Today has been a semi rest day. I left my B&B and stayed at Golspie waiting for the Rock Shop to open at 10.00. Last night I spied a rather attractive stone-carved bear in their shop window. I really like Inuit carving but cannot justify the prices they command. The bear was in my price range, and in the end I bought it and arranged that we would pick it up on our way to Inverness next week.
I left Golspie around 11.00 and made my way to Dunrobin Castle. I had mixed feelings about whether to stop or not, for reasons I will explain later, but in the end I decided to break my journey there.
The house and grounds are magnificent, and my visit coincided with a falconry display which was most informative. The falconer flew three birds, the last of which was a peregrine. These birds stoop at over 200 miles an hour, and when they pull out of their dive they pull 24g. This is remarkable when you consider that a fighter pilot in a special suit passes out at 9g.
The reason I was hesitant about visiting Dunrobin was that I knew something of the darker side of the history of the house. This is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Sutherland. The first Duke and Duchess were responsible for some of the worst excesses of the Highland Clearances. Whilst they spent much of their time socialising in London, their factors were busy evicting their tenants to make room for black faced sheep, which were more profitable. Initially tenants were moved to poor land at the coast, to become fishermen, and when that proved unsustainable they were encouraged to emigrate so as not to be a burden on the landowner. The profits from this paid for the house. ‘Done Robbing’ might be a better name. I was put to shame by a group of Canadians from Nova Scotia, who I met at dinner this evening. They were visiting the original homes of their Scottish ancestors and refused to visit the castle, as they did not want to be supporting the Sutherlands in any way.
On a happier note, the route to Brora was a delight. Bluebell-covered woodland led to open pasture near the sea.
I passed the remains of Carn Liath Broch…
…before passing under the first cliffs on the walk.
During the next section, I saw several seals sunning themselves on the rocks. Like my father, I love the sea. There’s always something interesting happening, and it was lovely to walk along being serenaded by the seals and a pair of ravens.
I reached Brora at 3.15. The town seems to have an active fishing fleet judging by the lobster pots at the harbour. It also has a Salt Street, reflecting the importance of salt pans to the town. The Duke of Sutherland opened a coal mine in the town to provide employment for the population.
Overall a very pleasant day, and the scenery will only improve from here. One slightly worrying point is that two walkers told me today that around Berriedale the route is almost impassable – but we will just have to see when I get there.