On my recent holiday in Sutherland, northern Scotland, after a day exploring just a wee bit of the neighbouring Caithness (not much about that today – I’ll probably write a blog post about that at some point), we were heading back to our holiday cottage near Tongue. Grown Up Boyfriend was driving and, after a day of messing about on beaches followed by the inevitable mid-holiday Big Shop in Thurso to stock up on the essentials (you know – wine, chocolate, fizzy sweeties – God bless you, Lidl…) he was firmly focused on putting the foot down and racing towards a well-earned glass of something cold and a prime spot on the comfy sofa. However, not long after speeding past Dounreay and into Sutherland from Caithness, I spotted the sign from the main road off to Strathy Point.
After some gentle persuasion (“Honestly, love, it’s not a long walk!” etc etc), GUB swerved right, taking the road down to the wee car park, dodging sheep in the process.
Now, this wasn’t my first visit to Strathy Point. Cue the tangential anecdote…
Many years ago, my then boyfriend and I spent a memorable couple of evenings in a rather “interesting” B&B very close to Strathy Point. It was really unique: the couple who owned it lived in the upstairs bit and the downstairs bit was a self-contained wee apartment, with bedroom, living room and a dining room where they served you dinner and breakfast. Secluded and relaxing. A retreat at the “edge of the world” (as it was billed on their website). Perfect.
Well, kind of.
On the first night, as we sat in the living room enjoying a dram of the single malt we’d brought with us, we were doing the usual perusal of the book shelves, and I spotted a red ring binder. On further exploration, this turned out to be the “Book of Shame”. It was the owners’ collection of stories about “nightmare guests” they had welcomed to their place! There were maybe 10 or 15 typed, laminated pages, each one with a different example of people who had visited that they hadn’t approved of for one reason or another. Admittedly, some of the stories did sound absolutely awful (eg the German family who had arrived at 5.30am; or the teenager of a family staying there who had used a safety razor to hack off her hair then use it to block the toilet etc etc). But that was it for me: for the entire duration of our stay there, I was paranoid about appearing in the “Book of Shame!” There was no way we could be anything less than the perfect guests! I wouldn’t let my companion have the tv up above a whisper. I insisted on hiding our empty wine and whisky bottles in my rucksack in case the owners thought we were city slicker lushes who drank too much. I wasn’t a second later than the time we’d asked for breakfast to be served. I made my bed!! So, after two days of being on my very best behaviour, we got to the end of our (admittedly, very nice) stay there and, just as we were leaving, my companion mentioned to one of the owners, in passing, that a pal of his had stayed there with his wife a few years back. After a couple of questions, the guy said “Ah yeah! I think remember them! Hang on a minute….” And he disappeared upstairs. A couple of minutes later, he appeared brandishing another (larger…) ring binder. “Aha! Here they are! Brendan and Christine* – yeah, nice couple – chatty enough – yup, we’d have them here again – we gave them a 7 out of 10…”. Eh?? So, not only did they have a collection of “nightmare guest” stories, but they kept a file of every guest, with a mark out of ten!!?? I mean, is that even a thing?! Thank fuck I didn’t know they did that until we were leaving! I’d have been doubly paranoid that I was only going to be a 5 or a 6!! To this day, I do wonder what score we got…
Anyway – back to May 2018…
Strathy Point is one of many bits of “sticky out” land (think the technical term is: peninsula?) along Scotland’s north coast. Just a few miles east, you have Dunnet Head in Caithness which is the most northerly point in mainland Scotland (nope, it’s not John O’Groats…) and there’s also Faraid Head near Durness to the west, to name just a couple that I’ve explored in the past.
I bloody love a bit of rugged coastline. I’m all about the craggy rocks, swooping birds, gusty winds, crashing waves and feeling a bit windswept and interesting, whilst looking out to sea and feeling Very Small in the scheme of things (to be fair, I’m barely 5 foot 2, so I’m very small generally anyway). And Strathy Point is a humdinger of a rugged coastline.
After a walk of maybe 15-20 mins or so from the car park, you come to the Strathy Point Lighthouse, (you can even stay there – they have a couple of apartments to rent) and the rocky cliff edge, with views right along the coast from east to west, with Orkney in the distance too.
And there’s a stunning “natural arch” too!
The afternoon we went was dry and a little but sunny, but also quite windy which just added to the natural dramatic beauty of the place. As mentioned in my last blog post, GUB isn’t a fan of heights (or, more accurately, he’s not a fan of sudden drops from craggy rocks into the sea to a horrific watery death…) but even he braved the edge to snap some excellent photos.
Looking up Strathy Point online inevitably brings you to many walking websites which mention it being a top spot for spotting dolphins, whales etc but – of course, because it’s me and all types of interesting sea mammals actively hide from me (see blog post about that here) – none were forthcoming that afternoon. But that didn’t matter – not when you had those views. Stunning. You really feel like you’re at the edge of the world.
And, of course, it was made all the better knowing that I was going back to a comfy wee cottage where I wasn’t going to be marked out of ten for my performance as a guest!
That is, unless GUB is keeping notes I am unaware of…