Orkney & Shetland 2019 - Day 8

From Lairg to the North Coast, Smoo Cave and Dunnet Head


After a good breakfast at the Highland Hotel, we headed north on the A836/A838 to Durness. The road was deserted. We enjoyed the drive passing many lochs on the way and not much else. From Durness we headed east to Smoo Cave and then on to Thurso and Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of mainland Britain. We had been here before, in 2003 and it was just as windy as in 2019. We drove back through Thurso, found a petrol station and then on to Scrabster for our night at the Ferry Inn.

Smoo Cave

Smoo Cave is a small cave carved by the sea and a small stream. We visited this cave in 2003 just after a tremendous thunderstorm had caused a flash flood that had closed the cave. This time the weather was a little more pleasant, still cold and windly but without the heavy rain (just a light shower).

The road north of Lairg had lots of these signs,...
but this is all we saw!
Lots of signs to confuse the driver.
The modern story of Smoo
Looking out to sea from Smoo cave.
Looking into the cave
Inside the cave with the covered walkway to the inner cave.
Looking down on Smoo cave. Note the solid bridge.
The same view in 2003, note the missing bridge.

North coast to Dunnet Head

From Smoo cave we headed east along a section of road that is still a single tack with passing bays (don't remember this bit from 2003). We passed the old nuclear power station site at Dounreay, still awaiting resoration and clearance, although the naval reactor has been refurbished and is still operating. After Thurso we turned out to Dunnet Head and its lighthouse before returning to Scrabster and the Ferry Hotel for the night.

Typical weather for the north coast of Scotland...
Dounrey in the distance
The original Dounrey reactor building, constructed in the mid-1950s.
Dunnet Head Lighthouse, the most northerly point on mainland Britain (not John O' Groats as most people assume).
Its always windy here...
but the seabirds don't mind, nesting on the cliffs.
The Ferry Inn where we stayed the night.
The adjacent Upper Deck restaurant.

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Last updated: 16/06/2019