After three hard days on the hills we (well me really) needed a bit of a rest. So, today we decided to do some sightseeing and headed to the Applecross peninsula. From the Morvich campsite at Kintail we first passed through Dornie where the famous Eilean Donan Castle is situated on the shores of Loch Duich (for those who do not know, this castle is featured in films such as ‘The Highlander’ and ‘Entrapment’ – both starting Sean Connery). Not surprisingly there were masses of tourists mingling around the castle – least the weather was dry and bright at this point so they would have seen and photographed it at its best.
From Dornie we turned right and travelled to Strathcarron where we came across a lovely pottery and craft shop. It had a wonderful variety of paintings and crafts and the restaurant next door served very nice coffee and scones! We had read that the Attadale Gardens in Strathcarron are quite spectacular, however, to do them justice we would require a good few hours to look round so we decided to leave them for another day. The views along Loch Carron were stunning and we could clearly see The Cuillin Ridge mountain range on the Isle of Skye, which we hope to climb next week. When we arrived at the village of Lochcarron we popped in to Lochcarron Weavers (the manufacturer of the world’s largest range of authentic Scottish tartan) and viewed quite an array of tartan garments and accessories – very impressive indeed. After we headed out of Lochcarron the next village we passed through was Kishorn – the seafood restaurant on the outskirts looked lovely and we would certainly like to partake in its culinary delights on our next visit.
Further on, we turned left to take the steep, winding road, the Bealach nam Ba (Pass of the Cattle), to Applecross. If you like hairpin bends then you will thoroughly enjoy this driving experience. The road has been described as “the closest thing in this country to an Alpine Pass”. There is a notice at the start of this road advising against newly qualified drivers venturing on to it! The motor-bikers must have loved this type of road but I was in awe of the two cyclists battling their way up the steep inclines – they would, however, enjoy the thrill of the downhill ride over the other side of the pass. By now the wind had picked up and the skies were looking rather foreboding but the views from the summit of the pass were still spectacular.
A few miles on and we finally arrived at Applecross. [The Gaelic name for Applecross is a’Chomraich which translates as “The Sanctuary”. An Irish monk, St Maelrubha, built a monastery here in AD673 and established the surrounding area as a sanctuary. This early monastery was one of the first in Scotland]. For such a small, tranquil village it was bustling with visitors. The quaint cottages along the shore front had such neat and tidy gardens (one had a stone built baking/pizza oven and looked to be in the process of having a patio built to complement this al fresco kitchen – with such amazing views across to Skye this would be a perfect setting for evening dining outside, so long as there was a light breeze to keep away the midges!). The rain had unfortunately now started and after having a wander round the village and then finishing our sandwiches and flask of coffee we decided to take the north coastal route, which eventually joined the A896, back to Kintail. As we were leaving Applecross we stopped at the “Walled Garden” – a community trust project to restore the 1.25 acres of derelict garden. Work began on the garden in 2001 and great progress has been achieved. There is a restaurant, the Potting Shed, on site, which opened in 2003. Cameron remembered reading about this place in the book “Monty Halls’ Great Escape: Beachcomber Cottage” which is about a marine biologist (Monty Hall) who escapes from the city to be a crofter in Applecross for six months. [It began as a BBC TV series.] Apparently, Monty used to visit this restaurant quite often for his coffee fix! As we were heading round the coast we spotted the cottage at Sand Bay that Monty had renovated and then stayed in – what fantastic views he had of the islands of Rona, Raasay and Skye.
We had a brilliant day out despite the rain in the afternoon and to finish off we had dinner at the Kintail Lodge Hotel. We can highly recommend the food and the staff were really friendly too – we will certainly be visiting again.