After our hair-raising drive around the Applecross Peninsula, it was time for something a little more leisurely, so for our next day we didn’t stray far. We started in the quant village of Kinlochewe, with its brightly painted cafe, and took the short diversion up to the viewpoint at Glen Docherty, which affords wonderful views over Loch Maree, the third largest loch in Scotland. Then we took the single track (main!) road a little further north along Loch Maree to the beautiful sandy beach at Gairloch – there’s easy parking by the church/cemetry and a boardwalk down to the beach. What a wonderful beach!
Next up, we took a short diversion off the official NC500 route to Badachro as we had seen signs promising a decent pub for lunch. Although the views over the harbour from the pub lounge were great, and the bar had a good selection of drinks (including the local gin), sadly the food was a little disappointing and ‘mine host’ was rather overbearing!
After another night at our hotel, where we tried their rather less fancy and more reasonably priced Torridon 1887 Pub for dinner, it was on the road again. Next real place of interest was Loch Ewe, used in WW2 as the start point for many of the ill-fated North Atlantic convoys. Apart from the remains of some fortifications, there is currently a NATO refuelling depot there which rather spoils the view over the loch! Next along the route was Gruinard Bay, with its beautiful panoramic views out towards the Summer Isles, before a drive alongside the heavily wooded Little Loch Broom, across some spectacularly deserted moorland, before down to the sea again at Ullapool.
Rather than take the ‘official’ route straight up to Assynt and our next hotel at Lochinver, we elected to take ‘minor’ roads there (heck even the ‘major’ roads are often single track with passing places!) and what an afternoon it was. Passing the base of the impressive Stac Pollaidh (pron. Stack Polly) mountain, we reached Loch Oisgaig, another spot where the freshwater lochs virtually meet the sea, and a lovely little peninsula that directly overlooks the Summer Isles. More beautiful beaches and viewpoints around Polbain, some quite isolated properties (both old and new) but a wonderful sense of peace – if ever I go missing, you will know where to start looking for me!
To be honest, we could have stayed there forever, but our hotel, Inver Lodge, beckoned so on we went through beautiful Inverkirkaig and onto our base for the next couple of days.
Built in 1986, this is definitely not the prettiest hotel you’ll find in Scotland (it looks more like a residential home or golf clubhouse!) but perched as it is on a hill above Lochinver, it has fabulous views over the harbour and surrounding area from every room and certainly delivers! We stayed for 3 nights (they frequently have a 3 for 2 offer on accommodation) and enjoyed great service and fabulous food – it has an ‘Albert Roux’ restaurant and we tried his signature Soufflé Suissesse starter – delicious, rather like ‘floating islands’, but with cheese sauce instead of cremé anglaise… Another opportunity to try some local artisan gins too – looking at the selection on offer there will soon be as many Scottish gins available as whisky!
Here are a few more photos from this part of our trip…