NC500 Part 3: Lybster to Talmine

Welcome to part three of my NC500 roadtrip. If you’re still with me, I’m assuming you’re either planning a trip of your own, or reminiscing about one you’ve taken. Either way, i’d love to hear from you so don’t forget to leave me a message in the comments section below! 

IMG_8162The sun setting over the mountains at the Kyle of Tongue

Let me start by saying that while each leg of the journey was lovely and special, our stay in Talmine was my absolute favourite part. We will get to that in a minute! After a lazy morning in Lybster, we headed north along the coast up to John o’Groats. ‘What a strange name!’ I hear you say. John o’Groats is the northern most point of the mainland of the United Kingdom and you might have heard of people embarking on epic journeys from Land’s End in Cornwall in the South of England, to John o’Groats in the far north of Scotland. It’s named after a Dutchman called Jan de Groot who ran a ferry route between the mainland and Orkney. The story goes that he had seven sons who each fought over who was the most important. To diffuse the tension, Jan built an octagonal house with eight doors, so that nobody could be seen to be sitting at the head of the table.

IMG_8144This is the house which is now a gift shop

With only a very small village nearby, John o’Groats really feels as though it’s on the edge of the map. The weather and the ocean can be extreme but we were blessed with beautiful blue skies and the sun was shining the day we went to visit. We took a stroll along the shore, standing by the famous signpost that tells you how far it is to Land’s End and other important destinations. There were lots of warning signs about how perilous the rough seas can be and looking at the reinforced sea walls, I can believe that it gets pretty hairy when the weather is dirty. I still think it would beautiful even if the sun wasn’t shining.



We stopped at the tea rooms for what turned out to be a very generous morning tea complete with cupcakes, scones and sandwiches. We couldn’t finish it all but the ladies were kind enough to wrap up our leftovers so that we could take them with us. Bless! After our tea/lunch/holiday-meal-that-happens-at-whatever-time-you’re-hungry we went for a longer walk along the coastline.


We drove to Duncansby Head Lighthouse which is about five minutes further east of John o’Groats, then hopped out of the car to stretch our legs. You can walk between the two points but it will take you a couple of hours, rather than a couple of minutes! Still, if you’re not in a hurry, it looks like it would be a beautiful walk. Instead, we followed the grassy path that hugs the clifftops for as long as we felt like, which turned out to be this point, where we had an epic view of the cinder stacks that sit in the ocean. These cliffs house a number of seabird colonies and there were a few nature photographers out the day we went. We wore our hiking boots but the terrain is mostly grassy with some slightly boggy patches, so you could get away with sneakers etc.

When when we had had our fill of the ocean and craggy cliffs (so… maybe never…) we hopped back in the car and headed west to our stop for the night in a tiny town called Talmine. This was one of the longest drives of our NC500 route and took over two hours. This wasn’t because the road was tricky to drive, rather, it is such a beautiful stretch of road that we wanted to make it last. Again, the skies were blue, the seas were calm, and the sheep were plentiful. We still hadn’t seen any of of the cutest animals on earth – the highland coos – but that didn’t matter once we entered the Kyle of Tongue.


The Kyle of Tongue has a bit of a strange name but we can overlook that because it is legitimately one of the most beautiful places on earth. As we drove over the causeway, we screeched to a halt and jumped out of the car. We were surrounded by sea that twinkled from blue to emerald and stretched out to the actual ocean. The water is flanked by mountains that stretch off into the distance and roll gently down towards the sea loch. I must have stood for ten minutes just with my mouth open as I took in this spectacular view. There are only a few sparsely spotted houses along the hills and it feels pretty much uninhabited.



We were met by our airbnb hosts Steve and Lea who run one of the most comfortable and hospitable bnbs i’ve ever stayed in. Please, if you are planning on stopping anywhere near here, let me know and i’ll give you their details. My biggest regret is that we didn’t stay a few nights with Steve and Lea (and their incredibly soft and playful dog). From this picture you can get a sense of how sparse the population is here and how wonderfully serene it is. As we sat by our huge bedroom window, sipping on our mugs of tea, the sun began to set over the mountains. Steve told us that in Winter you can see the northern lights from their house and really, I can believe it. I had no idea that Scotland was so far north! As sunset went for hours, we interrupted it with a brisk walk over to the Craggan Hotel for some dinner.


