Wandering on the West Coast ~ Applecross to Dundonnell

I know I sound like a broken record, but…

It was another beautiful sunny day on the west coast of Scotland and absolutely perfect for a bit of exploring. We were quite blessed with wonderful weather on this trip so far, because it can be a bit sketchy at times in the land of the mist!  We had plans to drive along the periphery of the peninsulas, hugging the coastline as much as possible, from Applecross to Dundonnell further north near Loch Broom.

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We left Hartfield House hostel and I had a surprise for Lindsay first thing in the morning. We only had to drive about a mile to eat breakfast at a simply wonderful restaurant; Applecross Walled Garden Potting Shed Cafe! How often does one have that opportunity?

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There were so many choices of seating opportunities, and although sitting outside was tempting, we opted for an indoor table. They had plenty of freshly cut flowers from the garden on the table and window sills, however, so we were still close to the flowers while we enjoyed our scrumptious meal.

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IMG_4162They have a very good menu with lots of options to choose from and I finally decided upon Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict.

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then went outside to walk around the garden.

They grow most of the food they serve here and it’s nice to know it’s so fresh!

The vegetables are grown in raised beds and the gardener appears to be using the “French Intensive” method of gardening that I prefer to use myself.

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IMG_4153One of the things I particularly like about the French Intensive method is that you can use a newly constructed raised bed as a compost pit. All the great stuff that goes on in the compost pile stays right there in the raised bed; the nutrients from the pile leach directly to the soil in the bed.

At right, the picture shows how they have gathered seaweed from the shoreline and layered it directly onto the bed. The bed will get turned with a pitchfork and the layers get mixed together to create a soil that is super-enriched with nutrients creating a wonderful compost suitable for planting. Once the compost pile has done its job of breaking down the roughage and turning it into super-soil, you can just plant directly into the bed! It’s fantastic!

But I digress…we were talking about traveling weren’t we, and I got side-tracked about gardening techniques!

Let’s walk around the garden and see what other treasures it holds…

IMG_4139Isn’t it a delightful garden?  I was here last year and it’s looking a lot better this year. The gardener has done a lot of work to bring it back to a nicely kept garden. Nice to see it looking so good, increased productivity and it’s obvious it’s being well-cared for!

Lots of nice places to sit to enjoy the views from. I am partial to the boat serving as the backboard for the bench. Good idea! That bench under the rose arch is inviting as well.

A perfect way to start a day – eat breakfast in the garden! Time to start heading up the road, however, to see what surprises the rest of the day has in store for us! We drove down to the edge of the water in the bay at low tide and enjoyed the views before leaving town…IMG_4120

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…and also got one more look at the Hairy Coos grazing in their pasture nearby. We also had a nice opportunity to watch a herd of local deer up close and personal. Such graceful creatures.

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IMG_2347We started driving north from Applecross to Shieldaig going around the peninsula instead of driving back over the Bealach na Ba.

It offered up some scenic sights too…

IMG_4184IMG_4187When we reached the tip at Fearnmore; the views were fantastic in all directions including looking back the way we had come…IMG_4193Next, the road turned to the east and hugged the northern coastal boundary of the peninsula along the edge of Loch Torridon and Loch Shieldaig, as it wound its way to the lovely little village of Shieldaig. The views across the Lochs of the majestic mountains (or Beinns – as the Scottish call them) opened across the water. Stunning!IMG_4207

IMG_4209Little creeks and rivers flowed down the rock waterfalls at the roads’ edge at various places. We took some videos of the route and the waterfalls just for you!

 

Then we reached Shieldag… another example of an outstandingly picturesque waterside village!  I could spend some time here!IMG_4221

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We didn’t stay long this time, however, just enough to stretch our legs and then we were back on the road again drinking in the beauty as it flowed magically past the windows of the car… what an absolutely delightful drive!

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We continued driving a total of about 8 miles from Sheildaig until we reached the town Torridon where the two peninsulas meet. I can’t believe how many beautiful sights are crammed into that 8-mile stretch of road!  Amazing!

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IMG_4253Torridon is a nice little village situated at the edge of Upper Loch Torridon with everything you could need (i.e.; a general store and cafe, post office and there’s even a great looking YHA hostel!) Perhaps I’ll need to book a stay here during my next trip!

Below is the view from the general store/cafe looking back at the shoreline we had just followed!

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IMG_4252After Torridon, our route took us cross-country to the next loch, Loch Maree, instead of driving around the peninsula. (We would have gone that way but there weren’t any roads that go completely around it.) It took us through a valley flanked by these wonderful Beinns (mountains) to the north…IMG_4254

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IMG_4261…and these to the south.IMG_4260

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IMG_4264We happened upon a side road that took us to a bridge not far from the main road (A896) with a great view of the river A’Ghairbhe as we worked our way around Beinn Eighe toward Loch Maree.

