Thursday, 28 April 2011

Scotland Tour Day 6 - Torridon to Loch Ness

Today's route takes me from Torridon to Invermorriston on Loch Ness via Applecross Peninsula, over the Bealach na Ba pass, Loch Carron and Eilean Donnan Castle.

Big day today. Applecross day! I've been looking forward to seeing Applecross (map) with it's stunning scenery and views across the outer Hebrides. The weather is perfect. For taking pictures at least. Grey moody sky and a slight drizzle.

View from my hostel in Torridon. Having coffee.

8.50 am. Leaving Torridon (map). Heading towards Shieldaig to get breakfast. Ideally something substantial. I didn't fancy continental at the hostel again... especially not for £4.95.

After only 5 miles on the road I've stopped to take pictures of Upper Loch Torridon. Stunning views. And no one around. Again. Driving through the Highlands sometimes feels like you're the only human being left on earth.

View over Upper Loch Torridon.

View over Upper Loch Torridon.

10.30 am. Nanny's shop and café, Shieldaig, Strathcarron. (map)
I was on the hunt for breakfast and first came across the Hotel in Shieldaig. But is was still closed so I kept walking along the main street and and discovered Nanny's café. What a gem.
Had the most wonderful breakfast. Simply delicious hot and cold locally smoked salmon on buttered bread. Heaven!
When you're in the area, you must drop in. Apart from great food (including home made cakes) there is a large selection of local produce,  gifts and art prints.

I will never forget the hour of peace and quiet I had here. Had a chat with the owner, a lovely young woman (I forgotten to ask her name), about a local photographer who takes stunning images of the Highlands. She showed me some of his pictures from the Isle of Skye and seeing that completely convinced me to include Skye in my next tour.

My delicious breakfast. Selection of locally hot and cold smoked salmon at Nanny's Cafe, Shieldaig.

Nanny's Shop, Shieldaig.
As well as stocking local produce, including the famous Loch Torridon smoked salmon, they have included a takeaway service for coffee and home baking. The produce may be new, but the tradition has strong links with the past. Shopkeeping in those days was a world away from the click-and-deliver of today's internet. Isolated villages such as Applecross had for generations been supplied weekly by boat from Shieldaig, weather permitting. Source:

Holiday makers at Nanny's Cafe, Shieldaig. 

Shieldaig Island.

View of Shieldaig Village on Loch Shieldaig with Ben Shieldaig in the background. North West Highlands, Scotland.

11.50 pm. En route around Applecross Peninsula along the coastal road.

Ardheslaig and Loch Beag, Applecross Peninsula, Highlands, Scotland.

Single track road. Coastal road along the north and west of Applecross Peninsula.

Torridon Mountains from Applecross.

Misty moody sea... or "into nothingness"

Views from Applecross Peninsula.

Views from Applecross Peninsula.

12.30 pm. Stopping for cows (that's what I've written in my travel journal).
Very conveniently they've decided to graze near a parking spot. And they are beautiful.

Highland cow at Applecross.

"Irene thought she'd found the perfect picnic spot for her next date... "

1.20 pm. That's me by the coastal road around Applecross (notice the scenic backdrop).
A couple of bikers stopped to take pictures of the cows too. One of the them offered to take my picture. Usually I don't hand my camera over to anyone but on this occasion I made an exception. They couldn't really run anywhere wearing their leather gear... not even to their bikes without me catching them in time.

He was actually quite good at taking pictures, or at least directing. He told me to get down to get the background in. He was very enthusiastic too. Suggested to take some pictures of me and the cows. We spend quite some time on that. Only problem was that the cows run away as soon as I got too close. So I have 3 shot of me posing and cows running away. Not worth putting on the internet, believe me.

The mountains of Raasay and Isle of Skye from Applecross.

View across the Inner Sound to Raasay and Skye. Picture taken from Sand

Sandy bay at Sand 3 miles from Tigh Ruaraidh, Applecross Peninsula. 

Sandy bay at Sand, Applecross Peninsula.

View of Applecross "village",  across the Inner Sound to Raasay, Rona and Skye.

3.00 pm. Arrived at the Applecross Inn. Amazing views. 
They kindly allowed me to plug in my camera battery charger as I was running dangerously low. Could not resist the fresh seafood they had on the menu... so I indulged in a deliciously fresh Applecross Bay Crab salad with rustic bread. Oh, and the big slice of smoke salmon was only garnish.

My fresh crab lunch at the Applecross Inn.

Ze Germans. And they've ordered Camomile tea!

3.30 pm. Off to drive over the Bealach na Ba pass (Pass of the Cattle).
The Bealach na Ba rises to 2053ft in height from sea level in about five miles, and is the most spectacular pass in Scotland. It also provides some of the most challenging driving in the country. It is single track throughout and the warning signs at its foot, including one (which we think is unique in Scotland) deterring learner drivers, should be taken seriously.

That's not me and my camper van. I wish I had one though.

Rocky terrain on top of the Bealach na Ba pass.

View of Raasay and Isle of Skye from Bealach na Ba, Applecross Peninsula.

View down Bealach na Ba towards Loch Kishorn with the Cliffs of Creag a Chumhaing on the right. 

Driving down Bealach na Ba towards Loch Kishorn. 

