Category Archives: holiday

Road Trip along North Coast 500. (Part 1)

Social Circle went on a Road Trip along the North Coast 500

Social Circle went on a Road Trip along the North Coast 500

Imagine spending eight days and nights touring some of Scotland’s finest coastal scenery taking in the rugged mountains, tranquil beaches and ancient history, There’s nothing quite like the freedom of the open road, and this summer Social Circle took off on a unforgettable adventure along the North Coast 500.  

It all began on a cold wet day in January…

The mighty few had gathered at Social Circle HQ to thrash out ideas for  various holidays and weekend breaks that we cram into our Calendar. Of course, being a Scot himself, Steve told us all about the North Coast 500 and volunteered to take members on the road trip of a lifetime.   

#NC500 Mascot Bonnie is ready for an adventure!

#NC500 Mascot Bonnie is ready for an adventure!

Maybe it was the rain beating against the windows, but some of us were somewhat sceptical. Steve was having none of it, he wanted to tick a couple of places off his bucket list, and assured us that by June, the weather wouldn’t be that bad.

Before we knew it, Steve had found 4 travelling buddies from Social Circle plus Bonnie the Bear volunteered to act as the Road Trip Mascot. As we could only cram so many people in the car, we thought we would revisit the memories in this  little two part diary to inspire your own adventure.

Exploring the the North Coast 500

With suggested itineraries to appeal to foodies, nature lovers and adrenaline junkies, there are many ways to discover route NC500.  We love our home comforts as much as we love adventure, so we took inspiration from the Luxury itinerary. We booked 4* family owned accommodation along the route.  It made exploring the Highlands all the sweeter knowing we would  have soft  bed at night and a hearty breakfast to start the day.  

Bonnie loved Cocoa Mountain in Durness

Bonnie loved Cocoa Mountain in Durness

 Steve arranged for us to dine some of the best restaurants along the NC500 so we could taste the best the highlands had to offer. He took care of all the driving meaning the non-drivers amongst us could enjoy the route too!

Day One:  Arrival in Inverness

We started our journey from East Didsbury.  After loading up with snacks and drinks for the trip, we drove up to Inverness.   We had a little roam around  the Castle before jumping on a cruise across Loch Ness.  No  monsters were found but perhaps we were merely distracted by the beautiful scenery .  We also popped into the Culloden Battlefield visitor centre to find out more about the Jacobites and harrowing and bloody battles that took place on the very ground we were stood upon.  We were all rather tired after a full days driving so after a lovely evening meal we all got an early night.

Day Two: Inverness to Wick. 103 Miles

Dunrobin Castle is a  fairy tale castle on outskirts of Golspie.

Dunrobin Castle is a  fairy tale castle on outskirts of Golspie.

The morning was all about food, ale and of course, whisky! We explored the Cromarty area, which boasts a cheese factory, a organic brewer and a distillery.  Of course we had to stop to sample a little of everything!  A short journey across to Tain took us to the famous Glenmorangie Distillery.

In the afternoon, we were blessed by the sun as we explored Golspie.  Dunrobin Castle is a  fairy tale castle where we learned a few interesting facts about Clan Sutherland.  The surrounding area is full of pinewood trees, rumbling rivers and waterfalls which made for some truly breathtaking walking.

 We finally stopped at the pretty village of Dunbeath and enjoyed a walk along the harbour and around the Castle.  Our evening was spent sampling  fine seafood at the Bay Owl Inn as we watched the sunset over the harbour.

Day Three.  Wick – Durness.  107 Miles

Ticking off the Bucket list at John O Groats!

Ticking off the Bucket list at John O Groats!

It was an early start to action-packed day of adventure.   We left Wick and followed the route to John O’Groats, the most northerly village in mainland Britain, in order to tick that of our bucket list. Of course, we had to take a few photos – it is the law*.  Looking across the water you can spot the ‘Duncansby Stacks’ poking out from the sea.

We spent the afternoon ambling around the  gardens of Castle Of Mey. The Castle was the the late Queen Mother’s home- from-home and it was easy to see why.  The Queen Mother loved roses, and the Albertine and Pride of London surround the gardens. It is the perfect place to watch the bees and butterflies buzzing around whilst enjoying a spot of afternoon tea.Talking of roses, just down the road you can enjoy  a tour of the Dunnet Bay Distillery who make the wonderful Rock Rose gin.  

