(written by Dave)
First a word about midges. They are little gnat like bugs that are the scourge of Scotland. They are mostly found on the west coast and they have been known to drive people insane. They swarm around your head/face and bite non-stop. Killing them is hard and it doesn’t matter as there are too many anyway. Why am I telling you this? You guessed it, our campsite last night was full of midges. The heavy summer rains this year had turned the poorly drained tent area into fertile breeding grounds. We are technically in central Scotland but they apparently didn’t get the memo about where they could/could not live. We are now officially midge initiated. Knowing a good feed, the midges returned again this morning while we packed. Nancy ended up looking like she had the chickenpox so I think she got the worst of them. Thankfully, we are staying tonight in Dingwall, where you can see the sea, firmly in Eastern Scotland – so far they have not found us.
Aside from the midges, last night’s camp had a few other issues. There was a group partying late into the night, followed by what sounded like a running of the show “Cops” at 3AM. These seemed to coming from two different areas and Nancy is certain that the owner evicted someone. I’m not sure I ever really woke up but it was just enough noise to make sleep fitful. Between the midges, the lack of sleep and the extra effort it took to avoid the lakes around our tent caused by poor drainage we had a pretty slow and late start today.
We were back out on NCN1 – National Cycle Network 1 and enjoyed a nice ride mostly downhill to the Falls of Shin, a natural river area where in season you can see salmon swimming up through the falls. We stopped and had a look. No salmon but Nancy has come to expect that with my fishing trips.
From there we made our way to Bonar Bridge, cute little town and a famous bridge across the Dornoch Firth. Firth is the word to denote various coastal waters in Scotland and England. We had a nice view of the Dornoch Firth a little later when we climbed a hill further south. We met up with another JOGLE rider at a lookout here, plus saw lots of other riders out today. Many had bags so they looked like end to enders but no one stops as for a chat as there are too many of us. We stopped to check the map once in front of an old farm house and the owner came out to give us a hand. He informed us that most days he sees lots of cyclist, especially in the summer. Guess that’s how it goes when you live on NCN1.
The hill between Dornoch Firth and Cromarty Firth was longer and more tiring that we thought it would be. It was cloudy and quite chilly until we got back down onto the edge of the firth. Both of us were feeling a little low on energy then I looked at my watch and discovered that it was 12:20. No morning tea or lunch yet, no wonder we were flagging. The ride along the Cromarty Firth was nice. We accidentally ended up on the A9, main highway, but traffic was not too bad. A bonus of the A9 was that we got to have a look at the local seal troop sunning on the rocks.
We made it to Dingwall about 2PM and decided to call in at Tesco. We were supposed to ride a further 8k to Strathpeffer, the home my ancestral clan, the Mackenzies, but instead we decided to stay here for the night. We didn’t get good reports on the campground in Strathpeffer. The site here in Dingwall is good, so that was a good call.
While Nancy hung out and read the Sunday paper, I walked up the Dingwall’s Macdonald Monument. It looked like a castle from the distance and our blog has lacked castle photos. It turned out to not be a castle, just a really big monument to Hector Macdonald. I’m not sure who he was or how he came up such a good Hispanic name like Hector.
Tomorrow the forecast is for hard rain all day. Everyone is talking about a storm. It looks ok now so I’m not sure. We may stay here or we may try a shortish ride that takes us to Strathpeffer and then onto Inverness. We’ll see how things look in the morning. And about the midges, it’s dark now and they still have not made an appearance. Perhaps they do only live on the “western” part of the country. Fingers crossed.