Thursday, 29 September 2011

Forgiven and never forgotten


I find that the Highlands has an annoying habit of giving me shit weather for the biggest part of my stay and then on my final day, the sun comes out and the blue skies reappear which is more than enough to entice me to come back again. A day of blue skies in the Highlands is a day to remember for a very long time. It made me forget all the rain, dark and miserable skies, mists, soakings, invisible seal colonies, non-existent coral beaches, nearly being blown across to Iceland and the rest.

I still remember my first trip up here which must have been 10 years ago, it rained and rained and rained for two days solid and I hated the place but then on my trip back down, the weather broke and the bug hit me. The mist rose at the southern end of Loch Linnhe revealing the majestic splendour of Glen Coe. I was so impressed and over-awed by the place that I drove through it, turned round and drove back down and then back up again! The journey down over Rannoch Moor and Loch Lomond really showed the Highlands in their true splendour that day.

Anyway, true to form I woke up to sun and blue skies on my last day in Gairloch and bearing in mind the poor weather I'd had up to press I decided to make the most of my trip back down to Cumbria. I left the hotel at about nine in the morning and didn't arrive back in Cumbria until nearly nine at night.


My first stop was Badachro, a little hidden gem just a bit farther down the coast from Gairloch. The area has long been renowned for its cod fishing, and Badachro's growth was as a result of that. When the fishery was in full operation much of the cod landed at Gairloch was dried at Badachro before being shipped to markets in Spain. Today the area's main catch comprises lobsters, crabs and prawns: and the piles of lobster pots on the jetty suggested that it was still an active base for fishing vessels. Most of the vessels on view were leisure craft.

 Reluctantly I started my journey back down. The weather was so calm that the reflections on the Lochs just jumped out at me.  I stopped off at Loch Maree on my way to Torridon to take some photos but unfortunately the sun was wrongly positioned, it was more of less straight in front of me. There was the most beautiful picnic area, right on the loch shore and gave absolutely stunning views down towards Slioch.

After Loch Marree, it was a right turn into Torridon. What a difference a couple of days made, the last time I drove along the glen I saw absolutely nothing but this time all the tops were clear and they looked so impressive as the towered above me. The quartzite summit of Beinn Eighe (below) shone in the sun whilst Liathach conveyed an aura of impregnability as the slopes appeared to rise up from the roadside in a series of near vertical rocky terraces. It was a beautiful day for reflections as well with Upper Loch Torridon looking like a mirror.

The view down Upper Loch Torridon was just as beautiful if not quite as exciting.
The point where the road leaves Torridon and heads round to Sheildaig is another favourite spot of mine. The first time I came this way I approached from Sheildaig and the weather was like it was today. The scene as I rounded that corner surpassed anything I could ever have imagined. The hills, the Loch and the bay are just set out perfectly and I found the same scene today just as enchanting. It's a place you never want to leave when the weather conditions are like this and I sat on one of the handily placed rocks for ages, just taking the scene in.

Reluctantly I left Torridon for the fishing village of Sheildaig, stopping for a few moments before heading towards Loch Kishorn.

 An unexpected photo stop by Loch an Loin was a must as was a detour into the small villages of Ardarroch and Achintraid with their superb view across Loch Kishorn to Beinn Bhan and the Beallach na Ba. Time was getting on as I arrived in Lochcarron so I just continued around the Loch towards the Kyle of Lochalsh, only stopping at the viewpoint above Loch Carron to admire the beautiful view.

 I had been on the road a fair few hours and thought I needed some sort of break so I pulled in at Eilean Donan Castle where I had a Cappuccino and a last laze in the sun. Then it was a familiar route which went through Kintail, past Loch Cluannie and then up and over into Glengarry and on to Fort William. I had thought about spending the night in Fort William but the forecast for the next day was terrible and quite frankly I'd had enough rain these last seven days so I just pulled into Fort William to break my trip before hitting the road back down to Cumbria. My final photo below is of  Loch nah Achalaise in late afternoon sun.

The drive back to Cumbria was helped with the new extension to the M74. No more bun fights on the M8, you hit the M74 just after Glasgow Airport and you are through Glasgow in no time at all. I arrived back in Cumbria at about nine at night, feeling rather weary but I'd had a fabulous day and looking back, a pretty good holiday.


Gairloch Harbour


Badachro


Badachro


Badachro


Lochan reflection


Loch Maree


Loch Maree and Slioch


Beinn Eighe, Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon reflection


Upper Loch Torridon reflection

Upper Loch Torridon reflection


Upper Loch Torridon reflection


Upper Loch Torridon reflection


Upper Loch Torridon


Sheildaig


Sheildaig


Sheildaig


Sheildaig


Loch an Loin


Loch an Loin


Achintraid and Loch Kishorn


Ardarroch and Beinn Bhan


Loch Carron viewpoint



Eilean Donan Castle, Kintail


Eilean Donan Castle, Kintail


Loch nah Achalaise in late afternoon sun



A journey of two halves.

It was one of those all too frequent occasions when the weather forecast had a big wad of thick cloud and rain hanging over Cumbria whilst ...