The Wester Ross Coastal Trail – By Tamara Lohan
Packing tips wellie boots and binoculars
The road trip we took is a loop – starting from Pool House in Poolewe, taking the Wester Ross Coastal Trail through Shieldaig to Applecross and then over the Pass of the Cattle before heading back inland and taking a detour to Dornie to see Eilean Donan Castle – the most photographed castle in Scotland.
You set off from Pool House towards Gairloch. The road from Gairloch to Kinlochewe is about 25 miles and tracks alongside Loch Maree which has a backdrop of towering mountains running along it – a stunning Loch worth stopping for a picninc (outside of midge season). A long straight road takes you through Lord of the Rings style scenery carving through the mountains on either side.
At Kinlochewe you turn right signposted to Applecross and Shieldaig. The road becomes single track. It takes about 25 mins to get to Shieldaig after some amazing views along Loch Torridon and then further 30 mins to get to Applecross before you go over the Pass of the Cattle (the final bit has an incredible hairpin bend down hill road that snakes like a twisting river between mountains) both are great stopping places for lunch. Stop at Shieldaig if you are running late in the day but we highly recommend you push on and wait until you get to Applecross.
From Shieldaig the single road wiggles along the coast giving spectacular views and then hugs the coast line until Applecross bay. Have lunch there either picnicking on the beach or at the Potting Shed, set in a Victorian Walled Garden – the food is all home grown, simple dishes straight form the garden – lovely setting and the approach road has horned highland cattle in the neighbouring field which adds further Scottish authenticity
From Applecross take the turning to Lochcarron this road takes you over the highest pass in GB – the Pass of the Cattle. Just 12miles, this road is impassable during winter. The narrow single track road takes you across an almost Martian landscape – boggy craggy dotted with mirrored pools of water. Ears popping, you go over the Pass and down with spectacular views opening out in front of you – The view is of Loch Kishorn. Lots of sheep on the road throughout the trip which I love as it makes the whole experience feel even less manufactured – makes it feel like a road going through a farm and the farm hasn’t had to fence everything in – health and safety would never allow this down south.
There is a nice stopping point in Kishorn – the Kishorn Seafood Bar is an informal shack/shed selling great fresh seafood.
Carry on to Lochcarron and then past the village take a turning right to Dornie. This road will take you to Castle Eilean Donal – the most photographed castle in Scotland. http://www.eileandonancastle.com/
Heading back to Poolewe, the fastest way is to head to Achnasheen instead of going back over the pass. This will also give you the chance to drive the road between Achnasheen and Kinlochewe – several miles of driving heaven! Long curving roads where you can see for miles, no cameras, deserted roads – amazing! The last road actually looks like a location manger’s dream for the next ‘car advert’ – it’s so perfect you’d think it had been built as a movie set.
Petrol stations along the route – Gairloch, Kinlochewe, Lochcarron.
The Potting Shed in Applecross has baby changing facilities and high chairs
Allow the whole day to do this loop – if you haven’t got that much time, cut out the detour to Dornie.
In summary – I have never got out of the car so many times to take photos (and around every corner it just got more and more spectacular) – the best road trip I’ve ever been on and the 130 miles seemed a breeze and really made our weekend an event.