A travel journal
to Scotland by davidx
Quote: I am a Sassenach [i.e. non-Scot]. I loved Scotland long before I had a son and daughter living there and I still think the variety in its Western coast makes it unique in Europe.
Eventually you should try to see:-
Oban and the southern islands,
Ardgour, Ardnamurchan and Moidart,
Kyle, Glenelg and Loch Hourn,
Dundonell to Ullapool,
Achiltibuie to Lochinver,
Lochinver to Kylescu,
North to Durness.
All these are on the mainland. I shall cover some eventually in a separate journal on Fort William. Of the islands Skye is in a separate journal but I think the so-called Long Island and Barra will have to come here. It will take me a while to complete.
Loch Torridon is a sea loch, divided into two by cliffs which make it very narrow at one point. At its Southern side is the village of Shieldaig with its beautiful island and scenic but exposed campsite, now connected by road with Torridon, unlike when I first went there - but that reveals me as a form of antique!
On the South side of the loch there is a small camping area [not a site - water but no other facilities], near Annat. From here the main road leads inland to Loch Maree, perhaps the most fabulous of Scotland,s inland lochs, with Slioch and a mountain wilderness behind.
Back to Loch Torridon and on the North side a road goes round to the spectacularly beautiful villages of Inver and Wester Alligin and ultimately over the coastal hills to Lower Diabaig, which I love quite wildly and shall give a page in its own right. It should be stressed that this is NOT the area for night life and indeed there is only one shop in Torridon and one pub at Annat. If you want more than wild and beautiful nature go somewhere else.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2002
These all lie to the North of the loch, Liathach, the centre one, going up straight from Fasaig [Torridon village] and looking almost vertical. Its ridge can be walked by anyone with a good head for heights and reasonably fit and you will be pushed to find better views anywhere - but do not be fooled, it is a tiring walk and there are no easy ways up and down and to attempt it in parts would be suicidal.
Beinn Alligin, the Southern one, is easily accessed but the way that appeals most to mountaineers over the 'horns' contains some sharp points. The mountain is noted for its huge gash, well seen from the South side of the loch.
Beinn Eighe is the other one. it goes north away from the coast and has a wonderful long ridge but perhaps it is best known for the fabulous and awesome Coire Mich Fhearchair.
Other biggies of Torridonian sandstone are Slioch, a bit inland across Loch Maree, Beinn Bhan in Applecross and An Teallach. This last one I shall cover with my page 'Between Torridon and Ullapool.'
These mountains do draw a lot of walkers, including those who are seeking to do all the 'Munros' [peaks above 3000 feet] and there is very bad erosion in parts. This as much as anything drew me into walking a lot on the lower mountains, once I had visited the giants. There are some fantastically good walks to be had but I am not making suggestions. Anyone who does not prefer picking their own walks from a decent map would be beter off somewhere else.
My wife and I have stayed there any number of times in an old and very cheap caravan which may still be let out by the week. it looks right across the Loch and further to the right across to the Applecross area.
There are absolutely terrific walks along the coast both ways, one regettably, from my point of view, being a bit cluttered with climbers - but as there is no obvious camping place it is still utterly peaceful in hte evening.
Inverewe is a really fabulous garden owned by the National Trust for Scotland, bang on the coast near Poolewe. The influence of the Gulf Stream can be seen and felt here where there are any number of tropical trees and flowers. Best, as are so many gardens, at rhododendron time it is worth a visit whenever you are in the area.
On the way to An Teallach you pass Gruinard Island, scene of an experiment on the use of anthrax and not visitable for an age afterwards!
So to An Teallach, above the little settlement of Dundonell on Little Loch Broom - where the pub is a welcome refuge after the walk. This is to my mind one of the best ridge walks on the UK mainland. It certainly is not a route for novices unless they show natural ability for rock walking and are accompanied by someone more experienced.
This is one of those places where you plan to do other walks sometime. Get on with it or you may suddenly find yourself unable, as I did.
It is also one place for boat trips to the Summer Isles although the shorter way is from Achiltibuie.
The approach to Ullapool from Torridon or Inverness passes Corrieshalloch Gorge, which well merits a stop and an arboretum at Inverlael from where there are walks up to lesser known mountains teeming with red deer.
