link to him in my family tree…but I only succeeded in figuring out that I’m related to Scottish horse thieves. I need to be careful with this ancestry stuff.
Horse thieves notwithstanding, I learned a bunch of interesting history as I researched the various castles ahead of our trip. For example, the Ogilvys had a longstanding (hundreds of years) feud with the Campbells, and the Campbells significantly damaged Airlie Castle and set it afire in 1640. There is actually Scottish folk song about it, called theBonnie Hoose O’ Airlie, written in the 1800s.
As for the present day, we reached out to Lord Ogilvy’s assistant via email (is this a crazy world, or what?), and she told us that Airlie Castle was not open for visits because the Ogilvy family was “currently in residence.” In contrast to Airlie, Cortachy Castle is never open to the public–but a few years back, my sister talked her way onto the property and even met Lord Ogilvy. So we figured we’d ask permission to walk the grounds, and we knew we could at least visit the church and cemetery at Cortachy.
Cortachy Parish Church, 1828
Funny how you can pick out your own name (or a version of it) very quickly in a scan.
The cemetery at Cortachy Parish Church
Walkway towards Cortachy Castle
The Gate to Cortachy Castle
Cortachy Church Cemetery
Stanley Ogilvy gravesite
John Ogilvy, died 1825
While we weren’t permitted access the grounds of Cortachy Castle, Lord Ogilvy’s assistant generously shared information on how we could get close to it on a neighboring property. So after a little sleuthing/exploring around, that’s what we did. And we had a great time, even on a rainy day when we could only get within a few hundred yards of the castle.
A rapids in front of the castle. Maybe whitewater really is in my blood?!
Souzz enjoyed the trip, too
A beautiful castle
Rain didn’t dampen our spirits!
As for the feud with the Campbells, we haven’t encountered any Campbells yet on our trip–but I’m keeping my eyes peeled, and Souzz has been watching my back. And I’m now revisiting my friendship with two close friends back home named Campbell–and I’m also totally giving up soup.
Suzy and I left Nethy Bridge yesterday morning hoping to paddle some of the River Spey in our packrafts, which are ultralight inflatables that are quite capable in whitewater (although the Spey is super-mellow, class II). We then proceeded to get thoroughly lost on back roads looking for the put-in. We were basically giving up when we saw a van with a rack full of kayaks pass us in the other direction. So we did a quick 180 and followed them to the river.
Once at the put-in, we soon learned that river etiquette is the same in the UK as in the US–yet another thing that our countries have in common. We asked the friendly local folks from Abernethy Nethybridge Outfitters for information on the run, they sized us up (including our boats and weather-worn gear), and then our new friend Jerry offered us a shuttle from the take-out–as long as we could be ready when they were. What followed was the quickest gear throwdown in history, and then a lightning fast shuttle ride (amazed that their van could move that fast, even towing a boat rack).
The run was very straightforward, maybe a few rapids of class II, but very pretty. And a great way to see the Scottish countryside.
Another first for us was that the take-out was at a Speyside distillery. So naturally we followed our paddle with a tour of Cragganmore Distillery.
Our tour guide holds a bowl of barley
Cragganmore storage warehouses
Both the paddle and the tour were worth doing again, and the day gave new meaning to the idea of adding barley and yeast to water.
Last night we asked our innkeeper at the lovely Birch Croit Cottage in Nethy Bridge for any recommendations to visit in the local area, and he had some great advice. “The Scottish Highlands are nice,” he said, “but go to the west coast if you can. There’s a place called the Torridon that is quite remarkable. It’s a fabulous Glen, with towering peaks. It’d be a wee drive to get there, and the last part of the road is quite narrow. But it’s supposed to be rainy tomorrow, so that might be a good time to be in a car anyway.”
“Hmm…the road is quite narrow?” I echoed. “Will a couple of dopey Americans driving on the other side of the road be able to get there without scaring themselves silly?” I asked.
“Well, the road is not a Harley road, more of a Suzuki road,” he responded. “It’s a single lane wide for the last bit, with places to pass every few hundred yards or so–but just go 40 instead of 60 and you’ll be fine.”
The more we heard, the more it sounded like an interesting adventure. Never mind that we were in a right-hand-drive car, and that we’d probably been driving 40mph on 60mph roads for big chunks of our trip already. We love to take local advice when we can, so the choice was pretty easy.
The sign tells (part of) the story
Looking down from the road
It was an interesting trip indeed. Yes, the last twenty miles were one-way with pull-outs for oncoming traffic. Yes, the driving was exciting at times. And yes, there were stretches where we had to back up our car on a narrow one-lane road to get into a pull-out to let another car past. But the locals know how to do that, and I guess we do now, too.
One of the pull-outs
The last eight miles of our trip–to the spectacularly situated community of Lower Diabaig on the north Atlantic–had our undivided attention, as it was along cliffs that were exciting to navigate going forward, let alone in reverse.
It looks less scary than it was!
Looking down from the road
One of the stretches that was away from the cliffs
Once we arrived in the seaside community of Lower Diabaig, we had the chance to enjoy a cup of coffee at the lovely restaurant there, Gille Brighde (Gaelic for Oyster Catcher).
After enjoying our coffee, we walked along the harbor, collected seashells, checked out an old shipwreck, and shared a full-on seaside picnic (from a cooler full of food that we’d brought along). That gave us a chance to puzzle over the story behind the village, the shipwreck, who/how the road was built, and more. But mostly we just looked out into the harbor and soaked in the beautiful scene.
Lots of boats in what is clearly a watermen’s community
Looking up the beach
Souzz looking Scottish
An old fishing vessel shipwrecked on the beach
Dramatic landscape at Lower Diabaig
Looking back from the pier that protects the harbor
The pier/jeddy that protects the harbor
Many colors on the beach
Souzz walking along the harbor
As our innkeeper in Nethy Bridge had suggested, the Torridon is worth the visit. It has craggy peaks all around the Glen (which is what they call a wide sweeping valley here, so that’s what we call it now, too). And it was fun to be nudged into a place that we wouldn’t have chosen on our own.
On the drive back to Nethy Bridge, we took a few short side hikes before stopping through Inverness and visiting the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew and Inverness Castle.
Cathedral of St. Andrew
Visiting Inverness was the cherry on top of a day when a (mostly) gas-powered adventure to the coast actually seemed like an accomplishment.