It’s raining again, but not pouring down. The river next to us is flowing fast again and flooding its banks. Wow. It looks a miserable day, but the weather apps are saying it’s going to brighten up. A couple of nights ago, we managed to book into the Bo and Muc at the Torridon Hotel for tonight – our “end of the holiday” meal so we do a little packing and getting things together (don’t fancy doing it tonight after our meal and we’re off early tomorrow), skip breakfast promising ourselves a brunch later and get ready. We’re off to Applecross.
The mountains are moody, with wisps of cloud weaving in and out of them. They look menacing. The streams are up again. We drive to Shieldaig and onto Kishorn, through a woodland with signs warning us of red squirrels (they are the new otter – very elusive) and do a right marked “Applecross 24 miles”. We follow the coastline, noticing where we had kayaked up to. The view is stunning – we spot Diabaig on the other side. We also notice that the weather is slowly improving as we hug the coast, past houses and communities dotted all over. We’re on the standard single track road with passing places. The islands of Rona and Skye appear as we bend round, their own rugged jagged mountains piercing the sky. We stop to take photos or just to admire. You can’t beat Scotland’s dramatic scenery. We stopped off a viewpoint when a huge delivery lorry sweeps past at speed – the road seems barely big enough for our little car, but hey, these little villages need deliveries – we take it that the driver does this route regularly as he’s fairly confident. We’re just pleased we didn’t meet him on the road – if you drop off you wouldn’t get back on the road!
We continue on, passing a MOD installation, all high wire and stern warning signs. Just seems a clutch of square non-descript buildings and nothing else – we put it down to “Communications” and carry on to Applecross, nestling in its own wide sweeping bay. Our first job is to find somewhere for brunch – we’re starving. We pull up outside The Junction, a cafe we ate at a couple of years ago, but it’s firmly shut. You just don’t know who’s open when nowadays with this virus situation. Luckily as we followed the bay round, we had spotted another cafe at the Walled Garden about 3/4 miles up the road.
We filled the car up at the single pump community petrol station (what a brilliant idea) and head up through the gates and along the Estate drive of the Walled Garden. A huge imposing house, all white and turrets sits in a wide manicured lawn – it’s fabulous sight. A place where the Laird would of lived, overseeing his tenant farmers and the villagers working on his estate. We drive past and pull up in a gravelly car park, reading the mass of signs. They open at 11, we glance at our watches: 10.49. We can wait. There’s steady drizzle as the weather closes in again as a couple push through the gate and we follow – there’s an eagerness to beat people so you don’t have to wait with all these rules. There’s a low corrugated and wood building sitting at the end of a pathway, with the garden surrounding it. It’s quite enchanting. Inside, it’s very quirky, but alas we are thwarted with the brunch – lunches aren’t served til noon. With a sigh, we order scones and coffee, the bonus being the scones are just out of the oven and there’s lashings of jam and proper cream! We chat about how this place has allowed you in to sit at a table and eat and there’s more than 2 customers in – at least four tables are taken – it’s the first place this week where it’s pretty much normal, even proper crockery, though you had to place your dirty crocks on the tray next door to your table when you’d finished. But apart from that, it was a normal eating experience. No wonder we’re all stumbling around confused by the different Covid rules and when we get back to England, it will be all different again. Afterwards, we wander around the garden, with fruit trees and shrubs, the chefs picking the vegetables and herbs straight out of the raised beds for lunch – can’t get fresher than that. There’s a hidden greenhouse selling plants. It’s laid out in a very lackadaisical way, a kind of organised chaos, vaguely overgrown, but it’s just great. We check out every corner despite the drizzly rain.
We decide to check out the peninsula beyond Applecross, so drive through the little village, past Milltown and towards Toscaig, diving down side roads to little hamlets and clusters of houses. Past the primary school with its fantastic garden opposite, the local shop – we follow the dustcart emptying bins, stop/starting as there’s nowhere to overtake. We’re in no rush. We finally make Toscaig and to a concerete jetty with Skye in front of us. The sun is finally peeking its way out of the clouds and it becomes quite warm. We think a ferry might operate from here, but there is no evidence. Exhausting Toscaig, we drive slowly back and spot the tall, but squat phone tower that allows us to get 4G on this remote peninsula. As we approach, we are aghast to see a house right opposite it, it’s views partially obscured by the iron work and the accompanying shed of the mast. What the ???. All this open space and somebody plonks a mast/house next door to each other? It’s bonkers. We spend some time discussing the abomination of such a decision and what was there first – house or mast?
Back at Applcross’s shorefront, we park up and get a box of chips each from a chip wagon and eat them in the car overlooking the bay. Then we head towards the Bealach na Ba, once the only road to Applecross which basically climbs up and over a mountain pass. It’s all single track with many passing places. Last time, we did it in a motorhome and came up the steep bit and over. This time, we drove up the gentler western approach, though squeezing past vans, cars, motorcyclists and totally potty pedal cyclists who’ve cycled up the steeper side. It’s quite busy up here.