I decided to go for a traditional scottish dish with a bowl of hearty Cullen Skink.
(I left this picture small because it is a very visually unappealing dish! Lucky it tastes great!)

If you’re Australian, you’ve probably only heard the word ‘skink’ before in the context of lizards. Fear not, this is not a lizard soup, rather it is a thick soup made with smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. The addition of milk makes it look like it’s split and gluggy, but in the chill of a scottish evening, this soup is warm, delicious, and exactly what you need. Definitely try one while you’re in Scotland, and definitely try the Craggan’s.

IMG_8161Now back to that sunset.

The mountains turned fire red and glowed while the sun went down. I’ve never really seen anything like it before and to look at that picture, you might think you were in a desert rather than the Scottish Highlands (if you didn’t look at the sea loch below the mountains…) You can see that the tide has gone out, revealing a big sandbar at the bottom right of the photo. In the morning when the tide was still out, there was a whole group of seals basking on the sand. Steve and Lea had set up a telescope so that we could watch the seals as they flopped around enjoying the sun.


Then, as the sun slowly (very slowly) sand beyond the horizon, the glow faded but the landscape was still beautiful. If I ever decide to throw everything in to go and live a life of solitude somewhere, Talmine is where you will find me.

So that was the third leg of our NC500 trip from Lybster to Talmine. Are you getting a hankering for the open road yet? Are you currently driving the NC500? Drop me a line in the comments section below!

Coming up next: Part 4 of our NC500 road trip from Talmine to the Summer Isles


What Katie Did in Japan – Mario Kart


If you’ve been following me on instagram (@bakerbowie) you might have seen this picture pop up recently. Remembering that i’m the kind of person who won’t even cross the road unless the little green man is lit up, let me tell you the story of the craziest thing you can do in Tokyo that I can’t believe is actually legal – go-karting through the busy streets of one of the most populated cities in the world.

We booked a tour with Maricar  who operate from a base in Shinagawa and offer a tour package where a guide will lead your group through the busy Tokyo streets. The one thing that you definitely need to know before considering this is that you HAVE to have an international drivers permit and your passport in order to do this. They will check when you get there and if you don’t have the correct paperwork, no amount of pleading will get you in one of those karts. Anyhoo, we had planned this before we left Australia so with our licences in our hot little hands, we made our way to Shinagawa!


 The fleet of go-karts wait patiently outside



Thats pretty much wraps it up…


Once we had checked in with our guide, we were allowed to choose a costume to drive in. They’re not fresh out of the packet so there will be wear and tear. Hot tip: it gets freakin cold on those go karts so don’t be stupid like me and choose a costume with short sleeves. Unfortunately, the pink princess peach dress trumped comfort and I had to go with it.


I’m powerless before pink.
Also, hubs and friend were Mario and Luigi so I had to go with the Mario theme!

Outside, we were given a little bit of instruction about how to operate the go karts then were ready to start. I’d never driven a go kart before so the steering came as a bit of a shock and I had a little bit of trouble with the left foot brake at the beginning but after about five minutes of driving it all started to feel pretty good.


Except for the part where there were no seatbelts… that was pretty crazy.

Our guide was very good and always made sure that our group of six was together and as safe as we could be, navigating the busy streets of suburbs such as Roppongi and Ginza. I have to admit that there were definitely times when I zoned out and forgot that I was actually driving through peak hour traffic in a foreign country. Don’t worry though, at those times a taxi would drive up pretty close or a bus would pull up along side me and snap me back to reality! If you are a bit of a shrinking violet, this isn’t the tour for you as things really got going when we got to the giant pedestrian crossing in Shibuya. You might remember it from the film Lost in Translation but if not, it’s a ridiculously populated intersection of about eight pedestrian crossings. When we pulled up to it, the people went wild, clapping, waving, calling out and filming us. Like I said, introverts – this is not for you!

So, after an hour or so of cruising the mean streets of Tokyo, we ended up back in Shinagawa and the warmth of the Maricar office. I can’t believe that this business is legal (you would never get away with it in Australia!) but, as long as it is, it is a must-do if you’re visiting and up for a bit of fun and adrenaline. Whats the craziest thing you’ve done when on holiday that you can’t believe is legal?

