The North Coast 500 (NC500) Adventure: Part 3.3

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Day 7 – Ullapool to Shieldaig

We headed South along Loch Broom towards Braemore on the A835, turning onto the A832 at Corrieshalloch Gorge, which is worth a short pit-stop. Our next stop was Poolewe and the road followed Little Loch Broom, which looks out to the Summer Isles – a lovely view on a nice day, but today was rather overcast unfortunately. As we made our way into Gairloch it was approaching lunchtime, so we decided to call at the local sandwich shop, which was lovely by the way, and headed down to the beach to enjoy our butties!

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After enjoying our lunch, and giving George and Susie a run on the beach, we just got back to the car before the heavens opened, and stayed open for quite a while. We continued along the stunning shore of Loch Maree, one of the most scenic locations in Scotland, in my opinion. We briefly stopped at the Beinn Eighe Visitors Centre, as we had planned to have a walk there, but the rain was coming down so hard, we didn’t even get out of the car and walk into the Visitors Centre…no exaggeration!

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Instead, we continued into Kinlochewe, a small village a few miles down the road, before turning off the A road towards Torridon. This was one of the nicest sections of road in the whole trip for me, as it takes in, Beinn Eighe, Liathach and some of the outlying mountains that accompany them. The rain and mist added to the atmospheric scene that we were driving through, and it felt like a film set. The single-track road snaked its way through the landscape, cutting through the dramatic mountainous landscape that is such a feature of this area. I’m pleased to know that I will be heading back here at some point on my Munro-bagging mission, as it is an unbelievable part of Scotland – and one that most people would never visit.

As we arrived in Torridon, I nipped into the tourist information centre, which is tucked away just alongside the road, and as you would expect, I was the only one in there, except the lady ‘manning’ the centre, although she was deep in conversation on the phone at the time that I dropped in. I always like to call into these local Visitors Centres, and have a short mooch around, as you get a feel for the area and what gems it has to offer.

After my ‘mooch’, we headed West on the road adjacent to Upper Loch Torridon, now only a few minutes from our evening location. Hannah had called ahead to the campsite, Shieldaig Camping and Cabins, which had only opened a few months prior to our trip – and the owners couldn’t have been more accommodating, and that was before we arrived.

 

Night 7 – Shieldaig Camping and Cabins

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As we arrived, there were only a few occupied pitches, which gave us free rein over which spot to choose. The owner, who we met in person upon arrival, continued their good first impression on us, as they were extremely welcoming and helpful. The site, which had around twenty hard standing pitches was extremely well maintained as you would expect of a new site, with a new log cabin toilet block, which was luxury compared to some that we had frequented on our trip. To say my wife was happy was an understatement!

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After setting up in the rain, we got some cover up, with the awning and tent erected, just as (you guessed it….) the rain stopped. We got our evening meal going relatively quickly, as we were very much in the camping groove by this point, and each knew our roles. After some tea, we wandered out of the campsite, past the war memorial and the local school, and down towards the ‘front’ at Shieldaig, where we enjoyed a nice evening stroll to walk off a lovely meal. Shieldaig turned out to be our favourite spot, or at least equal favourite spot to Clachtoll, and the properties and restaurants which lined the main street were all immaculate – a credit to their owners each and every one of them.

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Much quieter and less well known than Applecross, but actually a lot more going for it in our opinion. The sea was extremely calm this evening, and although there was some fine rain coming down, we enjoyed clear views out towards Shieldaig Island and further afield into Loch Shieldaig. It really was a perfect evening stroll, and a stroll we enjoyed so much, we repeated in the morning before heading on our way!

With the rain getting a little heavier by this point, we decided to head back up to the site, and put George to bed, before we enjoyed a glass of wine watching the rain, which soon stopped thankfully, before we ourselves retired upstairs to the roof tent.

 

Day 8 – The Last ‘Official’ Day of the NC500, although not the end of our trip!

