We began our circumnavigation of the mainland coast in April 2019. In that year we did three trips and covered South Queensferry to Dunnet Bay. The next two years involved the pandemic and moving house so in April 2022 we were at the point when we could recommence our journey. We set off, crossing the Forth, taking the M90 to Perth and then the A9 all the way to our destination. We split the journey into two days, giving us time to explore some of the places we pass enroute.
Our first stop was Newtonmore. We had a coffee in the Transport Café on the south side of the village where we discovered that one of the staff was from the Wirral. Newtonmore dates from 1820 when the English laird granted building leases near the junction of the Highland Road (now the A9) and the new Laggan Road. Three small croft houses were built and later two large ones. The first community consisted of a few small farmers and an innkeeper. New villagers came from people cleared from Glen Banchor and elsewhere.
In 1863 the railway opened and more residents gained an income through the shooting estates. Tourism increases through the 1890s when the golf course was built and by 1912 there were three churches. By the 1960s several shops had opened and two banks (now close), we saw the mobile bank. The Highland Games still continue and we saw the Buckie Fish van arriving as we left. The village hall was built in 1913 and in 2013 mosaics were added for the centenary.
There is also the Wild Cat Sanctuary which has dozens of painted wildcats around town to find.
On the north side of town is Loch Imrich, a kettle hole formed by a melting glacier which was previously used as a curling pond and ice-skating rink. The only birds we saw were Mallard Ducks which came up to us so I assume they were used to people feeding them.
Further up the road is the Highland Folk Museum which has numerous buildings and objects reflecting life since the 1700s. The black house is a reconstruction of one from Lewis and the scaffolding scattered around was there because it is due to be re-thatched.
There numerous old buildings including Lochanhully House with interiors,
Several farm buildings
And some machinery that James remembered his father using.
There was also an old Post Office and railway station
A sheep fank and shepherd’s hut
plus items from an old garage with a rusting car outside. There is a large museum at the back with smaller items which books visits for groups etc.
That night we stayed at an aire at Kingussie which backs onto the railway line. Kingussie is more of town than village with more facilities including a very good secondhand bookshop. There were still some patches of snow on the Cairngorms. Most of the trains that pass by including the Caledonian Sleeper are quiet so our sleep was not disturbed.
The following morning, we had a brief stop at the RSPB Insh Marshes reserve but did not see many birds.
The ruins of Ruthven Barracks also lie on the same B road
We headed back to the A9 and then north. All along the east coast of Caithness, the gorse was in bloom.
The A9 then turns inland and we reached our destination.