I reluctantly decided that today was the day when I had best start to work my way south towards home. I wasn’t really all that sure how far south that I wanted to get. I think I had plans to get as far south as Fort William ( or An Gearasdan as it is shown on the bi-lingual road signs). A slight diversion. Road signs in Scotland now are generally bi-lingual. In the Gàidhealtachd the Gaelic name is given first, but as you move south into the English (or more properly Scottish speaking areas the English version is shown first.
I got as far as Gairloch, which is about 30 miles further south, but because it is quite a bit further west, I’m not sure that it was much closer to home.
Altandhu is out on a limb, so I had to retrace a bit of yesterday’s route before picking up the main road south to Ullapool. It wasn’t too much of a hardship, the scenery is spectacular which ever direction you look at it.
I thought about stopping for a coffee in Ullapool, but didn’t for two reasons. I was slightly bothered, given my tendency to be distracted, that I would end up on the ferry to Stornoway and a tour of the Outer Hebrides. Also when you are in a Campervan with a stove top espresso maker you can stop and make a coffee where and whenever you feel like it.
As I was driving down the east shore of Loch Broom I did become distracted by a ferry, or to be more exact the memory of a ferry. About thirty-five or possibly forty years ago I did a walking/hitch-hiking/public transport tour of the Highlands. I remembered taking a foot ferry across Loch Broom from Ullapool then walking over the peninsula between Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom. I then more or less followed the coast round for a few days until I eventually ended up in Torridon. I thought it might be an idea to try to replicate the journey. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do all of it as there was one section from Redpoint to Diabaig that could only be done on foot or Mountain Bike. So instead of carrying on south I turned right at Braemore onto The Destitution Road.
The road climbs over the moors, with An Teallach dominating the horizon, before dropping back down to Little Loch Broom at Dundonell, where I stopped for lunch. Moving on down Little Loch Broom as well as the obvious spectacular scenery you come to a place called Gruinard and about a kilometer off the coast an island called Gruinard Island, which has an interesting, slightly sinister, history. The last time I was here there were notices up all along the shore warning you not to attempt to land on the island. During the Second World War it had been used for experiments in biological warfare and the soil was still contaminated with anthrax. It has since been decontaminated and returned to its original owners.
I carried on following the coast road until I reached the village of Poolewe. Poolewe is the home to a rather remarkable garden. Because of the effects of the Gulf Stream, a benign micro-climate allows plants to be grown on the north-west coast of Scotland that you might not think possible. (Plockton, for example, is famous for its palm trees). Inverewe Gardens were created in 1862 by Osgood MacKenzie and later after his death, his wife and daughter further developed them. His daughter gave the gardens to the National Trust for Scotland shortly before her death.
I had brought my National Trust membership card with me, and as it gave me free entry to the gardens I thought I might as well. I’m glad that I did. In late September, when I visited, the gardens were past their best, but still worthwhile seeing. I would guess that they are at their most spectacular in late spring when the Rhododendrons are in full flower. It is easier to post pictures than try to describe in words, so here are (some of) my photographs.
After my walk around the gardens, and buying a T-shirt from the gift shop, I decided that it was time to find somewhere for the night. It was nearly five o’clock and as the saying goes, “the nights were fair drawing in”. I decided to drive across to Gairloch rather than spend the night in Poolewe. It was on the way to Fort William (remember, where I was heading when I set out this morning) anyway.