Friday 1 September 2023

Wrath Corner

I haven't been to Land's End or John O'Groats, which are the two normal ne plus ultra* points on the big island next door. But I have been to Cape Wrath [see R] which is a) the top left corner of the Scottish mainland b) a deal more remote than either of those two places. In 1989, during one of my gap years, The Boy and I drove from Newcastle/Tyne, where I was resting and he was in school, to Cape Wrath by way of St Andrew's, Braemar, Grantown, Inverness and Durness. That's as near as you can get by car. The last inlet of this fissured coast, The Kyle of Durness, is a bridge too far for bridges but there is a passenger ferry to the quay at Achiemore and a minibus will take you the last 16km to the lighthouse at Cape Wrath. You can walk back, if you're fit. We had a glorious day for it 34 years ago: it was not raining rain . . . and the M.O.D. was not raining ordnance on the moorland through which the single track road passes. I make no apology for assertively sitting in the two front seats on the drive back, so that the youngster could see and remember the experience. The most notable and disturbing part of having an hour in 1989 to explore at CapeWrath was that one of the gullies had been used as the light-house keepers' dump for the previous 160 years: white-goods, trailer-axles, cans and old rope had just been heaved over the edge until the winter storms carried the shite away. The cape was named hvarf = 'turning-point' by the Vikings; nothing to do with angry weather gods.

I don't think about that trip every day but I do remember it. It came up last weekend because Dau.II came back from a week in Ullapool with the aforementioned Boy and his family. And the allllmost made a day-trip of it. It's 50 miles drive from Ullapool to Durness, so you'd return to your digs at the end of the day utterly clapped out without ever having to walk more than a few steps. When we were there, the lighthouse was still crewed by the Northern Lighthouse Board but the system was automated in 1998.  Currently, some of the buildings have been leased to Angie & John Ure who run the Ozone Café and Bunkhouse. Everybody has a positive word to say about the Ozone!

If you are ever in Durness, you have to go to Smoo Cove next door which is like Stradbally, down The Déise, on steroids. It is a long [maybe 300m] thin [maybe 30m across] deep-water inlet which penetrates the landscape as Smoo Cave under the 'main' road. Smoo apparently means 'hidden' in Old Norse and it is easy to imagine a longship nipping in there to avoid pursuit by Ivar Iron-nipples

(*) ne plus ultra?: Parnell's monument apparently has a spelinge errur. Who knew?

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