We wake up to an overcast sky, threatening clouds and rain. Doesn’t look nice at all – let’s say we didn’t rush to get up. Finally we emerge and have porridge whilst we decide what to do. We latch on the idea of going up to Ullapool and start to get organised until we check on the satnav and realise that it’s over 2 hours and 75 miles away. Mmm, major rethink as we’ve been to Ullapool and though it’s lovely, not sure it’s worth a four hour round trip. So we aim for Gairloch, only 1 hour away and 34 miles. There’s only one road to it – the 10 mile single track back to Kinlochewe and then a main road from Kinlochewe to Gairloch. We haven’t gone far out of Kinlochewe, when we spot the Beinn Eighe Visitor Centre and impulsively pull in – we’re on the search for some good biking trails – and find a single story building painted white, full of displays and information, but seemingly unmanned. We have a wander, reading the information and have a brief recce outside. It’s a possible idea for a good walk later on in the week.
We continue our journey in a steady drizzle on a two way carriageway following the edge of Loch Maree, admiring the huge Munro’s towering over us. Truly magnificent. As we peel off to head towards Gairloch, the road suddenly shrinks to a single track with passing places and then after less than a mile, springs back into two way! It’s just so weird how it changes from one type of road to another – it certainly keeps you on your toes! It’s starting to brighten up as we spot a side road on our left and decide on a whim to check it out. We come across a fabulous hotel overlooking the little bay of Loch Shieldaig and make a note of a possible lunch venue. We carry onto Badachro, a single street of houses and a small jetty. The Badachro Inn is here, which has been advertising itself for the last 3 miles, so we park up and have a wander – we find a little shop selling all things touristy and have a nose, getting some postcards and little bag with anchor motifs. We find the Inn which isn’t quite open, but there’s something about it that’s not floating our boat. we wander down to the jetty to kill time, chatting to a local and admiring this beautiful little bay. Apparently Irish boats came over, filled with Irish soil as ballast, dropping it at Badachro before filling their boats with Scottish herring and heading home. That’s why this part of Scotland is so vibrant green and things grow so well.
We head back to the car and follow the single track road to the coast and to Redpoint, through scattered hamlets of bungalows and chalets. It is quite populous when you really look, but it also looks quite isolated and remote. Sheep munch on the road side and casually wander out in front of you, giving you baleful stares. They’re not for moving and you have to squeeze past them, as they nonchantly chew grass without a care in the world. At Redpoint, there’s a beautiful semi circle of sand, a deep inviting beach – ideal for The Dog if she was with us, but she’s back at home. We find a viewpoint high above the beach with far reaching views of Skye and Harris, the sky big with fluffy clouds and the sun picking out the rugged beauty. We stand for many minutes, drinking it all in. Scotland at it’s best.
We retrace our steps back to the main road of Gairloch, feeling decidedly peckish now. We drop into Gairloch and pull off at the Pier. At the far end, there’s a huddle of shacks offering boats trips which are all closed and peering over the edge, a variety of boats are tied to the harbour, bobbing in the gentle water. It has the distinct feel of a working harbour. We walk back towards the road and find a promising looking cafe, but inside it’s a bit austere and offering only tea and cake. So we jump back into the car and head into the main part of Gairloch, passing the links golf course and more lovely broad beaches. On our right, there’s a couple of places that may offer good food, but we want to check out the rest of the area. “Crumbs” is advertising lunches, so we follow their signs towards the Village Square as the sky starts to grow darker and ominous. We don’t come across Crumbs, but hubby has been in the Mountain Café before and so we head in there. There seems to be only bagels on the menu, but they’re ticking our box so we order them with a hot coffee, only to be informed they haven’t got any – why don’t you scrub it off your menu then??? Grrr. Now our only option is a selection of cakes. We want a proper lunch, but we are giving up the will. So we end up ordering scones with jam and cream which are actually very scrummy, but we’re hankering paninis. The heavens open as we devour the scones and rain beats against the glass of the conservatory. Seems to be the last of the good weather. We wipe off the crumbs and run across the road to McColls for some bit and pieces for tea tonight – we’re not allowed in as they have a “2 People Only in the Shop” policy and as they already have 2 customers sedately browsing, we wait outside as the rain eases off. What a palaver. Once inside, we note that there’s at least six members of staff – how does that work?
Feeling slightly peeved, we drive back out as the rain is now persistent and we don’t want to get wet for no reason. We stop at the two shops we passed on the way in and quietly curse – the first one has a better range of food than McColls and the second one has a far better café and gift shop. It’s just one of those days when it doesn’t quite work out – hey ho.
We drive back the way we came, the sun pushing its way through the rain clouds again, revealing spectacular views, bringing out the most gorgeous colours on the surrounding Munro’s. The exposed rocks glisten and the verdant greens glow.
As we turn onto the single track road back to Torridon, the weather closes in again. It’s certainly not meteorologically boring around here! There have been men working along this section of road this morning, a mass of vehicles gathered on the roadside, patching the worst of the potholes – it really needs to be done properly – this will be all out by December. They are now on their way home, bullying their way through as we admire their handiwork. It’s definitely the “Screw You School of Tarmacking” by the looks of it. There also seems a lot of road signs, mainly advertising that the road projects have been funded by the EU; by the state of the roads, the road signs looked like they took the bulk of the money. Some signs seemed a total waste of time – one, some 5 miles along this narrow road, informed us it was a single track road with passing places – no shit Sherlock! It looked like it was a spare one and just plonked there. During the week we spotted many 30mph limit signs on these type of roads which made us chuckle as we rarely reached 25mph or got into 4th gear!
Once back at Torridon, we decide to drive a little further to check out the Torridon hotel, a rather swanky place on the shoreline, for a possible meal treat at the end of the holiday and to suss out biking trails. Both the restaurant and the bike shack are closed – limited opening times, but a kind lady who was passing tell us of a great sounding trail following the Loch to (another) Shieldaig (there’s two in the vicinity). We thank her profusely and decide to do a bike ride tomorrow, the forecast is looking good. We drive back to our house, as the sun appears yet again – how changeable the weather can be here – and Scotland shows off once again.
We’ve discovered our heating in the house isn’t working properly – it’s coming on at all different times apart from it’s supposed to come on. We’ve tried all sorts to get it to work, but resorted to calling the owners so a plumber might rock up tomorrow morning. We make tea, curl up under blankets to keep warm and chill as the sun goes down (around 7.30pm – god, the nights are drawing in). Postcards get written, diaries filled and we have regular forays outside looking for the elusive Northern Lights. Again, no luck, but tomorrow night is suppose to be better.