link The North Coast 500: Tongue to Achmelvich Beach

After a good breakfast we set off from Tongue with a vague idea of what we wanted to do for the day, but no fixed plan. First stop of the day was at a beach that I cannot for the life of me remember what it was called. A shame as it would have made a good wild camping spot. We stretched our legs there, and got back in the car to drive towards a small town called Durness.

The views from the road really were something else. We lost track of how many times we stopped the car to look out. I mean, how could you not stop for views like this!?

Just outside of Durness lies Smoo Cave, a large cave set in limestone rock, and has been created by a freshwater waterfall, as well as the sea. There are many legends surrounding this cave, including tales of a highway man who murdered his victims by throwing them down the blowhole into the caves below. It was also a well known hide out for smugglers and fishermen for many years. Nowadays the sea doesn’t come up far enough for boats to reach the caves, but it means that they are safe to explore. We walked up to the hill around the cave to view it from above, before descending into the cave. It’s a huge cavern, created simulataneously by the sea below and waterfalls from above. There are regular tours of the caves, but we chose to just wander round the first chamber and walk along the cliffs nearby because I have a little dislike (a.k.a. huge phobia!!) of being in enclosed spaces with water. Strange for someone who loves swimming and goes wild swimming any chance I get, but I guess most phobias aren’t logical.

 

Back on the road we kept seeing signs for a place called Cocoa Mountain along the route, advertising “the best hot chocolate”, so when we saw the turn off for it we had to go and see if it really was the best. Long story short, it was definitely up there with the best I’ve had!! So, so good! Cocoa Mountain isn’t just a cafe/coffee shop, but that it also produces hand made chocolates and truffles. We ordered a hot chocolate with a side of truffles, and finally managed to chose 3 truffles each from the mouthwatering selection on offer (blueberry, ginger and lemongrass, and chocolate chili for me if you’re wondering). The hot chocolate was amazing! Made using real chocolate (made right there on the premises), warm frothy milk and topped with melted white and milk chocolate it was a chocolate overload, but that didn’t stop both of us almost licking the cup clean at the end.

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The best hot chocolate in the world, with a side of truffles

 

Feeling happily full of chocolate, we took another slight detour off the route and made our way to Handa Island, an uninhabited island that is a dedicated nature reserve. We loved it there so much, I’ve dedicated a whole post to our time on the island; you can read about it in my blog post about it here.

 

Faces nicely sunburnt we checked into our B&B, a cute place on the main NC500 route, but at the same time, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. After check in we headed into Lochinver, the nearest large village, for dinner at the highly recommended pie shop there, the Lochinver Larder. It’s not the cheapest place to eat, but after a busy day on the road it offers tasty comfort food and was just what we needed.

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Venison and cranberry pie

 

After that it was still relatively early so we explores Achmelvich beach, a beautiful cove with white and turqouise sea, and my dad’s favourite beach in Scotland. I’m so glad I can tell him I’ve finally been, and that yes, it lived up to the expectation he’d set.

 

 

It was starting to get pretty chilly by this time, so we didn’t stay too long, but I’ll definitely be back in the future to spend a day here. Heading back to the B&B we stopped off to watch the sun set over the Scottish Highlands before tucking ourselves into a bed to soft I can only imagine that’s what sleeping in a marshmallow would be like. The Highlands had been good to us so far, and we were looking forward to seeing what else they would bring!

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