After driving past Loch Assynt, and taking a break to explore around its margins where you may find the Calda House and the Ardvreck Castle, we finally made it to Lochinver.
We headed for Culag Hotel, where we planned to drink a coffee. As we entered its bar, accompanied by our son, the staff told us that children were not allowed, so he suggested we would wait by the hotel's lobby; and so we did, soon after we sat on the sofa he came along and brought our coffees. When planning our visit to Scotland I read in several places that most bars don't allow people under 18 years old. But in Lochinver was the only bar where we were reminded of that.
Lochinver is a fishing village, and we found Culag Hotel to be one of its most imposing buildings, architecturally speaking. Later, I read that this hotel was built in 1873 as a shooting lodge and the existing herring station was incorporated in the construction. Even though its bar looked like and felt like any other typical bar, I enjoyed our stay in the lobby/ waiting room, with the classical worn sofas; a bit of further exploring in its public areas made me think of the Hotel as one of those iconic places that decay a bit with the years going by, but still remains charming and full of character.
Another building I liked, is the church by the shore, but I didn't manage to find further info about it, only that is named Church of Scotland and it's is situated on Main Street by the loch.
Don't miss the port, always a nice place to photograph, imho.
After visiting Ullapool, we decided there was time enough for further exploration and headed towards Lochinter, another fishing port situated north of Ullapool. Eventually, we got the wrong road, as we intended to drive by the coast, but got something wrong and drove "inside". We were so lucky to have gone the "wrong" way!
We came across Loch Assynt and drove along its borders. The landscape is beautiful and somewhat different from the ones we had seen so far: this is a moorland area and there are also high peaks, some of them ending abruptly into the water.
Loch Assynt has some ruins, that we learnt are the Ardvreck Castle and the Calda House. The castle's ruins are situated on the Lake and the house's ruins are situated by the road. Also, you will find some information not only about both of these but also about the natural heritage and cultural landscape of this area, historical Assinth.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
Exactly 3 miles South of Ullapool lie Leckmelm gardens, and old arboretum (1870) restored to some of its former glory, beginning 1984. It has a great selection of flaura, many local plants, and some highlights, including:
Japanese Castor-oil tree
Monkey Puzzle trees
False Cypress trees
These are beautifully looked after, and there are a number of paths through the gardens (totalling 12 acres), including paths down to the pebble beach on the shores of Loch Broom.
Entrance is a donation of 3.00 pounds, and it's open from the beginning of April to the end of October every year.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- National/State Park
For a different perspective of Ullapool, head round to the other side of the loch. Its a 20 minute drive, the road is in good condition, the scenery is (as always) stunning, and if you go around far enough you'll get a lovely view of Ullapool. Just watch out for the sheep!
To get there, head back down toward Inverness, take the first major right-hand turn over the bridge, down the tree-lined drive, and then the next right again. follow that road as far as you like :-)
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
Ok, so you don't have to go to far off the beaten path for this one, just head down to the pier, and the small 'harbour'. If you're lucky, you'll see one of the local seals hanging around... on occasion, Killer whales have been seen reasonably close to the town too. Now thats a sight to behold!
- Whale Watching
Inverness is an excellent area for touring with its suspension bridges across the River Ness and old stone buildings. It is the start of what is said to be the most beautiful and scenic trips in the whole of Europe. Apparently known for its floral displays, Inverness won the 1996 aware for Best Large town in the Bloom of Britain competition. There are good road, rail and air connections to Inverness.
Inverness Castle was built on a low cliff and on the site of an previous castle in 1835. The cathedral sits on the opposite bank overlooking the River Ness facing the castle. It is believed that the castle played a part in the story of Macbeth. Today the castle takes on a different role and houses the Sherriff’s Court.
Take the A835 south east from Ullapool.
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
Unknown Memorial / Grave
If you stop at the Dam (Halfway between Ullapool & Inverness), take the time to walk across it. I did, and found this Cairn on the other side, dedicated to a little girl (1995). There's an old, very weather weary teddy bear on top of it too.
- Hiking and Walking
The Little Loch
After a good 30 minute drive, you could be at Little Loch Broom, which has some amazing scenery of it's own, and some fantastic walks. One in particular i Love, leaving from a little Curio / gift shop 5 miles before Dundonnel, the hike goes up into the mountains, to a series of small lochs, eventually ending at a bothy (for the overnight hiker), and a lovely larger Loch.
The walk is easy, flat most of the way, and the path is wide and in very good condition. The Lochs are accessible if you are prepared to go cross country (watch for the Bogs).
- Hiking and Walking
The Loch no-one knows of...
There's a fantastic walk over Ullapool hill that takes you to a Loch hidden in the mountains, which is incredibly peaceful, with stunning scenery. The walk is about 1 1/2 hours each way, with a couple of steeper gradients, but should eb handled with little difficulty by most walkers. Well worth the effort of getting there.
Only problem is that there are plans to build Power Pylons right across the front of the Loch, and on past Ullapool. It's totally going to ruin the area's appeal.
- Hiking and Walking
The ruggedness and yet the beauty of the Highlands. You could drive for miles and see these sheer mountains, desolate areas where there was the odd home sitting way off in the distance. I can only imagine that in winter these people are cut off for months. An eerie and desolate place (not unlike the southern part of the South Island of NZ) and yet so beautiful.
Eddrachillis Bay - is up near Scourie on the west coast north of Ullapool where we were staying at the time. From the headland you will see the many islands dotted in Eddrachillis Bay.
Take the A894 from Ullapool.
I couldn’t beat the description that I read about Strathnaver. “The valley of Strathnaver is a green fold of earth, the richest in that part of the country, a narrow twisting glen down which the black water of the River Naver runs from south to north, from the loch of its name to the Atlantic Ocean”.
Take the A835 north, A837 then A836 From Ullapool.