Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Roadtrip; Cromarty Firth Bike packing...

 


After a near 4 hour drive we rolled into Cromarty and unpacked the bikes and were soon rolling around town, the plan to catch the Ferry across to the North side was put on hold with no ferry today due to high winds, so G who was doing the navigation said we will just camp on the south side tonight and hopefully the ferry will be on tomorrow with a calmer forecast. 
We peddaled up hill to South Sutor to have a look at the South Sutor Battery and associated buildings...


The things you see when out and about!...



South Sutor... and fine view of the Rigs, These rigs work is done and they await decommissioning and dismantling at Invergorden, the area where they were built in the 1970`s/80`s is now used to store offshore windturbines. On top of the hill is a former Cold War Royal Observer Corps (ROC) post and the remains of a WW2 Low chain radar site. THE ROC post is sealed on top with a 6' concrete slab, not seen this done before to a post...








We had a plan of the South Sutor battery to use to explore, once we worked out what was going on with the locked gates and original barbed metal fencing having been repaired and obviously stopping public entry...


The South Sutor battery was made a `Nationally Important Monument` and the are cleared up, made safe and accessible for the public to walk around and read about the important jobs these defences on both sides of the entrance to the Cromarty Firth role in WW1 when constructed, again in WW2 the gun battery's  were re used with newer guns fitted  and although never fired in anger their presence, along with anti submarine netting and mine fields played a vital role in keeping the Allied fleets anchoured  in the bay safe.


There was also online reports on various sites that inside the fenced area Bore are kept and the usual scare stories about them being savage!,  Well we only saw one after we scaled the fence and it was more interested in scoffing food left by the said land owner that was left earlier along with a sad looking horse on its own, though it looked healthy enough.

While being quite overgrown the building and gun batteries are massive and quite different in design being Navel and not army as we have in East Lothian. There was a lot of men stationed here going buy the size of the place...




We could not get down to the sea stacks below safely with the steep cliffs where two stations sit on the sea stacks...

Here is a picture I found online of the searchlight and generator rooms built on them, these must be unique  in Coastal defences...


Along with searchlights in pairs there are generator rooms and underground ammunition stores on both sides of both guns, inaccessible on the south battery we had more luck next day across at the North Sutor battery. The guns shells stored underground would be Brought up a steep ramp using a winch system and some stored around the gun in the small compartments seen in below picture, the steel doors are missing




Vertical exit from the ammo store using a metal ladder in a steel tube...




While there is a lot of decay damage and items missing - mostly metal doors and the like which probably taken to sell for scrap there is a surprising amount of camouflage paint on walls still visible...




Generator room...



After a good hour having a look around we returned out over the fence...



Massive cruise ship heading out into the North Sea...


Parked up for the night we camped in an empty field, pasta cooked on the stove, and then tent pitched just before sunset...





Nig Ferry;
Next morning we were up early and packed away the tent before sitting and having porridge and coffee before leaving and enjoying the downhill descent down the the Ferry. Queuing we heard a girls voice from the door of the Slaughterhouse Cafe ` Nice Surly`s!, I also own a Surly!` turned out she was the owner and toured New Zealand on her Surly with her dad who we on return to Cromarty next afternoon we had a good chat with...
We waited for the returning Ferry and had another coffee and it was as good tasting as we had read Slaughterhouse coffee is



With 2 cars and room for bikes alongside we were soon bobbing across the Firth and looking across and up at the giant Rigs, standing like symbols to what was achieved here it is kind of sad they are sitting here awaiting to be scrapped...




The next generation of energy awaits - these are bases for huge wind turbines which will be out in the North Sea...


Across the other side we cycled passed what was once the famous `Piggery` Pub and started along towards North Sutor. In early 1978 an attempt to build an underground fuel storage  similar to what is documented along at Invergordon, However only a few yards tunnelling was done before abandoning the project, probably as easier to build the nearby Oil Terminal on ground level...


On the east beach at Nigg we could  now see the two Searchlights on the south Sutor sea stacks...



Here is a picture I found online of the searchlight and generator rooms built on them, these must be unique  in Coastal defences





Nigg Hill and onto North Sutor...
This was some climb!, G sensibly pushed up the real steep section, I crawled alongside in 1st gear zig sagging up...

The links looking ground on the north side of the road here was in fact a golf course in WW1 where Naval Officers played the ancient game 


North Sutor defences were the same layout as the south side but with a lot less vegetation were more accessible...



This was impressive...


Again camouflage paint can still be seen after 80 years...



Down inside inside a Magazine storage area underneath the westerly battery was accessable...



It was dry and still clean walls down here, some modern rubbish but little mess...


Looking up the escape shaft - though I think if anything exploded in here you would not be getting up that ladder in a hurry!...





Superb coastal views...


Again look at the camo paint!
























More camo paint...




After sitting having lunch soaking up the views we were on our way again and while quite a breezy headwind we wee soon wizzing down that big hill!...




Did not take many pictures as we cycled around to the north side and along the coast road of the Firth but there is some footage of the film as we headed for Invergordon, then past Alness to Evington and turned up onto a narrow steepening hill which led to the Jubilee path to take up to the Fyrish Monument, what an amazing place to camp a night as we found a hollow in the heather not to we and set up camp before dark...



Through Invergordon and a chip roll enjoyed before along to Alness and a steady ascent up to a car park And Jubilee trail up to the Fyrish Monument...



Approx 2 miles there was probably 60/40 walking/pushing, but we just got on with it.




Higher and higher we were soon clear of the trees and awarded with fine views across the Cromarty Firth up and up to paths end....



Campsite for tonight!...



The Fyrish Monument is quite a unique monument, and unlike many skyline highland monuments that tell a dark story of money made in the Colonies through the slave trade, or the Clearances... but this monument has a good story...


Paid for by Sir Hector Munro of Novar the monument was built to give employment to local men following the Highland Clearances, it is said to be modelled on the gates of Negapetam in India where his Regiment were victorious in 1782...



It is as certainly as impressive to look up to as those rigs were to look at down on the Firth, lighting up as the sun set...


We set up camp as the light started to fade having first cooked up some pasta, then set up for the night opened the hip flasks and enjoyed the highland whisky and Gin while soaking up the scenery...




Full moon rose to add to the scene...


Next morning dawned with a fantastic sky and packed up early we had breakfast and were soon ready to descend back down the path....










After nearly 3 miles of descending the path and then country roads we rolled into Evanton and had a second breakfast. we decided not to visit the area of a WW2 airfield as googling it for info did not turn up much but this information board in the village park gave a good read of local history here....


Loved the wooden Churchill tank!...


On the skyline behind the Fyrish Monument, we forgot the 50/50 push/hard ride up there last evening after such a long freewheel descent to near here!....



Again not many pics as we crossed the Firth and returned on the south side but some footage on the film, again we were always drawn to those Rigs sitting out in the firth, Sentinels to an amazing engineering project that transformed this area of Scotland...




We eventually rolled in to Cromarty and coffee and cake at the Slaughterhouse Cafe and T shirts bought for souvenirs of a great couple of days cycling....





We would be driving down to Aviemore next to camp for several days and enjoy cycling trails with unladen bikes - more in next posts,


Here is 30 minutes of film of this trip so be make a big cuppa or open a can and sit back while we do the pedalling and enjoy what we saw...

All songs are by Phontaine...







More soon...