Ten miles north of Dornoch on the A9 lies the straggling red sandstone town of GOLSPIE, whose status as an administrative centre does little to relieve its dullness. It is, however, the jumping-off point for some brilliant mountain biking: the fabulous Highland Wildcat Trails are within the forested hills just half a mile to the west. The easy to severe (colour-coded) trails include a huge descent from the summit of Ben Bhraggie to sea level and a ride past the Sutherland monument, erected in memory of the landowner who oversaw the eviction of thousands of his tenants in a process known as the Clearances.
Immediately behind Golspie, you can’t miss the 100ft monument to the first Duke of Sutherland, which peers proprietorially down from the summit of the 1293ft Beinn a’Bhragaidh (Ben Bhraggie). An inscription cut into its base recalls that the statue was erected in 1834 by “a mourning and grateful tenantry [to] a judicious, kind and liberal landlord [who would] open his hands to the distress of the widow, the sick and the traveller”. Unsurprisingly, there’s no reference to the fact that the duke, widely regarded as Scotland’s own Josef Stalin, forcibly evicted 15,000 crofters from his million-acre estate. It’s worth the stiff climb to the top of the hill (round trip 1hr 30min) for the wonderful views south along the coast past Dornoch to the Moray Firth and west towards Lairg and Loch Shin. The path is steep and strenuous in places, however, and there’s no view until you’re out of the trees, about twenty minutes from the top.