 Ancient churches and ruined keeps cast shadows on t the rugged wilderness as we took the road to Durness.  A hidden gem is the tiny hamlet of Talmine, with a much-photographed boat known as ‘The Reaper’. This is particularly scenic part of the route includes the sights of Loch Eriboll, Ben Hope and Ben Loyal.

The ‘Duncansby Stacks’ reminded us of Wizard Hats!

The ‘Duncansby Stacks’ reminded us of Wizard Hats!

Day Four: Durness – Lochinver 60 Miles

Set into the limestone cliffs,  Smoo Cave is a dramatic and spectacular sea cave . According to folklore, the Smoo caves were the original health spa for Vikings taking a break from pillaging. Of course, no visit to Durness would be complete without a visit to Cocoa Mountain, the north’s premier chocolatier.

Smoo Caves are exciting whether on foot or by boat.

Smoo Caves are exciting whether on foot or by boat.

Further down the coast magnificent Torridonian sandstone cliffs rise from the Atlantic. Each summer, nearly 100,000 seabirds breed here. We saw guillemots, razorbills and great skuas nesting amongst the pretty pink  flowers that cover the cliffs.

The  unrivalled white sands and turquoise waters of  Achmelvich would have you believe we were in the Caribbean rather than Scotland!  The long summer days and warm weather was perfect for sampling homemade ice cream and topping up our tan. *sighs*

 

 

If you love nothing more than getting away for a few days but find it difficult to organise or your friends don’t share your idea of a holiday, then click here for the perfect solution. 

we think Cathy's post says it all....

We think cathy’s post says it all….

 

See here for Part 2.  In the meantime, tell us who you would take on a road trip and why?

Auf Wiedersehen Berlin. Highlights from the Social Circle Weekend.

Berlin, the German capital, is renowned for its exceptional variety of attractions, its flourishing cultural scene and a way of life that’s both fast-paced and relaxed. It’s hard to believe that barely a generation has passed since Berliners tore down the Berlin Wall, and since then, the city has resonated with open-mindedness.

In February, Social Circle visited this fascinating City to learn the history of Berlin, grasp some culture and view some of the most beautiful and interesting monuments of Europe.  We caught up with our host, Emma, to find out more about the weekend.

 

Hi Emma, I believe you volunteered to host the Berlin weekend?

Indeed I did!  Having lived in Berlin, it was amazing for me to be back. I felt really at home and it brought back memories of being 21 there in December 1994. A weekend away gave me enough time to show our Guests the Highlights. I definitely think some of the group would go back again to see more of the city.

Tell us about the Highlights then.

Oh there are so many.  One of my favourite parts of the weekend was the walking tour around the City. We visited Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to Murdered Jews, Hitler’s Bunker, Checkpoint Charlie & Museum, Gendarmenmarkt, Hackescher Markt and more.  Despite living in Berlin, there was still so much to learn about its history and our guide was very knowledgeable.

What about the basics? Hotel, flights etc?

We all met at the airport on time, had breakfast and arrived in Berlin  around 10:00. Social Circle HQ had organised the transfers, so we were greeted by our driver at the airport and a short time later we were checked in at the Mercure Hotel Berlin City West.  The Hotel was 4* and near some of the main highlights so it made for a comfortable and convenient stay.

Germany is known for its great beer and food.  Which restaurant would you recommend?

The group would agree that the best meal was definitely Schnitzelei on the Saturday night. It was near the hotel, affordable and had a great selection of craft beers as well as great food – tradition with a twist!

Any unexpected changes?

We had planned to visit the Charlottenburg Palace & Gardens , but it was so cold that weekend we agreed it would not be much fun.  I managed to grab us a bargain with the hop-on hop-off City Sightseeing Bus who gave us half price tickets and an extra days touring free.  It was a great opportunity to spend a little more time seeing the Highlights from the walking tour as well as exploring new places, such as the street art in the East Side Gallery.

Many Thanks to Emma for Hosting this weekend. But what did our Guests say?

Sarah Hobbs says  “I really appreciated having Emma’s experience and knowledge on this trip. It was a great group and the company was most enjoyable aspect.”

If you love nothing more than getting away for a few days but find it difficult to organise or your friends don’t share your idea of a holiday, we offer the perfect solution. We offer numerous  group holidays with like-minded people each year, to such destinations as Milan and Barcelona. You simply need to click here to book and you’re on your way to Destination Fun!