I think Ullapool is at its best late in the evening in June when the sun is still shining - about 2245.
The road across from the main road North past Stac Pollaidh [or Stac Polly] and Cul Beag, when the sun has moved round to the West or thereabouts is breathtaking in places and if you have all the time in the world and no objection to reversing along narrow roads round hairpin bends the road [?] from Lochinver via the coast is simply stunning.
I hope the bookshop is still there, near to an obvious path which winds on to the rocky, remote mountain of Suilven which I have set out for three times - and sadly never been beyond the saddle because of time and weather constraints. There is a lovely walk beside a salmon river up to a waterfall at the start of the route, hwich might be a better bet for those with young children.
The mountains here are mostly of Torridonian sandstone but, as opposed to the Torridon area itself, they are all separate and are not very high. Some, like Quinag, still cover a pretty vast area, however. This is one of the easiest tops to get to if you use a map wisely to get the best start and the views are magnificent. Stac Pollaidh used to be one of my favourites despite of its lack of height but it has suffered the most appalling erosion because of its proximity to the road.
Lochinver itself, like most of this part of Scotland and much of Norway was based largely on fish and I have always thought it would make a good holiday centre.
As the road runs on towards Kyle you reach the amazing Eilean Donan Castle built on a near-island in Loch Duich just after you have crossed Loch Long by a bridge.
Kyle itself has lost a lot of its appeal now that it is not a major port but it is still the terminus of one of The most wonderful railway lines in Europe and the main access point for Skye, in addition to which it is a pleasant enough town. However the greatest appeal lies in the little places beside the railway, particularly Duirnish with the lost Barleyport adjacent and the almost unbearably picturesque Plockton.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 28, 2002
Transport on the island is provided by postbus.
Barra is small enough to feel like an island and it is possible to see a mighty lot of it with 2 nights at Castlebay as I did. At that time - and I imagine still - you could take a round trip in the bus and the driver would drop you off on the west side well up and pick you up again at the airport after you had walked all round the northern tip - a wonderful, easy, coastal stroll.
Another fine sight for those of us not used to seeing seals is what is called locally 'seal beach' further down the west side of the island. Barra is now linked by bridge with the neighbouring island of Vatersay.
The general pattern of the islands is of rough rocky - and picturesque - land to the East and machair [land partly based on sand and tiny compacted fragments of shell which has a good covering of grass and wild flowers] to the West. The eastern side is more populated as people were moved away from the more fertile west at the time of the Highland Clearances to provide better grazing for sheep.
I have only seen South Uist in the most desperately awful weather and I cannot comment on it fairly.
I remember one Black House museum. Black Houses are explained far better than I could do on http://www.scottishcraftsdirect.com/scotland/places_symbols.html
On Benbecula the family all trudged up to the highest point in the correct belief that it had to give a wonderful view but in spite of its lack of height it was hard work and only the top was enjoyable.
I have far better memories of North Uist, a curious island which surely has more lake than land. It has a number of prehistoric cairns and we went to one marked on the map expecting to find just a heap of small rocks. Fortunately the man who was crawling out of the underground chamber was happy to lend us a torch.
The other memory is of a bird reserve on the nothwest side where I was attacked by a whole colony of breeding terns.
From the outside South and North Uist are on quite separate ferry connections. Car ferries run from South Uist to Barra and to Oban on the mainland. Lochmaddy in North uist is on a triangular route to Tarbert on Harris and to Uist on Skye, lovely trips with small islands galore, when you can see them! This area is not known for fine weather.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 28, 2002
Harris is linked with North Uist and Skye by a triangle of car ferries and Lewis has a ferry from Stornoway to Ullapol on the Scottish mainland. All the car ferries on the Long Island are provided by calmac and can be found at: click here.
Harris I remember from rain and from the marvellous beach and huge sand dunes at Toe Head where gannets seemed to be permanently diving into the water. By walking around the peninsular here close to the sea you can look down at baby fulmars and cormorants as well as gulls.
The island is noted for its knitting and there are numerous - well, some - houses round tarbert with real goodies for sale.
So to the largest island of Lewis. I could easily bear seeing a lot more of this island but I will comment only on what I have seen.