 

 

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IMG_4270We turned left onto the A832 heading west and north toward Gairloch. About 7 miles later we happened upon a nice rest area where we drank in stunning views of Slioch mountain from the south shore of Loch Maree.IMG_4269

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IMG_4275About 11 miles further and we were enjoying the views from “The ‘Sitooterie’ wildlife observation garden” in front of the Post Office at the Gairloch harbor (below). The water is so smooth at this time of day before the winds kick up and its surface reflects so beautifully. You just can’t take a bad picture!IMG_4276By this time we were getting a bit hungry so we stopped just up the road a bit further at the Shieling Restaurant for a bite to eat. I enjoyed a nice BLT while Lindsay indulged in a yummy looking shrimp cocktail! (Hmmm, maybe I should have ordered that!)

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The A832 cuts right at the top end of Gairloch and heads across the peninsula toward Poolewe on Loch Ewe. There’s not much to see on that 5-mile stretch of road but once you reach Poolewe there are quite a few options of things to see and do.  For instance, the National Trust manages a very beautiful garden there called Inverewe Garden.

IMG_4299We drove into the parking lot but it was super crowded so we decided not to go in. (I visited it last year with my friend Pat MacLeod from Dingwall and wrote a blog post about it already so I’m not going to tell any information about it in this post, however,  if you would like to see that post you can click here: Inverewe-gardens)

It is an absolutely beautiful garden. It is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens in Scotland, in fact. Inverewe is a must for anyone who loves nature. The most we will see it today is this view of it from across the bay.IMG_4297Inverewe Gardens sits on a small peninsula that juts out into Loch Ewe. On the northern side of the hill behind the garden, you can see more of the massive loch. The view looking back toward Poolewe with the mountains beyond is also quite striking.

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“During World War II, Loch Ewe was a safe haven for naval vessels and merchant ships. Its attractiveness lay in its depth, size, and seclusion with convenient access to the Atlantic Ocean it made journey times shorter.

Merchant ships laden with supplies sailed from Loch Ewe under naval protection on the renowned Arctic Convoys – sadly it was the last voyage for many seamen. While coping with freezing cold water and the menace caused by German U-boats and bombers, the convoys carried their vital supplies to war-torn Russia. Loch Ewe was a naval base from 1939 to 1945. It was protected by light and heavy anti-aircraft guns. A boom net and mine defense system helped protect the vessels in the loch from submarines and air attacks.

Altogether 481 merchant ships and over 100 naval escort vessels left Loch Ewe for Russia in a total of 19 Arctic Convoys. In a nutshell, this place existed because supplies needed to get to the Russians by their allies in order to defeat Nazi Germany.

Imagine standing here in the 1940s looking down on a sea black with ships – so many in fact that it is said, “You could walk from one side of Loch Ewe to the other without getting your feet wet!”IMG_4313In this village of Aultbea, military personnel outnumbered local residents 3-1.IMG_4320Aultbea has an exhibition center which houses all kinds of memorabilia, photographs, recorded accounts and stories from people who were there during the operations. It’s really interesting and definitely worth a stop. It’s not a very big building at all, but it’s organized quite well and they’ve managed to fit quite a bit of stuff in there; they haveutilized every square inch quite efficiently.IMG_2012Here is just a small sampling of what they have on display in the way of paintings, posters, models of ships, some tools of the trade and some very interesting stories told by the locals.

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After we had a nice visit at the exhibition center we drove a bit further up the road as far as Dundonnell at the end of Little Loch Broom.

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IMG_4362This view looking from Second Coast down at Little Gruinard Beach below in the distance was spectacular!IMG_4364

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IMG_4371We drove the last 10 miles of our route hugging the coastline of Little Loch Broom enjoying the views until we reached Dundonnell. At this point we turned around and headed back the way we came, making our way back to Gairloch where we had secured a room for the night. Oh darn! We have to look at this beautiful scenery again?!?! What torture!

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We stopped for a break when we passed back through Aultbea and got a latte at Aultbea Hotel.

I’ve seen these “bathroom” signs before that they had for the toilets; I think they are really cute.

After our break, we continued on down the road a little further. When we arrived at Poolewe we turned right off of the main road (A832) and headed out on a single-track road hugging the western edge of Loch Ewe.

We were headed to the War Memorial which honors the men who lost their lives on the Arctic Convoy missions. It stands proudly out at the tip of the peninsula. There are also a lot of decrepit and deserted remains of military batteries scattered about the rocks at the Cove Light Anti Aircraft Battery installation from World War 2 I wanted Lindsay to see.

The drive back to Poolewe held our attention with its superb scenery…

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Another 5 miles and we arrived at the Gairloch Hotel on the shores of the bay. It’s a lovely accommodation with great views and a nice restaurant where we enjoyed a pleasant meal and a simply wonderful piece of cheesecake!  The perfect topping for a perfect day of gloriously stunning landscapes.

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am ever so grateful for having good eyesight. Sometimes it’s the little things that we take for granted, like being able to see, for instance, that we tend to overlook. This day was filled with so many wonderful sights; it reminds me to feel grateful that I can see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving American 65-year young great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

One thought on “Wandering on the West Coast ~ Applecross to Dundonnell”

  1. Ah Scotland! Stunning! Interesting about the Arctic Convoys out of Loch Ewe, Dairmid published a book about some of the survivors and they launched the book aboard The Brittania docked in Edinburgh and each survivor was given a special medal from the Russians thanking them for their service and they were also given a copy of Dairmid’s book.

    Liked by 1 person

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