After finding breakfast in the morning we drove down to nearby Smoo Cave to have a look around. The cave system is unique in that the initial chamber was hollowed out by the sea, whereas the rear chambers were made by rainwater seeping through the sandstone. The rest of the cave system is inaccessible but the excavators know that neolithic man used to inhabit the inner caves from sampling hazelnut ash that has seeped out through cracks. Interestingly hazelnuts haven’t grown in Scotland for thousands of years, so they can trace it back to a former time and place which I think is super neat.
We paid 5 quid to be taken on a short tour down into the furthest safely accessible chamber in an inflatable raft and wearing hard hats for good measure.
When we got out the day was still clear and fine from the previous day, and (surprisingly) there are plenty of beautiful white sand beaches around Durness to explore. We took a stroll along the shore and clambered over some rock formations while the sun stayed out.
From there we drove into the oddly named town of Tongue to find lunch, but being Sunday and also quite late in the afternoon everything had already closed for a Sunday siesta. Driving along further we eventually found a sleepy hotel with some cheerful ladies running the tavern. We both stuffed ourselves with a proper Sunday roast - Scottish beef, Yorkshire puddings, crispy potatoes, peas and a generous moat of gravy (plus a pint of ale on the side of course). It felt correct.
The next stop was the Forsinard Flows, a huge inland expanse of bog and spongy moss. Although a bit disgusting to imagine squelching through, this sort of environment is supposedly hard to come by these days and supports a large number of native insect and bird species. Being so important it's been designated a national nature reserve and some decent funding obviously went into building the neat winding boardwalk over to the lonely watchtower sitting amidst the vast field.
On the way to our next stop in Thurso I noticed a random cloud that looked like the shape of Iceland. Not sure if coincidence or omen? Anyway, we stayed that night in a shabby but comfortable hostel facing a chippy. Nothing to gush over but enough to crash safely for a night.