Wester Ross

Wester Ross is situated west of the line Ullapool, Achnasheen and Kyle of Lochalsh. The heart of the region is formed by the Torridonian Range forms, a mountainchain about a billion years of age. It consists of red sandstone on top of a foundation of Lewisian Gneiss. In Wester Ross mountains, lochs, sealochs, wilderness and woods alternate, so that this region is widely seen as one of the most beautiful of Scotland.

Liathach, in the heart of the Torridon mountains

In this chapter you'll find: Ullapool to Gairloch, from Gairloch to Lochcarron, the Applecross peninsula, and Lochcarron to the Kyle of Lochalsh.

From Ullapool to Gairloch.

Ullapool (regional map) was founded in 1778 by the British Fisheries Society in order exploit the rich fishgrounds (especially herring and white fish) in the Minch (the sea between the outer-Hebrides and the northwesterly mainland) in a better way. Situated next to Loch Broom, it's natural harbour made the place very suitable. One of the remains from the starting period is the Customs House, where taxes were imposed over the salt which was necessary for conserving the fish. Even in that time governments were creative in finding money everywhere. The streets have been laid down in straight rectangles, so that Ullapool does leave a bit of an artificial impression.
For that matter, a reasonably good dinner is served, and several daytrips per boat are available from Ullapool. The ferry to and from Stornoway on Lewis has it's base here.

The road to the south takes you along Loch Broom
to the Corrieshalloch Gorge, a gorge
with a deepness of about eighty meters.
The small bridge across it is allowed to carry
a maximum of six persons due to safety precautions.
Nearby are the "falls of Rogie", a series of waterfalls.

The road goes to the west along Little Loch Broom to Gruinard Bay with in the middle of it Gruinard Island. This isle was misused during the second worldwar, for investigations into bacteriological warfare (Anthrax).

A few bombs were dropped on Gruinard Island and the result was measured by the sheep, who indeed all died very quickly. No earlier than at the end of the eighties the isle was cleaned from all virus-traces.

In Laide the road branches to Mellon Udrigle, where (like at the branches to Aultbea, Poolewe and Gairloch) there are sandbeaches, crowded by locals and holidaymakers when the weather is good.

Further to the south is Aultbea with several water sports facilities (and with two supermarkets!) and Loch Ewe, where (a bit north of Poolewe) the Inverewe Gardens can be visited.

Here several subtropical plants grow, like everywhere along the westcoast of Scotland, on a latitude equal to that of Moscow. Reason is the Gulfstream that passes here and causes an evenly climate with hardly any frost.

After Poolewe a (hidden) viewpoint shows Loch Maree from the less usual western side, and then Gairloch (regional map) is reached, a friendly village that flourishes in summer by the number of tourists that come here. For the backpackers there is the Mountain Restaurant with shop, and also the Millcroft Hotel provides good food (and drinks). Boattrips can be booked in Gairloch (from the quay in the south of the village), we saw, among others, a minky whale of about six meters.
Also here are the Heritage Museum, a golf course and beaches.
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From Gairloch to Lochcarron.

The road from Gairloch to Kinlochewe curves through a mountainous landscape to Loch Maree, with some small islands with oak forests in it. On the opposite side Slioch is dominantly present. A bit further is the Bheinn Eighe Reserve with visitor centre.
The name Kinlochewe (litterally: "at the head of Loch Ewe") arose before Loch Ewe was renamed to Loch Maree (to prevent confusion with the sealoch Ewe). The village is very small, but it has a petrol station and that is quite something in this remote region. Here the road splitses up: straight on to Achnasheen, a village that consists of a small station, a very small post office annex shop, an artist-shop and a good road (broad and dual track) to Dingwall. To the right the road takes you again along

Ben Eighe with its white head

to Torridon (regional map), a tiny village on the foot of Liathach (see picture at the top of this chapter).

