Exploring the land of Clan Sinclair

We had a late start to the morning and a wonderful breakfast before saying goodbye to the people we met. I’m hoping to keep in touch with one couple in particular. We were on the road by 10:30 and drove past some ramshackle buildings on the way into Tain. We crossed over the Durnoch Firth and have the bay of Sinclair on our right. It is clear that the buildings are designed for the dreary winter weather. We stopped in Helmsdale at the Emigrants Statue which was commissioned in 2004. It tells the story of how the tenants were moved off farms around 1813 which eventually resulted in 80% of the population leaving the region, many for overseas.

The Badbea historic clearance village in the region of Caithness was occupied from 1793 until 1903. Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster was an agricultural improver, moving his tenants off the land so he could farm sheep. One of the families moved was Marion Sinclair, his wife, their sons John, George, James, Alexander and William, and their 6 daughters. I’m so glad we did the 700m steep walk as this could be a starting point to work out where Dave’s grandfather, William Sinclair came from.


From most of this coastline you can see the oil rigs. We drove into Wick and even though Old Pulteney is open all year, it was closed. Like many places on a Sunday in rural Scotland. Our main aim was to walk to Sinclair Girnigoe Castle at Noss Head but it had been raining and was too muddy underfoot. This is one of three castles belonging to Clan Sinclair, but it is a ruin and considered one of the 100 most endangered sites.

We did a quick shop at Tesco and had a picnic lunch in the car at Duncansby Head. While we were eating, the weather closed in and we could not see the Orkney Isles. We drove through John O’Groats to Dunnet, the most Northern point of Scotland mainland. We have driven past many signs pointing to Cairns but this is not the weather to go and walk to them. In Melvich we stopped at The Halladale Inn for espresso at a price you sum of £4 for 2! From here the landscape starts to change with it being more mountainous. The sheep and cows roam the roadside as there are no fences. We arrived in Bettyhill at 16:15 and checked into the hotel. It is stunning here. We went up to our room, made coffee and relaxed. We were advised to come for dinner at 18:00 to secure a table close to the windows with a view of the sea. We got there at 18:10 and already the two closest to the windows were taken. We had a slow meal but even so we were back in our room by 19:45 and in bed with lights off for me by 20:15.

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