Sunday, 7 May 2017

To Lochinver via Coigach

Again, I don't really think many words are needed for this blog. The photos tell the whole story of one of the best drives in the UK.

The route chops and changes from mountain to coastal and back again and is possibly the best section of the Wester Ross Coastal Road. I was fortunate enough to be at Gruinard Bay when the tide was out so I more to less had the whole beach to myself, th the mighty An Teallach (widely regarded as the best hill in Scotland) towered above me as I drove down through Dundonnell.  Then it was through the Dundonnell River gorge and across the Dundonnell Forest to Loch Broom and Ullapool. Even Ullapool looked good with the morning sun and blue skies. I hardly met any traffic at all from the moment I left my hotel on the shores on Loch Maree which meant driving was a sheer pleasure.

The last section of the route through Coigach to Lochinver is the reason I keep visiting these parts. It may only be about twenty miles in length but it goes through what is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful scenery I have seen. There are no mountain ridges, all the hills stand alone which I suppose makes it is quite a surreal landscape and it is totally out of keeping with the vast majority of the highland regions.

I will always remember my first sighting of The Summer Isles from the hamlet of Altandhu. The view took my breath away then as it still does today and I know it does that for many. I always say that this is the finest view in the world which I know is probably a bit of an exaggeration on my part but none the less, it is to me.

The road then heads inland and is akin to the Applecross to Shieldaig road i.e. very narrow with passing places. Now and again you surprisingly return to the coast so, due to its many directional changes, you can end up feeling very disorientated. I usually give out a short sigh of relief when I see the Lochinver "1 mile" sign as I know it is time to relax a bit. Being on guard for oncoming traffic for 12 miles can take it out of you mentally, especially as there is so much to see on the way. I'm afraid Lochinver doesn't have much going for it except possibly the best pie shop in Scotland! The Lochinver Pie Shop is a must on any visit. Just click on the link for details.

The return journey is a lot quicker than the one up even though it is basically a reversal. It just cuts out the coastal and narrow roads sections.  It starts by following the main road alongside Loch Assynt before joining the A835 and then its good roads all the way back to Loch Maree. You can take as long as you want to drive back, I stopped in Ullapool for a chippy tea as time was getting on and it had been a long day. The reverse route also has the advantage of having the hills of The Fisherfield Forest and Torridon in view for the latter part which perks you up just as you are starting to flag. I did find the time to stop a few times to take photographs though.

Considering I was going to let the photos do the talking, I do seem to have waffled on a fair bit but I was reliving the ride as I wrote. Hope you enjoy the photos.

Loch Maree sunrise

Loch Maree

Loch Sheildaig near Gairloch

Loch Ewe

Gruinard Bay

Gruinard Bay

Gruinard Bay

An Teallach

Stac Polliadh from Loch Cul Dromanon

Loch Bad a Ghail, Coigac

The Summer Isles

Achnahaird Bay and the Coigach Hills

Cul Mor and Stac Pollaidh

Cul Mor and Stac Pollaidh

Loch Assynt pines

Road through Dundonnell

Gruinard Bay

First Coast

The Fisherfield and Torridon Hills

The Fisherfield and Torridon Hills

Last light, Loch Maree

Sunset, Loch Maree

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 ...