Scotland at its most naturally brilliant
Another Great Scotland Road Trip – Ullapool to Applecross
The latest in the series of Great Scottish Drives, this one is truly a jaw dropper of a road trip.
Ullapool is as close as you are likely to get to a proper hub in this stretch of Scotland’s west coast so make sure you’ve got all necessary supplies (and petrol!) from the town before setting off. This is a journey that is stunning pretty much from start to finish. No thesaurus of words for ‘beautiful’ would ever be big enough, so I’ll try to keep the gushing to a minimum and focus on the attractions along the way. Well, I’ll try.
Maps and/or sat nav at the ready, we’re heading first towards Gairloch. Going south from Ullapool alongside Loch Broom, the first stop is the magnificent (at it already) Corrieshalloch Gorge. A short walk from the parking area takes you to a suspension bridge with views that shows the chasm at its most impressive. It was formed during the last ice age, a mere 2.6 million years ago. The water drops 46 metres/150 feet from the Falls of Measach into the gorge. So be prepared for spray.
The road now takes us north-west as we snake around the west coastline. As I mention whenever the west coast is on the discussion plate, this stretch of land has some of the world’s finest beaches. Those found at Gruinard Bay are amongst the best in this part of the country and, if you have the weather for it (aye, right you may say), this is a great spot for a picnic and a stretch of the legs. An alternative stop for lunch is at Poolewe to the south, where you’ll find the slightly bizarre Inverewe Gardens.
Widely regarded as the best of Scotland’s gardens, this is our very own outdoor jungle. The North Atlantic Drift from the Gulf Stream allows for the growth and survival of exotic plant life from around the world. I’d suggest June-September as the best time to visit.
It’s already been a great Scottish road trip, but the next bit takes in some of the very best Scotland has to offer. After passing Gairloch, the road comes back inland and follows stunning Loch Maree. It may just be the best loch in all of Scotland this one. With Slioch hanging over it, picturesque islands dotted about and very little sign of human life it’s an area that is worth spending a couple of days in. This includes walking Slioch. It sits there confidently as if it owns the place so is just begging to be conquered.
Next up is Torridon. I’d put Glen Torridon as a genuine rival to Glen Coe at the very top of the table of worldwide natural mindblowers. There are walking routes in abundance around here including several more Munros. Be warned though, these are some of the most challenging hikes in Scotland.
By now completely astonished by west of Scotland beauty it just remains to complete the final stretch to Applecross. I describe the more, em, palpitating route in my Applecross Inn blog, but this time take the westerly drive via Shieldaig and continue to follow the Applecross peninsula around via the single track road. Needless to say it’s another stunning stretch with support coming from Loch Torridon out of your right hand window.
Every epic road trip needs a happy ending and by the time you arrive in Applecross get straight to The Applecross Inn or The Potting Shed for some food from the deep. Days like this are Scotland at its very best.
This particular Scotland road trip can be done in under 4 hours but, really, how likely is that? Anticipate half a day, or more. Or much more. The drive is undeniably challenging in places, particularly for unfamiliar drivers, but for the most part the route is straightforward and it’s hard to get lost. Not that that’s a particularly awful thing to happen to you in these parts.