“ Aultivullin, Strathy Point, by Thurso, North Sutherland, Scotland, KW14 7RY. Tel: 01641 541395. „
I have just returned from a four night stay at a Bed and Breakfast in Sutherland, Scotland. I found the place after scouring the web for two days, trying to find some accommodation that was cheap in cost yet comfortable, as we felt we needed a well deserved break. I had been looking for self catering accommodation originally, but could not find anything available within the price range for the dates we wanted. We ideally wanted something around the longest day (21st June) to maximise on the Northerly Location. For information on the accommodation please visit http://www.a1tourism.com/uk/catalina.html. Booking ---------- Booking was straightforward enough. I initially enquired about vacancies for the dates we had in mind, and received a prompt email response from Jane, the proprietor. Thankfully (for us), they had a cancellation over a ten day spell, ending on the night of 22 June, so perfect for our dates. I initially booked us in for three nights, 19-21 June. Within 48 hours I had received confirmation of our booking, and a 50 page booklet carefully prepared by the proprietors giving us tonnes of information on what to do on our stay in the Highlands. After perusing this and considering that the journey was going to be 7-8 hours in each direction (and yes that is from within Scotland!), I decided it would be prudent to book for an extra night, and maximise our stay, after the journey. This was swiftly arranged. Clear concise directions were also sent, and we found the place with no problem. You do not have to leave a deposit either, and Jane and Pete say they have not been let down yet! Mind you, if you view the scenery from their accommodation, you will see why I was keen to go. Costs ------ The cost is £20 per person per night. A very agreeable rate. For that you get more than a bedroom, but your own little suite. Your accommodation comprises of a Shower Room, Dining R oom, Living Room and Bedroom. There is only room for two guests at a time (sharing) and the accommodation is twin beds, presumably to cater to a wider audience. During the winter the rates drop to about £17 per person per night and the proprietors have no plans to put the rates up, having maintained this price for years. Much of their business is repeat. Location ---------- Catalina Guest House is situated on the far north coast of Scotland and about midway across. The nearest reference point would be Strathy Point Lighthouse and the accommodation is just off the single track road, leading to the lighthouse. This land peninsula is surrounded on all three sides by the Atlantic Ocean. It is in a remote spot, and indeed you can walk for 26 miles due south before you actually meet a road. You are free to roam the land in Scotland without fear of prosecution. Within a few minutes of the accommodation you come across a cairn, of which you will grow accustomed to seeing in this area. For reference, Catalina is approximately 25 miles west of Thurso, and you can make the journey there in about 30 minutes. This would be the nearest "big" town, but if it is nightlife you are after, forget it in this area. The nearest village with a pub/dining facilities is Melvich, with the Melvich hotel and this is about five miles away. John O Groats is about 45 miles from Catalina. Getting there --------------- We actually did better on the journey than the AA Route Planner would have anticipated. From Central Scotland the route is the M9, A9 from the Central belt right up to Helmsdale on the East Coast, then take the track road to Melvich (which is passing places only and forty miles long). You then follow the A836 which is the Northern Coast Road, to Strathy. And you will not see many cars on the way, I assure you. The population here is very small, with an average of less than two persons per square kilo metre. Accommodation ------------------- The accommodation is simply but comfortably furnished and most importantly CLEAN. The décor is in keeping with the older style of the property. Of particular note are the Living Room, which is bedecked with books, mainly about travel and hiking etc, but also activities such as cooking, computing, which are obviously keep pursuits of the owners. The dining room walls are covered with certificates earned by the owners. These include the various awards they have received, such as AA four diamonds, Good Food Guide, Best B and B accommodation and a Clean Air Award. The owners are key record keepers and they have a large map of the world complete with lists of all their guests over the last 13 years pinpointed to the countries they visited from. There is also a display of watercolours for sale. Food ------ You certainly will not starve here. Breakfast consists of a choice of cereals, home made toast and preserves, grapefruit, orange juice and a hot meal, or any combination thereof. There is a choice of hot breakfast although they were flexible if you wanted something not quite on the menu. The room rate includes the breakfast There is also a menu for an evening meal, and this had a fantastic choice for such a small accommodation, including venison, chicken, fish, and vegetarian, together with a soup starter and a choice of puddings. And I recommend the Apple Crumble and cream, simply divine. The unfortunate thing for me is that I am suffering from intense pain after eating at present (not sure why yet), and therefore I could not maximise the opportunity to eat delicious home cooked food, i.e. stuff myself silly... Why Catalina ---------------- The owners pride themselves on offering something a little bit different in terms of service for their guests. They are extremely flexible with meal times, only needing 45 minutes notice to prepare an evening meal, and being flexible with breakfast times too, so you can fit this in with any trips you have planned. There is focus on detail, including the toiletries provided, emergency supplies such as toothbrushes, paste, aspirins, plasters, midgie lotion and the like. They have tonnes and tonnes of maps which you can borrow for a walk out in the "bush", together with little extras such as a first aid kit and a mobile telephone, so you can always get in touch with them (although in practice most UK networks now cover the area, and my phone worked most of the time anyway). The owners are friendly folk and like to stop and chat, but at the same time, they appreciate that you are on holiday, and are respectful of your desire for rest and relaxation. Why not Catalina -------------------- Don't choose here if you want a wild time, as it is miles and miles from anywhere. Also, as it is someone's home it is important to be respectful of that fact, and wild drinking orgies with lots of noise will not go down too well either.