Ardmair to Gairloch and onto Lochcarron

The wind dropped overnight and we woke to a calm sunny day…and midges. As I sat on a bench taking in the view I could feel them taking in me so I scurried back to the van.

Soon we were on the road to Ullapool and what a pretty town it is. In the glorious sunshine it looked and felt very continental although I’m sure that might be different in winter. We filled up with cheap petrol here and I told the man in the station they must surely win the prize for the best view from any petrol station in the world. “Ay, it’s no’ so bad is it?” he replied. Not so bad at all.

The road from Ullapool to Gairloch was not so bad either. Wow! We thought we’d had stunning views so far but oh my goodness our senses were on overdrive. Mountains, open roads, lochs, rivers, sunshine, blue skies. It was just incredible. We’d come prepared for all weathers but were in danger of running out of summer clothes at this rate.

These are just a couple of shots from the road down to Gairloch. It was so hard to know which ones to share. Lots of people attach dashcams and phones to their dashboards to capture their whole journey. They must have hours of beautiful sight after beautiful sight.

We stopped at Gairloch Point for lunch. There was a little parking area, seating and a wonderful view down over Gairloch Beach. The sun was shining and I was determined to get my feet in the pale turquoise sea so once we’d eaten we made our way down. The beach overlooks Loch Gairloch, another sea loch but the larger expanse of water once you are out of the bay is known as The Minch. It’s just lovely.

We could have stayed for ages but the road was calling us once more and yet another breathtaking drive along Loch Maree lay ahead of us. This road was mostly single track with passing places. Because of that you have to drive at a more leisurely pace than normal which gives you time to take in the views without holding up drivers behind you. There are signs everywhere about being aware of local drivers who may have jobs to get to and to pull over and let them past. The passing places are plentiful so there’s really no excuse for tourists who ignore this and keep bimbling on at 20mph with an ever growing queue behind them. Speaking of tourists, we’ve seen every kind of vehicle imaginable – motorbike convoys, suped up sports cars,  what looked like a Porsche club, motorhomes, campervans and push bikes. Lots of pushbikes. Many of them being pedalled by the more mature cyclist. And I don’t just mean mid 50s here, I mean well into their 70s shaming us all with their fitness levels and stamina. I felt very inadequate passing them by in Buttercup.

Speaking of Buttercup, we passed her twin on one section and as we cruised down past them we were thankful that we’d chosen to do this journey anti-clockwise. That was some hill they’d just climbed but they still gave us an enthusiastic wave.

Not far from Beinn Eighe we saw a busy carpark coming up and thought everyone had stopped to get a shot of yet more spectacular scenery. But no, everyone was busy photographing and filming the star of the carpark. A stag, just stood there hanging out with all the cars and vans. There were signs everywhere discouraging people from feeding him as he could get agitated and attack their cars with his hooves or antlers. Dom left Buttercup at a safe distance and took the footage from a place he could make his escape from. It was amazing the number of people who didn’t seem to have read the signs and were getting up really quite close. Rather them than me!

We left the stag behind and continued on what has been one of the most amazing driving days of our lives. We live in a world where people overuse expressions of wonderment which means when you really do see something extraordinary the words just don’t seem adequate. My words have run out so the best thing I can do is tell you to experience it for yourself. You certainly won’t regret it. Unless of course you hate driving or are a terrible passenger. If that’s the case it would probably be your holiday from hell!

We made the decision at the beginning of the trip that we weren’t going to tackle the Bealach Na Ba (pass from Applecross). Although Buttercup has been incredible we didn’t want to push our luck and some of the turns are pretty tight with steep inclines and declines. Instead we made our way down through the small villages to Lochcarron and stayed just outside there for the night. Lochcarron itself is a pretty town with a long waterfront of houses, galleries, guesthouses and shops.

After such an adventure it was time for a wee dram for Dom – I did offer him a glass but he was content to drink it from the bottle.

Midge count – Jude 15, Dom 6

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