What Katie Ate in Berlin – Dinner at Josty

I hate to brag but I really feel as if we won in every aspect of our trip. It was a huge rush to get everything ready before we flew out on the last night of Term 3 but it meant that we slept properly on the flight and seemed to escape the worst of jetlag when we touched down in Berlin. Just to make sure that we were going to sleep properly that night, we decided to go for a walk around the city centre then have a light dinner.

IMG_9807Firstly we took a walk up to the Unter Den Linden to say hello to my good friend Goethe

Then, because I was actually fading pretty fast, we went to the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz which was quite close to our hotel to have a look around and find somewhere to have dinner. The place was jumping with people because the new Terminator movie was opening in a couple of days and there was a huge set being built for the premiere.


This was a the view from our dinner table.
I did wonder if I would look up from my dessert and see someone materialise, something like this…


but alas, I had to be satisfied with only the food materialising in front of me.


IMG_9798We nabbed a table at Josty which appears in all the guide books and seemed to be doing a roaring trade. It isn’t gourmet but they serve all the stereotypical German food that you want to try in situ and the staff are friendly and accommodating. I particularly liked that they had blankets for all their customers (which unfortunately was necessary despite it being the middle of Summer. Far out Berlin, get your act together!) While it isn’t the original Cafe Josty which was located slightly further away, there is quite a lovely literary and artistic tradition around the restaurant and I may have slipped into a daydream where I was listening to the Grimm brothers discussing their new fairytales. Alas!


Pretzel and Summer Berry Punch

Of course we had to begin with a pretzel slathered with butter! I made hubs join me with a house special punch which was pretty lethal. It may have just been the jetlag but I was definitely feeling pretty good after only one little glass of this stuff!


Pork with Bread Dumpling, Sauerkraut  and Mustard Sauce

IMG_9804Weiner with Sauerkraut and Mash

Of course we had the weiner and pork and sauerkraut and all good German things! The meals were both tasty and arrived promptly. Sauerkraut is definitely better in Germany than here in Australia and the mash was nice and creamy. Our waiter was super friendly and talked me into also ordering this…

IMG_9805Apple Strudel with Vanilla Creme Anglaise

Of course I had to have strudel for dessert even though I was absolutely stuffed! I ordered it after speaking to the very persuasive waiter and with the assurance that hubs would help me eat it. Of course that was a lie as I definitely ate it all myself. Does anyone else do that? Order a dessert to share with absolutely no intention of sharing it? Or is that just me… regardless, the strudel was pleasant with lot of stewed cinnamon-y apples and creamy vanilla custard to set it off. I was really surprised at how flaky the pastry was. I know that strudel is supposed to have super thin pastry almost like puff pastry but I think that in Australia we tend to make it much more doughy. When the school holidays finally roll around I will be having a crack at the more traditional strudel as, really, how can that do anything other than help to make the world a better place?

Overall, Josty was a pleasant place for our first meal in Berlin. If you are expecting fine dining then you will be disappointed. But, if you are looking for a cheerful restaurant for some typical German food, you should have a good time!

Cafe Josty
Sony Center, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin
Open daily from 8am

Lunch At Your Desk: Sandwich Time

I know that it might seem like my love of  leftovers knows no bounds, but this week we are changing things up with an old favourite. The humble sandwich. A leftovers salad is pretty damn nutritious but it can be pretty fiddly to get together in the haze of 6am sleepyness so when that happens, this little baby saves my life. As I have a deep love for all things creamy and tangy, the egg salad sandwich is what I crave when I decide that the sambo is happening for lunch. I won’t pretend that I got together all these ingredients in the morning but i’m sure if you were super organised you could boil your eggs while you were in the shower or something? Surely? Maybe? Blah.

Egg Salad SandwichI make mine with dark rye bread, a few green beans for some crunch and a couple of eggs with some dollops of mayo and mustard. Sometimes I go totally crazy and put in wholegrain mustard too! Oh my!

Egg Salad SandwichVoila!

All the assembly that is needed then you’re ready to go in record time. Don’t assembly this the night before though or it will most likely go a little soggy by lunch the next day.

So peeps, what are you having for lunch today? What is inspiring your lunchbox?