Budget for Travel – Caithness, Scotland

Over the August bank holiday weekend, we took a LONG road trip all the way up to the Highlands of Scotland and it was amazing! We drove up to Dundee on the Friday afternoon (about halfway, a 4-5 hour drive) and spent the night in a lovely hotel – Apex City Quay Hotel and Spa. We explored the city a little bit that evening and found great food at the Innis & Gunn restaurant before enjoying a last drink in the hotel bar.

The following morning, we took advantage of the hotel’s pool and spa area which was small but very relaxing before a quick lunch of delicious burritos at Wee Mexico. Then followed a 7 hour drive up to Dunbeath – it shouldn’t have taken this long but part of the A9 was closed so we had to divert onto smaller and slower roads through the Cairngorms National Park. Although this slowed us down, it did provide gorgeous scenery for pretty much the whole drive so definitely not the end of the world. We arrived in Dunbeath in the early evening and pitched up our tent at Inver Caravan Park before enjoying a bbq as the sun set.

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The following day we’d booked a sightseeing boat trip from Wick with Caithness Seacoast which did not disappoint! It’s a small boat and there were only two other passengers but our guide, William, had a a wealth of knowledge about the area which was really interesting. We saw amazing cliffs, caves and stacks, lots of different bird species and even seals sheltering in a harbour! There was a lot of wind and spray (the boat can go fast!) but we were well protected in the special suits provided.

Once we were back on dry land we carried on up the coast to John O’Groats, which is known as one “end” of the End to End journey – the 876 miles between John O’Groats and Land’s End in Cornwall. We parked the car here and walked to Duncansby Stacks – a group of three pillars of rock that have broken off from the mainland. But John O Groats is not actually the most northerly point of mainland Britain –  we drove 11 miles further north to find the most northerly point which is Dunnet Head. This coastline all along here is gorgeous and there are plenty of places to park your car and walk over the tops of the cliffs to admire the scenery.

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On our last full day in the area, we drove over to the Castle of Mey, bought by the Queen Mother in the 1950s when it was nearing a ruin and brought back to life when she brought guests to stay on a regular basis. The Castle is small but in a gorgeous location right on the coast; the interiors are well worn but give a fascinating insight into how the royal family live behind closed doors. The volunteer guides had amazing knowledge and some of them had worked for the Queen Mother all of their lives. There is also a nice little cafe where we enjoyed tea and scones before hitting the road again.

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We drove to the Whaligoe Steps and climbed down more than 300 steps, 250ft into a hidden harbour with super clear blue green water. It took a lot of effort to get back up to the top but it was worth it! We then came across a beach in a tourist magazine and after some false starts found a sign for a pedestrian footpath to it so abandoning the car we walked over scrub land for 20 minutes or so before climbing down over huge smoothed rocks to a deserted beach in a little bay. Sheltered from the wind and with the sun just breaking through the clouds it was lovely and warm and we enjoyed soaking up the rays and building a sandcastle.

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The following day we packed up the tent and drove back to Dundee, stopping at the Timespan Museum and Art Gallery telling the story of the history of the area. On arriving in Dundee we stayed overnight again this time at the Hampton by Hilton. The following morning we toured the RRS Discovery and museum at Discovery Point exploring the ship that took Scott and Shackleton on the first expedition to Antartica before heading home.

So on to the costs of this trip for two people:

Accommodation (2 nights in a hotel and 3 at a campsite) £229 average of £46 per night

Food £295 average £59 per day

Fuel for car £162 average £32 per day

Activities £175 average £35 per day

Total £861

Overall, I was surprised the total cost was this high but we packed a lot in and we had a brilliant time. Food was probably the main area we could have saved. We did take food for a bbq and for breakfasts but we also spent quite a lot on getting drinks and snacks while we were out. In comparison to a holiday abroad or in a city I think the cost is comparably low so I’m happy with it!


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