We reach the summit with its far reaching views to Kishorn and beyond, the road twisting and turning, a sprinkling of hairpin bends thrown in for good measure. It looks quite scary. What were we thinking bringing a motorhome up here? We start to drop down, concentrating on the road and where it went – we think there’s new crash barriers been installed. Unable to get Matt Munro’s “On Days Like These” (the soundtrack off the original Italian Job where at the beginning, a red sports car is being driven in the Alps to meet a grisly end) on Spotify, we hum the tune. It is a truly fantastic road, albeit a touch daunting. We reach the bottom without meeting too many vehicles and definitely not the Mafia with bulldozers and drive back to Shieldaig. The weather is now glorious, the sun out and little puffy clouds – it’s just perfect. We call into Nanny’s for a coffee and sit on the benches outside, just watching the world. We watch a couple sit at a table where a sign said “Do Not Sit Here Until We’ve Cleaned It” and realised that we had been following them all afternoon. They were quite impatient as their driving had shown earlier and now they added illiteracy to their shortcomings. We just despaired of them. We had a wander along the shoreline and meet an elderly couple who were staying nearby. They told us that they came here every year for the past twenty years and this was probably their last as they were getting too old and they were here to say goodbye. It seemed quite sad, their last holiday. Along the grass, was another old boy resting in a deckchair, checking his phone (probably trying to get a signal), but happily sunning himself. Chickens wandered around, pecking the grass and it was just beautiful – the perfect last day of a holiday. The lovely colours of the houses, the shades of the scenery on an early autumn afternoon. Just stunningly gorgeous. We drove back slowly, stopping to take in the view and thinking what a great place Britain is – when the sun is shining.
We rest for about half an hour at the cottage and then get ready for our meal at the Bo and Mac. We drove over as the sun was setting in the west. Our meal was at 6.15pm which was a tad early, but we had no option. We were invited in and sat by the window in the large conservatory. It was all rather posh, a French waiter fussing over us, informing us in a heavy French accent of the specials and the best wines – it was like being in an episode of Masterchef with jus, coulis, julienne and other fancy vocabulary being casually thrown in. We were on our best behaviour, but we started to watch others arrive. An elderly couple arrived, she all airs and graces and he looking like he was off to a football match in a sports shell suit. (It looked like Hyacinth Bucket and Onslow from the tv sitcom Keeping Up Appearances on a date night). A young couple sat near us and the girl never took off her outdoor jacket once. This was an extremely nice meal with prices to match so I do take umbrage when people cannot be bothered to dress up. It wasn’t dinner jackets and tiaras, just smart casual, but some people here just couldn’t make that level. Then it went the other extreme with hotel guests rocking up in a covered golf buggy – they couldn’t be bothered to walk a few hundred yards in between. It was quite funny to watch really. Anyway we had a lovely meal and sat in comfy chairs afterwards drinking coffee and whisky, before retiring home. All very convivial. It was now dark and I had volunteered to drive home. We hadn’t gone 100 yards along the main road, when a deer lurched out of the undergrowth, straight in front of the car! Hells Bells! Luckily I wasn’t driving fast, busy trying to avoid the potholes and rougher parts of the road and so watched wide eyed as the deer veered across the road in a panic, undecided which bush he wanted to dive into. He eventually chose the right side and started to head that way, before briefly changing his mind again, lurching back into my path. Upon realising there was a car bearing down on him, he thought better of it, sticking to his original plan and was gone. Let me just say that I basically crawled back to the cottage, eyes on stalks looking for startled deer.
Well , it had been a fantastic week, thoroughly enjoyed with many highlights. We tumbled into bed for the last time and fell asleep under the gaze of the moonlight pouring into our room.
The next day, we were up early, packing our last bits and was gone by 9. We had a choice of going the way we came at 7 hours and 15 minutes via Perth or going down the West Coast and adding another hour onto our journey – but strangely there’s only a few total miles difference. So we went West. It is a glorious, beautiful route, but tortuous as it follows the coastline, in and out of all the bays. We stopped at Spean Bridge for lunch in the old railway station, a lovely narrow brick building with real fires (one had smoked out one of the rooms). Some 5 hours after leaving Torridon, we had only reached Glasgow – probably only half way! It had been raining all day, but as we hit the motorways for the rest of the journey, the heavens opened and cars ahead of us disappeared into the spray. Signs warned us of standing water. This could be fun – we took it easy and finally our familiar home landscape came into view. Some 9 hours after we had left Torridon, we fell through our own front door, exhausted, hair slightly on end, but very happy!