Bill, I started thinking about where to recommend, and came up with a list of the things I want to do over the next fifty years. Since you've only a few days, I've edited it down a bit.
First, a word of warning. The Scottish hills and countryside look quite tame, but can and do kill the unwary. Unless you have a lot of winter hiking experience and can navigate in featureless terrain with zero visibility, I would recommend staying close to the road or hiring a qualified mountain guide. It pains me to say this, as I have had some of my most life-enhancing experiences in the Scottish mountains, but they have also provided all of my most life-threatening ones. For sheer grinding strength-sapping misery, nothing can beat the Scottish combination of wet, wind and near-zero temperatures. The mountain rescue teams are the best in the world, but ask yourself how they got that way :-)
Second, the scenics. These are spots where landscape photographers tend to gather and gawp, often with road turnouts, and if the light is bad you can buy a postcard.
- Three sandy beaches: Achnahaird, Old Shore More, and Sandwood Bay. In the right light you will never want to leave. Achnahaird and Old Shore More you can drive right up to. Sandwood Bay is a four mile walk, first along a track and then across peat bogs
- A835 Roadside Romanticism: Ullapool from the main road (pullouts on both sides of town); Ardmair a few miles north (where the road does a sharp right); Looking West from Drumrunie.
- Coigach views: Drive the road from the junction at Drumrunie, round to Achiltibuie and on to it's end at Culnacraig. If you don't see anything worth photographing it's time to sell your cameras. On the way back, take the loop through Polbain and Altandhu and back over the hill to Brae of Achnahaird. Ditto. When you get to the top of the hill, don't forget to look backwards to the Summer Isles. There's a good wide pullout at the summit, with a short scramble up to a cairned outcrop with a truly superb 360° view. Finally, if you want some fun, when leaving the peninsula take the "Mad Road" to Lochinver through the dingly dells of Inverpolly and Strath Kirkaig: see the bleached bones of the German RV drivers who couldn't reverse.
Third, my favourite scenic places on Coigach. For these, you may need to walk a few miles: your call on the weather, but bear in mind that the path will be non-existent to rough. The numbers are map references on the Ordnance Survey Landranger 1:50 000 map, sheet 15, "Loch Assynt and surrounding area".
- Fox Hill (NC002119). A cheat this, you can nip up the potholed road to the microwave relay station from Altandhu. The road is easily doable in a family car in summer; in winter you might slip into the ditch. Great views in all directions (the shot in my first post was taken here), but for the Summer Isles you'll need to move to the higher, southern peak, Meall an Fheadain (NB999109). On the east side of the hill are peat cuttings and lazy beds that catch the dying light nicely, and stone and iron age hut circles if you're into that mists of time look.
- Rubha a' Chairn (NC008159). Looks down on the rocks of Camus Coille, with good views of the tip of Coigach and across Enard Bay to Stoer.
- Cnoc Mor (NC010145) the top of the hill above the tame part of the coastline. Similar to Rubha a' Chairn, but better views of the mountains.
Finally, places to potter. These are the ones that reward repeated visits, or a lucky strike in good light. Interesting geology, flora or process patterns rather than grand views.
- Achnahaird beach. Most people head for the shoreline, but the dunes, the machair and the salt marsh by the burn at the road end of the beach are a goldmine of abstracts.
- Rubh a' Choin (NC033149). Oddball rocks that have reputedly sent more than one geologist mad. The walk round the coast from Achnahaird is not too stiff, but the easiest way in is via Garvie Bay from the parking pullout near the cattle grid (NC039130). Further round is the old Salmon Bothy at the head of a hidden cove (NC028146), possibly the single most romantic location in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Reiff. The cliffs looking onto the bay of Camas Eilean Ghlais (NB965152) get most attention, but the west-facing rocks (NB962148) between them and the village of Reiff are more interesting to me.
- Faochag Bay (NB974173). The walking guides say it's boring and to cut it out of any walk round the coastline. They are right. Stay away. Dull, dull dull.
Last but not least, accomodation. There are lots of self-catering chalets and crofts on the southern side, as well as guest houses, B+Bs, a youth hostel and a posh hotel. Tourist offices will be able to tell you what's open and available, but I can't recommend anything specific. In Achnahaird, there are very well-appointed self-catering apartments at Achnahaird Farm (www.achnahairdfarm.com, call Marilyn Mackenzie on 01854 622348). This is where we stay. In the village itself the Greens have a lovely house to let (www.stacpollaidh.com, call Sheila Green on 01854 622340) but I think their log cabin is now gone. For more general local information and to order groceries to be delivered in advance, Polbain Stores (www.polbain.com) is a good place to start.
Have fun. Don't get lost. Don't try all the malts in one night.
Last edited by Struan Gray; 01-09-2006 at 04:05 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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