sunset over Loch Torridon

From Torridon a B-road leads to Diabaig, a to-and-fro tour that is more than worth taking. After a start between woods (at the little bridge a footpath starts to the waterfalls of Ben Dearg and Ben Alligin) you can take the road into the deep to Inveralligin, where on the village-green cows, sheep, chickens, ducks and geeze brotherly wander about. The approach (with a little camping place) is on the west side, which is explained by the fact that in the old days, when there wasn't a road between Shieldaig and Torridon, a ferry crossed Loch Torridon between Shieldaig and Inveralligin. The shortest car road then between Shieldaig and Torridon was 60 miles (is 5 miles nowadays). To the south there are a number of beautiful views, and then the road climbs (with sometimes 25 %) to Bealach na Goathe ("pass of the wind"), passes a loch and plunges in the deep towards Diabaig. A very beautiful and quiet village, where parts of the movie "Loch Ness" were taken. From the jetty Applecross and Trotternish on Skye are visible.

The small island before the shore of Shieldaig (Norse for "herring-bay"), with pine-forest and a heronry, is owned by the National Trust for Scotland; in Glen Shiel the coastal road from Applecross joins the road to Lochcarron.

Glen Shiel

After passing Kishorn Lochcarron is reached.
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Applecross.

The Applecross-peninsula (regional map) is especially known for the steep approach via "Bealach na Bá" (pass of the cattle), a road that starts in Tornapress. The warning-sign there states:

ROAD TO APPLECROSS (BEALACH NA Bá)
this road rises to a height of 2053 Ft.
with gradients of 1 in 5 and hairpin bends
NOT ADVISED FOR LEARNER DRIVERS
VERY LARGE VEHICLES OR CARAVANS
AFTER FIRST MILE

followed by:

ROAD NORMALLY
IMPASSABLE IN
WINTRY CONDITIONS

But it could be worse, despite the few passing places the sight is good enough to spot oncoming vehicles timely, and stop in time. During a long time the pass was the only connection over land for Applecross and neighbouring villages. In the past transport over sea was of course the normal way to hold contact with the mainland.
On the top of the pass you get views of Skye and Rum. Applecross has only one street with houses, a village-shop where you are welcomed in the American way with "Hi Folks", a garage and a hotel. A bit north is a bay with Raasay on a few miles distance, and there also starts the coastal road along the east and north of Applecross, which was opened in 1975, but this opening of the peninsula was in fact too late. Along the coast many farms are deserted, the youth of that time has left mostly and some houses are for sale.

interested?

A bit beyond Kenmore fish (cod, salmon) and shell-fish (crab, lobster and scampis) are sold at the back door. The cooking instructions for the lobster are as follows: "lay the lobster out flat on a wooden board, hard shell uppermost. Have the head toward your right hand and cover the tail with a cloth. Hold the lobster behind the head and pierce through the little cross marking on the head - this is the brain, the lobster will be killed instantly. Wash and place into pan of cold salted water, bring slowly to boil and boil fairly quickly for approximately 15-20 minutes per pound." We stuck to some langoustines....

Kenmore
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From Lochcarron to the Kyle of Lochalsh.

Lochcarron is a long-drawn village along the homonymous Loch Carron, that was built around 1800, also because of the enormous amount of herring that could be caught in these waters.

Lochcarron

Strathcarron with station is further ahead, and after that the road follows the south shore of Loch Carron. Stromeferry (to be absolutely clear, a sign states "no ferry") housed in the past indeed a ferry to the opposite side of the loch. Nowadays the village appears a bit deserted, the tourists like Plockton more, which is situated to the westcoast. Plockton indeed is a picturesque village, with narrow streets, palmtrees and lots of water sports, and thanks its reputation to the TV-series Hamish MacBeth, which was partly recorded here. Besides the last station before Kyle of Lochalsh there also is a small airfield.
Kyle of Lochalsh (regional map) is a reasonably large village with lots of facilities, and the bridge connects Skye with the mainland here. The road to the opposite side leads along the "Five Sisters of Kintail" to Fort William. It is the most important transportroad for Skye. On a very small island at the head of Loch Duich, on a three-fork with Loch Alsh and Loch Long, is Eilean Donan Castle. This is the most pictured castle of Scotland, but less known is that it was rebuilt between 1912 and 1932. Pictured here like it looked in 1901, before a quarter of a million pound (of those days) were invested in it.
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