First the Broch at Carloway is as good as any off Orkney and really has to be seen. Secondly Callanish provides the second largest stone circle, beaten only by Stonehenge, in Britain. It was completely unspoilt when I saw it but friends tell me there are ample signs of Vandalism now. WHY?
Then there is the utterly spectacular scenery of the west part of the north coast.
I believe Great Bernera, connected by bridge, is equally good but we revelled in the wonder of Uig and Valtos, a little West of this.
The Butt of Lewis, the Northeastern tip is worth a visit and Stornoway is the only real town on the Long Island.
The railway line to Glasgow is splendid but persoally I should put it slightly behind the Mallaig and Kyle lines, scarcely insulting to it. The part from Tyndrum to Glasgow is described as part of the Glasgow - Mallaig line in my Fort William and Lochaber journal. From Oban to Tyndrum there is fine woodland scenery with some spectacular gorges as well as lovely stretches beside lochs.
Here is found the UK port, Stranraer, with a direct service to Northern Ireland. On the west side is the very pleasant little town of Portpatrick and further south is Logan Botanical Gardens, which remains fairly unspoilt because it is not on the way anywhere. The Mull of Galloway is to the far south and is indeed Scotland's southernmost point, providing fine views of the Isle of Man and the English Lake District as well as of most of Scotland's south coast but lacking hte publicity given to the Mull of Kintyre by Sir Paul.
It can be reached in two ways by road and there is a fine nad fairly easy walk linking them right along the shore of the loch.
The first road leaves the main road from Invergarry to Kyle of Lochalsh fairly early on near to Loch Garry and winds its way to Kinlochourn via Loch Quoich. The other leaves it to the left much nearer to Kyle at Shiel Bridge and goes via Glenelg to the sea end of the loch and in as far as Corran through Arnisdale.
Glenelg used to be the site of a minor car ferry to Kyleakin on Skye which was easily my favourite route to the island but, like the car ferry from Kyle to Kylerhea, this died with the building of the bridge at the latter site. Apart from its wonderful natural situation Glenelg is the site of the best brochs on the UK mainland.
I suppose that one beneficial result of the closing of this terrific car ferry is that this area has become a relative oasis of peace. i see from its website that the inn at Glenelg has become a 'Selfcaterinn'
You are back to superb Torridonian sandstone cliffs and sea birds breed here in abundance. As well as gulls, terns, fulmars and kittiwakes you will find puffins, razorbills, guillemots and skuas. These last can be pretty fierce and some sort of head covering can be a good idea.
Last time I went there we visited the restaurant near the mainland side of the ferry which sold some terrific snack meals as well as fuller ones.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 27, 2002
After this it becomes unclassified but remains beautiful and leads to a track north to Sandwood Bay. The track is a bit dreary by the standards of the area but the bay with its huge seastacks is a wonder.
The other road goes to Durness, best for the views of Orkney from the campsite. I have certainly found the old adage very true, 'If you can see them, it will rain. If you can't it is raining.' There are two things that MUST be done from here. One is the short walk to Faraidh Head. We enjowed watching eider ducks braving the waves with their tiny ducklings along one side of the peninsular and among the rocky cliffs at the headland it is possible to look down into little pool-like inlets with seals playing on a calm day. To the other side of the peninsula is a long beach with gannets diving offshore.
The other MUST is the trip to Cape Wrath. For this you must the small sealoch of Durness by passenger ferry to link up with a minibus along a stretch of road unconnected with the rest of the UK road system. The trip to the lighthouse is good enough but if you are interested in the seabird cliffs, which are outstanding, arrange with the driver to be dropped off at the nearest point and to be picked up at the lighthouse later.
This line heads north to Dingwall and then mainly west to Achnasheen. This is good inland scenery but from Achnasheen it goes Southwest through Achnashellach where there are some redwood trees and where some fine walks start. Then it drops to the big sea loch of Loch carron and goes along the Southern side throgh the picturesque village of Stromeferry to Plockton and along the coast to Kyle. From Stromeferry there is a chorus of admoration in a number of European and Oriental languages as the wonderful coastal sights come into view.
Todmorden, United Kingdom