The Cliffs of Creag a Chumhaing, the southernmost spur of the Applecross mountains. 

Allt a' Chumhaing river running down the pass towards Loch Kishorn.

5.30 pm. Survived the pass drive. Making stop at Loch Carron Village.  (map)
At first I was a bit apprehensive about driving over Bealach na Ba. Apparently it's a challenging drive. But as I got so used to single track road driving, sharp turns, U bends, blind spots and distracting scenery, I had to do it of course. And what can I say.. it was the most amazing drive ever. Well, it was more like driving a bit then stopping for pics. Took me over one hour.  And It's only 5 miles up and 3 miles down!

At Lochcarron Village, Loch Carron, Highlands, Scotland.

This is Gerald and Crockett. Crockett being the dog. I think that's his name anyway. First I thought he said Rocket but he's seen the surprised look on my face and me asking "Rocket?", Gerald repeated that it was Crockett, not Rocket.
He thought laundry was a strange subject to photograph. That's how we got chatting. Told me he's been touring Scotland for the last 10 days. Sleeps in his car. He met a woman wildlife photographer who does the same. Will definitely consider doing that on my next Scotland tour. So much easier than checking into a new place every single night.

Gerald and Crockett in Lochcarron.

6.30 pm. Arrived in Dornie (map) at Eilean Donan Castle.
I thought instead of visiting the castle, which was closed anyway, I'd follow the signs to "Viewpoint" to take a picture from above. Well I drove and drove and drove... and I came along only ONE point from where you could see the castle.... and that was trough scrubs. Not what I call a viewpoint. So I carried on. Higher up, and higher. Did I mention the single track road? Anyhow. Got to a point where I thought the castle is far out of sight so driving any further would be pointless. Turned around (quite a maneuver) to go ALL the way back down again.
Still had a great view from up there... excluding the castle though.

View over Loch Duich (I think).

Back down I'v decided to take a few pics of the probably most photographed castle in Scotland. I can see clearly why. It's stunning. If you could think up a castle in the Highlands it would look like this.

Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Highlands, Scotland.

Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Highlands, Scotland

8.10 pm. Arrived at Loch Ness Youth Hostel, Invermoriston. (map)
Run out of cigarettes (yes, I'm officially outing myself as a smoker). The village shop at Invermoriston was closed, the hotel didn't sell cigarettes, so after arriving at the hostel and stupidly asking if they had any, they said no... of course. But the friendly chap at reception said there is a Co-op 8 miles up the road in Drumnadrochit that is open until 10pm. Guess what? I got in the car. Quite a nice drive though. Past Urquhart Castle. Only strange thing was the odd noise coming from the front left tire. I thought I did some serious damage to the car when driving through the deep pot holes at the hostel's parking space. Drove really slowly but the noise was still there. Got to the Co-op car park and seen that the tire at the front left was completely flat... and I drove almost 8 miles with it. Not bad.
So after my shopping done I phoned the hire car people and they said they could get someone out within about an hour. It was already 9.00 pm so said I would try and change the tire myself. I was really looking forward to sitting down and relaxing. Wouldn't have been the first time I've changed a tire. Fumbling around the boot trying to pull the spare tire out (didn't see the big screw that held it place) a couple of chaps came over asking what the problem was. So I explained and from there they just took over. They put the spare tire on in just 10 minutes. Well, one of them did, the other one entertained me meanwhile. Unbelievable. I was soooooo relieved and thankful. I didn't even get their names. Shame on me. Only thing I know it that one runs the Take Away and the other one was just setting up a restaurant in the building next to it.

So. Lesson learned. Make sure you have a sufficient supply of cigarettes when driving through the Highlands and don't assume you can just pop into the next village shop. Because firstly there aren't many villages, secondly there aren't many village that have a shop and thirdly, if they have a shop they aren't open after 6pm. Also make sure you drive slowly at all times in case there are dangerously deep pot holes in places where they shouldn't be. Oh, and make sure you try and change your tire in a public place with lots of men around you.

9.30 pm. Sitting down by the shores of Loch Ness. Beer and Cigarette in my hand. I deserve it. What a day!

At the shores of Loch Ness. Loch Ness Hostel, Invermoriston.

Click here to see the map of the whole 8 day tour

Tour Itinerary: Edinburgh – Spittal of Glenshee (Cairngorms) – Nethy Bridge (Cairngorms) – Inverness – Inchnadamph (Sutherland) by Loch Assynt – Ullapool – Torridon – Applecross Peninsula – Loch Ness – Glen Coe – Loch Lomond - Edinburgh

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Beautiful, I enjoyed your trip very much. Wish I were there.

Hi Lynn, Sorry for the late reply. Thank you very much for your lovely comment. If you ever get the chance to hop over the pond, you must visit this area of Scotland !! I actually might go back this year.

Hi Dorit
Yer photos of the bonnie land are gorgeous. My name is Karen McSkimming and I am an artist of a fashion! I was lookin' on images for highland cows which I could paint an' I came across your black n white one. I am askin' permission to paint/ draw it pretty please.Not sure when this would be but I do like tae have an 'inspirational' folder handy for the moment the mood takes!! I have a facebook page...Artful Regards...if ye' would like tae have a wee look at what I do. Thanks agin for readin' an' I do hope tae hear off ye' soon.

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