Thursday, 27 November 2014

Coigach Adventure

This was the last full day of my summer break in the Highlands. The forecast was good but I woke early to see thick, low mist on Loch Maree. So I did what anyone else would have done, I pulled up the quilt and nodded back off for an hour. The next time I woke and looked out, there was just a bit of brightness in the clouds which was reflected in the Loch. Slowly but surely the cloud started to lift and break and by breakfast time it was almost clear, just leaving just a few wisps of cloud on the distant hills on the far side of the Loch. This promised to be one hell of a day.

A hearty breakfast was eaten and photos of the Loch were taken and then I was heading north again on the Wester Ross Coastal Trail. I had travelled north on this road three times and each time the weather had left a lot to be desired. In fact one year I turned round at Ullapool! Three times I had driven on this road and never even seen the foot of Scotlands most dramatic mountain, An Teallach. Today I saw it from top to bottom and what an impressive sight it was. Even Ullapool looked mildly attractive today.

My route took me to all the best things that the Highlands has to offer. The hills; Cul Mor and Cul Beag, Stac Polliadh, Suilven, Canisp and Quinag. The coast with the large sandy beach at Achnahaird and the old fishing villages of Achiltibuie, Dornie and then lastly to Altandhu with its stunning view over The Summer Isles. This part of the Highlands can be picture postcard pretty one moment and wilderness the next even in sunny weather.

I eventually arrived at my farthest point of the day; Lochinver and I was feeling absolutely shattered but elated at the same time. Thankfully there was a catering wagon which at the time I thought served the best cappuccinos I'd ever experienced but maybe this could have been put down to my tiredness. It never takes me long to recover though and I was soon on my way back down but this time, thankfully, it was on A roads all the way. The roads up there are a godsend, you can travel for mile after mile on good quality roads and not come across any traffic.

My way back took me past Loch Assynt and Ardvreck Castle. The castle dates back to about 1490 when the lands were owned by the Macleods of Assynt. It was attacked and captured by the Mackenzies in 1672 and in 1726 they replaced it with the more modern Calda House which burned down in 1737. Before the Mackenzies were able to rebuild the house, their estates had been seized by the Crown for their support of the losing side in the 1745 uprising. It has remained a ruin ever since.

I stopped off in Ullapool for a fish butty at it's "world famous" chippy but to be honest I wasn't very impressed with it. I had a short walk around the town before setting off for Gairloch. Every mile of this road is a joy. I broke my journey at Gruiniard Bay where I had been the previous day.

A walk to the harbour in Gairloch, a pint in the Old Inn and then it was down the road and back to The Loch Maree Hotel for a couple more pints.

A long day out but a day which I'll remember for a long time. I don't ever expect to get weather like that in the North West Highlands again. In fact I now wonder if I will have enough motivation to travel this far again knowing that I will never be able to better this day. If I do, I promise I will blog it!

Low cloud on Loch Maree

Cloud lifting, Loch Maree

Cloud lifting, Loch Maree

Cloud lifting, Loch Maree

An Teallach

The hills of Coigash

The hills of Coigash

Loch Osgaig


The Summer Isles



Hills of Coigash

Loch Assynt

Ardvreck Castle


Dundonnell River

Wester Ross Coastal Trail

Loch Maree from Poolewe

Gairloch Harbour

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 ...