We plugged the kids into their MP3 players for some peace as we drove the stunning 45 minute journey to Durness for some family adventures at Cape Wrath. Of course that just meant we were accompanied by two slightly out of time and two definitely out of tune versions of the SING soundtrack coming from the backseat, but it did mean we could enjoy the view without too many questions about when we would be going to get hot chocolate (just wait and you’ll find out!)
Top of the country
There is something cool about getting to the furthest edge of a country. Cape Wrath lighthouse is the most north-westerly point and we thought this, plus the Avengers style name might appeal to the boys. It’s a faff to get to the lighthouse though – a boat and a minibus – and so we just walked along Balnakiel Beach – following the Path across a short section of cliff top to a second gorgeous beach – and looked out at Cape Wrath and the wild seas. Balnakiel is a great beach for family adventures. It has massive sand dunes to climb up and hurl yourself down. We all had sand in our shoes (and pants) by the time the snow set in and we had to make a dash to the car.
The best hot chocolate ever
Balnakiel Craft Village, is just up the road from the beach and I’d seen a Guardian article suggesting there was a hot chocolate shop there with the best cup of ho’cho’ in the country. Cape Wrath may have been a faff but nothing was going to stop us finding the chocolate shop. I’m pleased to report it was amazing. I had a regular size and it had drippy melted chocolate all over the cup so every time you sipped there was real chocolate to kickstart your mouthful. Warning to parents though – the kids version is espresso cup sized and whilst it may have marshmallows on it, the size difference between theirs and mine was a bone of contention!
We had a look around a couple of the galleries and one in particular was great. A guy finds old pieces of washed up junk on the beach and turns them into pieces of art using their shape or the colours, each enhanced with charcoal or some kind of stain. There were old saucepans with faces marked into the rust and pieces of metal turned into shimmering fish. The boys were really interested in the fact all the materials were recycled and the owner was great with them, explaining his materials – apparently instant coffee makes a great paint!
The secret of Smoo Cave
That has got to be a title out of a Famous Five or Secret Seven book surely? Smoo Cave is really close to Durness and although there are deeper, more exploratory trips into the dark recesses on boat, you can just pop into the first part for free. I’m not a cave fan (claustrophobia alert!) but this was very open – the first section has a blowhole at the top and the second section, along the walk way, is pretty cavernous.
Soren, a massive animal lover, found it hilarious when we spotted two dead rabbits in the blowhole cave. They must have been hopping along the top and fallen straight down the hole. He re-enacted it for us as he chuckled away. Odd child!
Seven seals a’ swimming
On the way home to our ice box, I mean caravan, we spotted something in a loch. We were quite far inland but this was a sea loch, so fed by the ocean. We stopped and saw a seal, then another and then five more. They were all playing around the edge of the water and so we hopped out the car to watch them. They were popping up and down all over the place – an amazing way for the boys to get up close to nature. A big tick off of our family adventures list.
Kit got a bit grumpy that they would disappear as soon as one of us cracked a twig or dared to breathe – I think he thought they would get closer to him. I suppose when you are young it is hard to know the difference between tame creatures that are just a bit shy and wild creatures. I suspect he’ll realise later on how amazing it was to see seven so close.
All too soon we had to pack up and return to our odd little caravan.
Where we walked on our family adventures: Balnakiel Beach
Follow signs to Durness (and then spend a while wondering why there is a John Lennon memorial garden!) and then head towards Balnakiel Craft Village.
Drive past the village even if the chocolate shop calling is strong.
Park at the end of the road by the beach.
Walk the first beach and then cross over the cliff area to the second, even more deserted beach.
Climb up and hurl yourself down the sand dunes or get lost in the ‘sand dune maze’ (seriously – watch where your kids head because it is very disorientating!!).
Walk as far as you want along the coast and then head back to the car for the trip to the chocolate shop and the arty bits and bobs.
There is a cafe in the craft village but it was closed. The kids were delighted they got to have chocolate for lunch but perhaps it is sensible to feed them up first.