The coastal road from Gairloch (northern end of the Torridons) to Ullapool on Loch Broom (south of Coigach) has some sizeable lochs to circumvent and hence is a much longer road than the 23 miles measured in a straight line. There many opportunities to stop and take in the views as the road climbs to cut across between the coastal sections - there are also several places of interest and opportunities for indulging in some magnificent (if modest) walks. As the region includes An Teallach, and the road circles the Letterewe and Fisherfield Forests, the region also caters for those in seach of bigger fish - I mean mountains and long walks. And of course the fishing is good.
One of the best ways to explore the inner wilderness to this area is to undertake a two or three day walk along the estate paths that cross the area. These make up some classic walks that are popular with trekkers and baggers for the Munros that lie in the heart of this region. We undertook just such a walk in the Summer of 2000, crossing from Poolewe to Kinlochewe via the remote cottage at Carnmore.
From Gairloch the main roads cuts directly across Rubha Reidh to the head of Loch Ewe and Poolewe. Just above Poolewe a popular path leaves the road to cross the intervening mountain to Slattadale - giving famous views down Loch Maree. Once in the village a side road follows the western shore of Loch Ewe, past several sandy beaches, to end at the old war defences at the seaward end of the loch. Poolewe also offers shops, hotels and a caravan/camping site - but (in 1998) no petrol.
The main attraction in Poolewe is undoubtedly Inverewe Gardens - run by the National Trust for Scotland. This pulls in visitors from all over Scotland - with most coach tours calling in. It is several years since we actaully passed through the doors - we made several visits when the children were young and not old enough to tackle the hills - and I too old to carry them!
The road north climbs the hillside above the east side of Loch Ewe before dropping down to the naval submarine refuelling base near Aultbea - the large fuel storage tanks are set into the hillside behind you. The headland to Greenstone Point is cut across as the road heads for Laide on the shores of Loch Guinard. This area is infamous for the Anthrax experiments that were carried out on Gruinard Island and contaminated the island for decades. I can remember seeing the warning signs posted along the roadside warning of the danger and prohibiting landing on the island - you could just make out the same signs as white dots on the island itself. Now the contamination has been cleared up (lots of formaldehyde I believe) and this saga has been closed.
There are some steep cliffs at the head of the loch and the road climbs around the back of them before dropping steeply down to the sheltered and sandy bays. Building this section of road was dramatic as thousands of tons of rock were blasted and tipped until a stable ledge could be established for the road surface. From the car park next to the beach there are paths up both Little Gruinard River and Gruinard River that take in some splendid waterfalls.
The road now has to make a long detour south to circumvent Little Loch Broom and, more importantly, the deep gorge at Corrishalloch. The road follows the shore passing under the northern shoulders of An Teallach - one on the most famous mountains on the West coast. Corrishalloch is another major stopping off point for tourists - and one also managed by the National Trust for Scotland. The road passes under the slopes of An Teallach but you are really too close to it to see the full size of this mountain range. Across the water of Little Loch Broom is the distictive double top of Beinn Goblach which - whilst modest in height - is magnificently wild and positioned to give some awesome panoramas of the surrounding districts. This peak is very strongly recommended. Access is gained by the narrow road to Badrallach, continuing along the coastal path that runs to Scoraig - alternatively you can cadge a lift on the hotel boat from Ullapool to Allt na h'Airbhe across Loch Broom. There is a camp site on the peninsula, and the Dundonnel Hotel is never far away to provide supper - and liquid refreshment.
The road continues south following the Dundonnel River before turning north-east to Corrishalloch and the main road to Inverness at Braemore Junction. The road provides the nearest access to the Fannichs from the north and you will usually pass a line of car parked by the roadside - somewhat arbitarily in the middle of nowhere.
The final few miles of this section of coast are taken along the valley floor, through Lael Forest hosting several waymarked walks and an arboritium, and then along the shores of Loch Broom to the ferry port (to the Outer Hebrides) and tourist centre of Ullapool.
To the North East of this road is a large and remote area encompassing the Forests of Inverlael, Rhidorroch, Freevater, Tollomuick and Strathvaich. Whilst no public roads cross the region several estate roads and established footpaths do give relatively easy access and some through routes. To the southern end of the area lies Beinn Dearg with a long high ridge of mountains swinging north and east over the head of Strath Mulzie. Tackling any of these mountains from the roadside in a day walk makes for a major outing. We decided to explore this inner area in the summer of 2001 with a four or five day walk through the valleys, using the long valley of Glen Achall just east of Ullapool as our route of entry.
|A tour of the mountains.|
|A tour of other attractions.|