Bermuda: Botanical Gardens and Spittal Pond

Bermuda Botanical Gardens
Bermuda Botanical Gardens

On our third day, Hurricane Kate passed close to Bermuda and we awoke to a wet and windy morning. It was also a public holiday (11th November) which meant that all museums were closed, so an outdoor attraction it had to be. The Botanical Gardens were within walking distance of our hotel – we got soaked on the way, and had to take shelter in the Cactus House when we arrived, but fortunately the weather perked up a bit after that and we enjoyed our visit.

The most interesting part was this memorial to John Lennon. He spent two months in Bermuda just before he died in 1980, and named his final album Double Fantasy after a freesia he admired in these gardens.

By lunchtime it was dry enough to have a picnic outdoors, after which we caught the bus a short distance to Spittal Pond Nature Reserve. Here, a circular walk takes you out along the coast and back alongside a brackish pond. It’s short, but has several points of interest.

Portuguese Rock is thought to have been carved by Portuguese survivors of a shipwreck. The original has long since weathered away, but a bronze cast now replaces it, reading “RP 1543” – Rex Portugaliae?

The Checkerboard is a large, flat rock surface with crosshatching. Man made, or carved by the sea? Who knows?

Nor do I know what these little creatures in the pools formed in the cracks are – sea slugs / snails?

After a final view of the sea, we turned inland to the pond – but the sea peeked through again later.

Not a bad day despite a hurricane passing close by!

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Faraid Head

Balnakeil Church
Balnakeil Church

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:

Balnakeil Bay
Balnakeil Bay – Faraid Head in the distance
Balnakeil Bay
Balnakeil Bay – looking back

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.

West of Tongue

Loch Eriboll
Loch Eriboll

Durness is the most north-westerly village on the British mainland. It’s not far from Tongue as the crow flies – much further for humans who have to follow the coastal road. But who can complain when driving round the beautiful sea loch above? Further along Loch Eriboll, we stopped at the gates of ceramicist Lotte Glob’s studio – though we didn’t have time to go in, it looked intriguing.

At the time, I had no idea I had seen Lotte’s work before until, a couple of weeks ago, I was strolling round Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens and spotted this in the Kibble Palace:

Just outside Durness is the Ceannabeinne Township Trail. After being disappointed to find the Highland Clearance villages east of Tongue in a sorry state of neglect, it was good to find this one well-maintained with comprehensive information boards – and a jaw dropping setting. The villagers here resisted their removal by rioting, but that didn’t change the end result and the land was given over to sheep.

Durness is also home to Smoo Cave, formed by a combination of the sea and a small burn. After visiting the waterfall inside the cave, you can walk up to the point where you can see the hole in the ground through which it enters.

The Village Hall has an interesting garden – though it has seen better days. It was constructed in 2002 in conjunction with the television programme Beechgrove Garden and includes the only permanent memorial to John Lennon in Scotland, which is why we stopped to look. Durness was apparently an area that greatly inspired Lennon – one of his aunts lived there and he spent his childhood holidays between the ages of 9 and 13 in the village. The memorial is the first picture in the gallery below – three standing stones inscribed with lyrics from the song In My Life (There are places I remember) which is said to be about Durness.

As you can see from the skies in some of the pictures, the day was quite overcast. However, there was a spell of sunshine in the afternoon when we walked out to Faraid Head – that deserves a post to itself. Coming soon!