Sunday 26 July 2015
Kinlochewe to Dornie, near Kyle
Another dry day, what a treat. I have new maps and no forward planning to include any walking so I just headed off down Glen Torridon with the intention of driving the Applecross scenic drive. This is a huge Valley, with big mountains on both sides. The views are more open now than they were further North, and dominated by mountains.
I have seen plenty of mountain hikers the last couple of days; two stayed in the bunkhouse last night.
From Torridon it was up and over to Shieldaig and the start of the scenic drive. It was indeed a fun road to drive and looked like a challenging one to cycle. Following the shoreline of Lochs Torridon and Shieldaig (essentially the same piece of water but with land jutting out to provide a sort-of separation) the road went up and down very sharply. here were some great views of small off-shoot lochs that provide sheltered harbours for small boats. At Fearnmore the road hits the coast proper, opposite the Island of Rona and the Isle of Skye behind it.
No wonder Applecross is a popular place as Applecross Bay is large and enjoys the good views.
Yesterday was the Applecross Highland Games and so there were lots of tents everywhere, although not so many people; I guess they all had hangovers! It’s a nice looking town and is apparently well known for its music festivals. I drove on to the furthest point of the road at Toscaig and stopped at the pier. I struck up a conversation with 4 bikers, one of whom was fishing. They come here a lot for the peace and quiet (and the music festivals) and I can see why. It amazes me just how many houses I passed on this road to nowhere, smart houses with smart cars outside. I don’t know what these people do for work but they’re not short of money!
The bikers recommended I pop in to Applecross House Walled Garden, which has a lovely restaurant and does good breakfasts. I had the best smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toast that I’ve ever had. I hung around for 2 hours as it was the first ok-ish wifi I had found for days.
Eventually I left and the 2nd half of the scenic drive was the closest I’ve come to an Alpine pass in this country. The road rose from sea level to about 650m and the views were amazing. Unfortunately it was a little bit cloudy so not good for photos. I think I could see almost all of the islands of the Inner Hebrides, including Raasay, Scalpay, Skye, Mull, Rum and Eigg. Wow.
It didn’t end there because as soon as I dropped over the other side of the pass I was staring down at Loch Kishorn, Loch Carron and all of their respective small islands and inlets. The road did a couple of severe switchbacks and then dropped down a steep but wide valley that itself was really beautiful, even without the views.
I passed some cyclists struggling up and felt compelled to shout encouragement at them because that would be a tough ride.
Loch Carron is beautiful. It is bordered by lots of woodland and the area around Plockton in particular is just stunning. The train line to Kyle of Lochalsh goes right along the loch and must provide great views for the passengers.
Plockton itself now seems to be a tourist Mecca and has that typical quaint feel about it. Nothing like its past when it was developed in the early 1800s as part of the Clearances. It used to be known as the “village of the poor”, but definitely no longer.
The area around Plockton is part of the Balnacara Estate, owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and developing new crofts; there are 83 on the estate.
The next stop was Kyle of Lochalsh, the gateway to Skye. I stopped to admire the bridge, only built in 1995 and before that it was a ferry.
The nearest campsite was just down the road at Ardelve, right by the Eilean Donan Castle. I hadn’t long pitched my tent when the rain finally arrived from England. I headed across the Loch Long bridge to The Clachan Arms in Dornie. It was pretty full (mostly with foreign tourists) but being on my own they could squeeze me in and I ate at the bar. Excellent food, particularly the chocolate and salted caramel torte. I really need some exercise!