The Scottish Highlands - part 1

  Quinag's Sail Gharbh, 808m in 'uninhabited, barren and rugged mountain country '- seen from the road
 going north from Ullapool (day 10).
Quinag's Spidean Coinich is on the left and behind.

Trip to the Scottish Highlands - August 4 -19, 2000

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Days 1 & 2

Heading south and then west towards Gairloch

We arrived in Inverness in the early afternoon in pouring rain, thinking that this is Scotland, so we'd better get used to it. Already the next day the weather had changed completely and it was going to stay sunny and mixed for at least the first week.

We first headed south alongside famous Loch Ness and stopped to look at our first castle, the ruins of Urquhart, amidst a crowd of Italian, French and German tourists with umbrellas - plus an occasional English-speaking group.

Here is a rainy Loch Ness and some wet tourists. We never saw the monster.

We headed west from Loch Ness and found a nice B&B in Inverinate on Loch Duich.

The next day we continued westwards on our way to Gairloch and the west coast.
The sun was showing signs of coming out of the still heavy clouds and we could even begin to see shadows. In the morning, we visited Eilean Donan castle (pron.Ellen Donan) which was a lot more than a ruin. It had been wonderfully fixed up with furniture and the kitchen and dairy room were populated with eerily life-like wax figures representing the numerous kitchen staff, viewed as busy tending to their various tasks. The whole stage set was pretty amazing. The very old bridge leading out to the castle was a monument in itself.

Eilean Donan castle from far away and from close up.

This trip was not, however, going to be a castle visiting tour.  We were far more intrested in the natural beauty of the Highlands, its prehistoric monuments and the multitude of 'lochan' (= not just lake but also inlets) along the western coast.

After Eilean Donan we followed the coastline to beautiful Plockton on Loch Carron. We had a leisurely lunch from a take-out food place called Grumpy (where you were told you were usually served with a smile) and had a long chat with a very nice English family.

The sun was all out now and it was going to be with us for the rest of the week, alternating with
beautifully cloudy skies.

We decided to make a beautiful side trip to a much visited mountain pass. "The road passes the infamous Bealach-na-Ba or 'Cattle Pass', at a height of 629 metres." (from Highlights of Scotland)
"The road from Tornapress (
on  the A896, north of Kyle of Lochalsh) to Applecross is most dramatic, with steep gradients up to 20% and hairpin turns like those in the Alps." (from Highlights of Scotland )

As you can guess from the pictures, we fell in love with the place and had a hard time tearing ourselves away from the gorgeous Bealach na Ba cattle pass.

We drove north again
from Tornapress along the gorgeous valley of Glen Shieldaig. We arrived in Shieldaig on the Loch in the evening and were lucky to find a friendly and comfortable atmosphere at the Rivendell Guesthouse, and even a good dinner that evening. I had my fill of big shrimp (scampi) in their shells. You eat them in about the same way as we eat crayfish in Sweden, with your fingers - and not to worry about the way it looks.

        Shieldaig on Loch Shieldaig

Day 3

The next day we continue north along beautiful
Glen Torridon
and then westerly along the Loch Maree towards our first three-day goal, Gairloch.

A short walk from the Beinn Eighe (pron. Ben Ay) National Nature Reserve takes us on a round trip - where we first realize that there are oodles of different varieties of heather.
"Two walks on Beinn Eighe, with stunning views of Loch Maree and Slioch. Both trails are on good paths, so stout shoes or boots are adequate for these walks." ...
"Beinn Eighe Woodland Trail: This walk takes you through one of the most important nature conservation areas in Britain. It was established by the Nature Conservancy Council to help preserve the natural Caledonian pine woodland on the south-west shore of Loch Maree. The path is a circular one, with a viewpoint overlooking Loch Maree, Slioch and the Letterewe oakwoods."(Walking in Scotland)

Mount Slioch seen across Loch Maree, with the gnarled Scots pines on the south bank of the loch in the foreground.

A view of beautiful Loch Maree from the edge of the lake, across from the 'Visitor Centre'. The south slope of Mount Slioch and Beinn a' Mhuinidh in the background.
Siv is resting down by the lake.


And here we are arriving in Gairloch
Loch Gairloch.

We got to the house
where we had reserved a room, up the hill from the main street. The most wonderfully nice lady greeeted us. She showed us around and told us we would be welcome to have a cup of tea in the living room after we had gotten installed in our room.

What a welcome! That's a B&B for you!

Next - Part 2

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