We awoke to an overcast morning, but dry at least, allowing us to enjoy our usual morning routine without interruptions, which included breakfast, showers, packing up, and generally getting organised for the day ahead. We were to take the coastal road to Applecross, via Kenmore, further up Loch Torridon, and as we headed along the winding road, we saw glimpses through the trees, back across towards Shieldaig, which was now covered in sun. The views from this side of the Loch were literally breath-taking, and possibly the finest of the trip, although I need time to validate if this statement is entirely accurate, as there have been so many nice views, as I have mentioned one thousand times!

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We followed the road past Kenmore, then Fearnmore, and as the road headed South, we reached Cuaig, where the views over the Inner Sound were quite spectacular. The more Northerly Isle of Rona, appeared first, before we got full sight of Raasay, which sits to the South, with only a few hundred metre gap in between. All that stands in between these stunning islands and the Isle of Skye is another stretch of sea, the Sound of Raasay, which resided on the other side of these small Scottish isles.

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We enjoyed this drive, passing a number of Highland cows, which certainly made George’s day, with some grazing, others wandering, and one fast asleep by the side of the road, and no, he didn’t even wake when we passed. We pulled into Applecross, where we explored the famous oh so small village, which attracted quite the crowd of tourists. For us, whilst absolutely faultless, it didn’t match the high standards set by its lesser known neighbour, Shieldaig, which sits approximately 15 miles away along the coast.

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We did, like the majority of tourists to Applecross, complete the stunning drive over the Bealach na Ba, a steep, winding and dramatic road, which connects Applecross to Tornapress, and then onto the village of Kishorn. It was from here that we made our way to Lochcarron, which funnily enough sits on the shore of Loch Carron. It was lunchtime by this point, or just after, but we saw a nice small café by the loch, which provided a beautiful view, so we decided to stop and get a bit of food for the wee man. We sat outside, as we had the dog, and to say it was nippy was perhaps an understatement. We were however, eating against nature’s ticking clock, as we were perfectly placed to watch a weather front moving in from the sea, which made its way from the South East – directly for us. As if by exquisite planning, George enjoyed his last mouthful, as the first drops of rain began to bounce off the loch in front of us. That was our cue to climb back into the pick-up and make tracks.

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We made our way from here towards the head of the loch, before turning South onto the A890, which we followed as it hugged the far side of the very same loch. As the rain was well and truly set in at this point, we followed the road until we reached Loch Alsh, and the A87, which you may know as the main A road that leads to the Isle of Skye. It was here that we headed East, and after a short drive the infamous view of Eileen Donan Castle appeared, which was only spoiled by the weather and the masses of people that had evacuated their coach to take a photo. Safe to say we didn’t spend long here, and at the end of Loch Duich, we entered one of the most dramatic glens in this fine country.

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Glen Shiel provided a stunning drive, and a place I am keen to return sooner rather than later. The glen is dwarfed by the wall of munros, on either side, which attract keen hill walkers and provide a real feast for Munro-baggers. It is these mountains that place the A87 well and truly in the shadows, but even as a lover of the mountains, I was certainly glad I was not up on the summits in the clag, and rain on this occasion – something that I do not often say!

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At the bottom of Loch Cluanie, we turned South continuing on the A87, before joining the A82, which took us off the NC500. The remainder of the NC500 drive is continuing straight onto the A887 all the way back to Inverness. So officially that ws the end of our North Coast 500 journey, but what a journey it had been.

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We had been extremely lucky with the weather, especially considering it was September, and we had explored so many places that we have penned as places we are keen to return and spend more time at. Having said that we could not have had a better time on our adventure, and it literally exceeded our expectations in every aspect.

Although this was the end of our NC500 journey, it wasn’t the end of our trip, we still had a few more days in the Highlands, which we were keen to visit some of our favourite spots. So, from here it was back to Glencoe for the night, before heading over to Pitlochry for a couple of days at a slightly slower pace.

Thanks for reading and I hope you will enjoy your NC500 adventure as much as we did!

 

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