Tackling the West Coast – Day 2

Today I planned to finish the NC500 route. First, the road led to Inverewe,  where a beautiful garden has been created in Scotland’s far north. It is home to some sub-tropical plant species, that can survive because the Gulf Stream keeps the climate surprisingly mild in winter.  The designers of Inverewe also had the idea of using a forest of Scots Pine to provide protection from the strong, cold Scottish winds.  In addition to exotic plants from Australia and South Africa and other far-flung places, Inverewe also has traditional Scottish plants like rhododendrons and azaleas, which were just starting to bloom.  I spent a happy hour wandering around, and then found a discrete corner to have sandwiches for lunch – I wasn’t sure if picnics were allowed in the gardens.

Different aspects of the gardens at Inverewe

From Inverewe, the road again became narrow, with spectacular views of the sea.

I often had to squeeze past other cars and thought that it was good to be driving the NC500 in May – in high season, the road might be too busy to enjoy. At Kinlochewe, the NC500 turned off down the Torridon valley, with more mountains……… and an unexpected friend standing right by the side of the road, unperturbed by passing cars.

The Torridon valley
A surprise meeting

Form Torridon the road climbed  back into the mountains, where I met more friends.

Brave, aren’t I?

Then I descended into Applecross, a pretty village by the sea with a very good restaurant, where I stopped for afternoon coffee. From there.  I drove up and back down the steep Bealach na Bà pass, with its nerve-jangling hairpins bends and far-reaching views.

On top of the pass….
On the way back down…..

Next the road followed the side of Loch Carron….

…before reaching a place called New Kelso where I had first started the NC500 over 500 miles and three days earlier.  I had done it! 

Back to where I started!

The rest of the day was easy. I travelled back towards the Kyle of Lochalsh on a road I had already driven once. It looked very different in the sun, particularly Eilean Donan Castle.

Eilean Donan – in the sun this time !

I passed the Five Sisters again, driving east rather than west this time, before reaching Invergary, where I had booked a room in the Glengarry Castle Hotel as a special treat. Nearing my destination at the end of another long day, I met with one last surprise – the old bridge leading to the hotel had collapsed.

I soon found the other way to reach the hotel , checked in, and had an excellent dinner, after which I drank coffee and wrote my blog in the “morning room”, enjoying the ambience of staying in a real Scottish castle.

Glengarry Castle Hotel
The Glengarry Castle Hotel
The view from my room

It had been another long day’s driving, but I had completed my mission. The car was still intact, although the wheels and suspension had been through a serious workout.  I had hundreds of photos and even more memories of the NC500 – possibly the best road trip in the world.

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