North of Durness, a minor road leads to Balnakiel – basically no more than a ruined church, a house and a golf course – from where a beautiful walk leads out to the peninsula of Faraid Head.
We parked by the church (above) which dates from the 17th century but has been abandoned since the 19th. The grave of Elizabeth Parkes is here – she was the aunt John Lennon visited in Durness on his childhood holidays – but we couldn’t find it. (When I mentioned Lennon in my last post, I had no idea that I was actually writing on his birthday. He would have been 75 on 9th October.)
From the church, we set off across Balnakeil Bay:
Once we could go no further on the beach, an access road took us up through the dunes onto the head itself, although sometimes the road disappeared under the shifting sand.
We left the access road to walk round the Head’s western edge:
When we crossed over to the eastern side, we found the road’s destination, an MOD (Ministry of Defence) training centre locally known as The Bee. I wonder why?
Carrying on along the eastern cliffs we began to be bothered by midges, so our stop at the cairn was quite short. We were glad when it started to rain as being wet was preferable to being bitten. The combination of the two made our return back down onto the dunes a hasty one – the shed below is more evidence of shifting sand.
The sun returned as we reached the bay again and Balnakeil House came back into view.
The house dates from 1744 and has been owned by the chiefs of Clan MacKay and the Duke of Sutherland. In 1904, it and its extensive sheep farm were sold to the Elliot family who still own it today. It’s surrounded by these bonny yellow flowers.
We returned to the car slightly sad that we would be leaving the area the next day – but glad that we still had a couple of days elsewhere before returning home. Coming next: Gairloch.
This post is linked to Jo’s Monday Walks. Follow the link to catch up with everyone else’s wanderings.