Day 110 Five of Wester Ross’ Sea Lochs 

Friday 24 July 2015

Ullapool to Gairloch

3 miles walked, driving tour

Sands Campsite, Big Sands Bay, Gairloch

I slept for 8 hours, in proper bed. It was wonderful and I didn’t want to get up. A big thanks to Donna for my night of luxury and the enormous breakfast. I resisted a wee dram on my porridge but it sounded interesting. 

It was raining again, but the sky was lighter and the rain wasn’t going to last. I left late and went via the post office (to collect a map delivery) and the bakers for some fresh bread rolls. I left Ullapool and headed down to the head of Loch Broom.  

Looking back down the valley to Loch Broom
 The road followed the River Broom inland to the Corrieshallock Gorge, which is a very impressive gash through the rock caused by the ebb and flow of ice during the ice age. There is a short walk you can do that takes in a bridge across the Falls of Measach and there’s a viewing platform.  

The bridge Cross the Falls of Measach
 By now the sun had come out and it was pleasantly warm; time for the midges to make a brief appearance! 

Looking down the Corrieshalloch Gorge (viewing platform high right)
 The road headed back to the coast via the Dundonnell River and Little Loch Broom. I was sandwiched between the Loch and the An Teallach mountains until all of a sudden I rounded the corner and there was Gruinard Bay. Gruinard Island sits in the middle of it and was where Anthrax was trialled; the island has only recently been cleared for humans again.  

The view at Mellon Udrigle across to the mountains
 Driving South from Ullapool I noticed a change in the landscape: it seemed to become less like rocky lumps and there are now huge lochs with big mouths open to the sea. There are more sandy beaches and some great-looking campsites right on the edges of them. There also seems to be a bit more money in this area as the crofters cottages are taking on all forms of grand designs, having mostly been done rather smartly. The roads are suddenly wider and some even have white lines down the middle, bit there are fewer cyclists as Ullapool marked the end of the Highland Tourist Route. 

I drove all the way around Gruinard Bay to Mellon Udrigle, which has a campsite overlooking The best beach of the day. This one was simply stunning and there were several families on the beach and in the sea (all wearing wetsuits). 

Mellon Udrigle beach and campsite
 The sand was white underneath the crystal clear water. I dipped my hand in and it was freezing!

How clear is the water?
  I went for a short walk around the small headland of Rubha Beag. The going was boggy but the views were great; I could see the Summer Isles again and, of course, plenty of mountains inland.  

The burn that trickles down to the beach
 Next up was Loch Ewe, famous as the gathering point for the Arctic convoys during WW2. Known as Port A, at its peak there would have been up to 600 ships in this deep water loch. Simply amazing. 

Loch Ewe and its island
 I drove through Aultbea and on to Mellon Charles, a very smart-looking settlement on the East bank of Loch Ewe. I stopped at the Perfume Shop, not for perfume but to take advantage of the Aroma Cafe.  

The Aroma Cafe, converted from a crofters cottage
 It’s definitely more upmarket around here as they had a coffee machine (first cafe I’ve seen with one in the Highlands) and the food was like something I’d get down South (poncy names, emphasis on local sourcing, everything served on a bed of rocket). Naturally I felt right at home! Although that could have been because the manager was a Brummie. The sun was shining and the view across the Loch was stunning in the light.  

The view from the cafe across Loch Ewe
 On my circumnavigation of Loch Ewe I stopped at the Isle of Ewe Smokehouse, where I bought some lovely (and expensive) salmon. It was a beautiful drive to Poolewe at the head of the Loch, which looked like a bustling little town. I drove straight through it and up the West side of the Loch. 

Yet another stunning view!
 More beautiful beaches (and houses) and then, at the far point, evidence of a military presence in the form of abandoned pillboxes and gun emplacements.  

Relics of a military presence at the head of Loch Ewe
 And there was the Russian Convoy Club Memorial.  

The Russian Convoy Club Memorial
 On the way back I took a quick tour around the exhibition that has been created in the Inversdale Primary School (the school has been mothballed due to lack of students). The volunteers were very proud of their museum and are hoping to expand. 

By now it was 5 pm and I needed to find somewhere to camp. I was heading to Gairloch as the campsite had been recommended by the lady from The Isle of Ewe Smokehouse. To be honest I had passed so many great campsites that I wasn’t sure. However, as soon as I arrived I knew I was going to enjoy camping here. Right on the shore of Loch Gairloch, my 5th sea-facing loch today, it reminded me of Shell Island in North Wales: pitch anywhere, a few dunes, relaxed feel. I found a pitch and went for a walk on the beach. There were kids and kayakers in the sea so I thought I should at least have a paddle. It wasn’t that cold, not as cold as the sea at Mellon Udrigle earlier in the day. I sat in the dunes and admired the view, this was more like a holiday! I couldn’t resist jumping down the dunes (I’m not really 40). 

Camping by Loch Gairloch, the island in the background
 The weather today was lovely, according to the car’s temperature gauge it hit 18 degrees, and there was only a light breeze so it felt warmer in the sun. I was down to a t-shirt and had to dig out my sunglasses. I didn’t go as far as breaking out the suncream. Knowing that it was cold and rainy in England was just the icing on the cake as it’s been the other way round for ages.  

Sat in the dunes admiring the view
 The good weather did mean I got my first proper exposure to midges this evening. I retreated to the car where I could read and listen to the radio in Peace. It was interesting to see how some people retreated inside and others just carried on regardless or sat cocooned in nets. They are definitely attracted to me! 
Sunset over Loch Gairloch

5 thoughts on “Day 110 Five of Wester Ross’ Sea Lochs 

  1. jomunday99 July 27, 2015 / 7:13 pm

    That’s more like it. What an amazing day that sounds. And you will be delighted to hear that it was like the end of the world down here! It barely let up from lashing down all day and the kids were wading through huge puddles on their way home from school – last day of the school year. Similar day yesterday – we went swimming but didn’t really need the pool! Hope you get more days like this one.


  2. Val K July 27, 2015 / 9:42 pm

    At last you have the sun while we have had torrential rain. So pleased you had a night of luxury
    courtesy of Donna. In spite of the midges you sound so much happier, a little bit of sunshine
    can do that. Long may it last. Val x


  3. Donna Munday July 27, 2015 / 11:30 pm

    Luc, so glad you had a good day on Friday and enjoyed the hotel. Those views are simply stunning. Hope the weather stayed OK over the weekend, this morning’s forecast looked like it was fairly bright up there and dismal-ish down here. Certainly cold here anyway, we nearly put the heating on last night! Ridiculous weather for July. Dxx


  4. chris frazer July 28, 2015 / 3:36 am

    Sunshine hooray……completely different aspect when the sun is out; the scenery looks to die for, although I suspect the water temperature is more like to die in….but crystal clear. You are smiling again even though you are now acting as a midgy feeding station……to be fair though Juice they have such a short life span they have to take their chances……So bug rep and sun block on from now on yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Keep going Juice the faster you walk the less the midgies will chase you.


  5. Zephyrine July 28, 2015 / 2:58 pm

    You brought back happy memories of a visit to Mellon Udrigle c.1981 – where we camped just above the beach. My companion “borrowed” a canoe to go out paddling by moonlight (I stayed ashore) – & in the morning we were woken unceremoniously by a large, fierce woman bellowing at us: “You can’t stay here! This is MY beach. It’s my PRIVATE beach!” – A new one on me, the notion of a private beach… – Glad you got some sunshine, at last!


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