Thursday, 6 August 2009

Day 24 - Scotland North Coast - Thurso & Mey - People at the end of the island

Have you ever been somewhere remote? (I hope so!). Now think of someone who lives there. What do you think of them?

My experience is that some of the nicest people live the furthest from cities and towns. Funny how we spend our whole lives working busily to earn the right to slow down and live a simple life. Some folk get straight to the good stuff, and forego the ratrace.

Chris and Karen van Rooyen run a small B&B called Creag-na-Mara, within stone's throw (okay, probably a superhero's javelin throw) of Dunnet Head. According to the map, they live in the village of East Mey, to the east of Thurso. But that's just the map. In reality, the village doesn't exist (at least not in the way we think of a village), and their views extend over wheat fields and the north sea. To the left is Dunnet Head, and up ahead are the Orkney Islands.

Karen taught me a new word today: "Haar". It's the Scottish word for "thick, misty haze that is blown in strongly from the sea and stops you from seeing anything further than a few hundred metres away." I experienced "haar" in it's full glory when I visited Dunnet Head that evening. The wind was pumping, the sky so hazy I couldn't see the Island of Stroma (click to see on Google Map), hardly two kilometres off-shore.

Dunnet Head on the evening I visited. The above belies the howling wind and thick haze...the sun is almost blotted out. Despite being perched on the cliffs, about 100 metres above sea level, the lighthouse's windows have been broken by rocks flung up by waves and wind during storms. Click for full screen version.

Anyway, the Van Rooyens are proof that you don't need to have high-speed broadband to be happy. So for once, I couldn't upload any content to my blog, and probably better off for it. Instead, Chris and Karen got chatting to me, and we chatted some more...and then we stared out the windows, and stared some more. They've got 270 degree views of the farm fields, and in the distance, Dunnet Head.

Chris is a former traffic warden who loves laughing, and Karen used to work as a commercial property lawyer who swapped the courts for the cows of the north coast of Scotland. "We thought we could live a better life up here...more simply," said Chris.

The next morning there wasn't a sniff of "haar". So I headed back to Dunnet Head to see if it could show a softer side. Well, it did, and here's the proof below. The distant island to the right of the photo is Stroma Island, which I couldn't see the evening previously because of the haze...

Dunnet Head the following morning, when the sun was shining and the "haar" had disappeared. Click for full screen version.

The view from Creag-na-Mara B&B's lounge. To the right in the distance is Dunnet Head. Click for full screen versioin.

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