It’s Scot to be done
This wild and remote route will amaze
Anyone’s who’s traversed the sky-blown emptiness of Sutherland, Scotland’s most north-westerly county, knows just how special it is, but if you’re after genuine solitude then head further north. Durness is one of a number of small villages lying in the north-west corner of the Highlands. It’s on the A838, the main loop running around the top of Scotland and part of the North Coast 500 route. From an overnight stop at the Smoo Cave Hotel, head east towards John o’groats. The road jinks and unwinds past incredible beaches – all snow-white sands and crystal blue sea – and low, rocky hills. Eventually the A838 crosses a low bridge and causeway over the Kyle of Tongue, into the village of Tongue. Riders following the North Coast 500 will pass straight through and carry on to John o’groats. But if you turn off onto the A836 and head due south instead, a different kind of drama awaits. The Highlands region, which you’re bisecting, is an area the size of Wales with the population of the size of Dover. And as you ride along the A836, you’ll be as remote as it’s possible to be on the UK mainland (even though it’s only 40 miles before Lairg). The A836 isn’t a classic in terms of actual riding. Any sort of speed is likely to end in a one-on-one sheep/ bike interface. But the real joy is the magnificent isolation – as you head towards the banks of Loch Loyal, straddled on either side by the knobbly peaks of Ben Loyal on the right and the flat top of Beinn Strumanadh on the left, an eerie stillness descends.
sheep You’ll not see another human for miles, the same may not be true for NORTH SCOTLAND