Catch up on the first part of this road trip around the highlands and islands of Scotland.
On the west coast of Scotland, just south of Mallaig there is a magical place called Camusdarach. Gorgeous sandy beaches, rocky outcrops, clear azure blue water and a campsite right beside it.
Take a look…
What do you think?
There is plenty of space here, space to walk and sit a while, undisturbed by the so called conveniences of modern life, space also seems to provide time, to just sit and chill.
It’s also a fabulous spot to watch the sun go down. You won’t find amusement arcades here, there isn’t a shopping centre, just a few essentials in the campsite shop. The story is the beach. It’s possible to actually get married here too….. we settled for watching the sunset over the Black Cuillin of Skye.
The following morning, we continued on our way to Armadale, on the Isle of Skye. This is an old route to Skye, one taken before the bridge was built in 1995, when the island was dependant on ferries from Mallaig and Kyle of Lochalsh. It’s so gorgeous going up the coastal route that it is well worth the ferry fare.
And so to Skye! The major mountains on the island are the brooding hills of the Cuillin ranges. The Black Cuillin and the Red Cuillin separated by Glen Sligachan. Twelve of the Cuillin peaks are listed as Munros, hills which reach above 3.000ft. A full traverse of the ridge completed in a single day, is generally considered the ultimate mountaineering experience in the United Kingdom, especially in winter conditions.
We enjoyed an overnight stay at the campsite at Glenbrittle, and the morning greeted us with some glimpses of these majestic hills through the cloud base which continued to cling stubbornly around the peaks. Time to pack up and head off to an appointment at Talisker Distillery at Carbost.
The visit started with a tour of the distillery, and we were soon learning how they make that gorgeous amber fluid that smells so peaty and rich, no wonder it’s Iain’s favourite whisky.
Our visit continued with a pleasant surprise, they had included a tasting session! Since I had the keys to the car, it fell upon Iain to try a selection of whiskies, including some rather special ones. A very happy man sat in the passenger seat for the remainder of the day.
Read about a different road trip in the Yukon here: Tales from the Road – The Yukon
Our plan was to wild camp at the Coral Beach, at Claigan, near Dunvegan but on arrival we found the car park prohibited overnight parking. This meant that we could only leave the car while we walked the mile and a half to the beach, camping was out and a new plan was hatched. We had brought our smallest tent for this overnight stop, but without an alternative car park for miles around we had to make do with a walk to the beach and seek alternative accommodation. While I can fully understand that preserving the beach is the aim, it does go very much against the spirit of open access.
It’s a quite beautiful beach and even with the walk to get there it is quite a popular spot on a lovely day, there are frequently seals bobbing in the water between the beach and the small island that guards it.
With the camp location unavailable and a worsening weather forecast, it was decided to head to Portree, the largest town on the island, and look for some a bed and breakfast. We found a cracking guesthouse for the night, enjoying a chat with owners Heather and Jürgen over a wee dram of Talisker from earlier.
The decision to have a roof above our heads was validated in the morning; it rained…… a lot.
There are few occasions that have us running for shelter but the rain that day was enough to keep us confined to the car while expecting some guy called Noah to hanging around looking for some wood and nails.
The plan was to explore The Quiraing, which means “Round Fold” in Gaelic as the unusual rock formations were formed (and are still moving) by a series of landslips. It’s part of the highly complex geological mix of rock formations in this part of the country and it in stark contrast to the mountains which form The Cuillins. The fact that they are exist together on the same small island is incredible.
The clouds did part long enough for us a get a few photos. This is the age old problem for the traveller however, managing what you are given in terms of being able to capture what you hope to photograph. The weather, light and even location are not always ideal, but without days or even weeks to wait for conditions to improve, it’s in the hands of the weather gods!
We returned through Sligachan and headed back over the bridge to the mainland.
The next stop is one that will be familiar to many; probably one of the most famous castles and landmarks in Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle. The castle has links to an Irish Bishop Donan that formed a community as far back as the late 7th century, although the first fortified structure was built around the 13th century. It lay in ruins until finally being rebuilt early in the 20th century and is now one of Scotlands most famous landmarks and scene of several Hollywood films.
A pleasant evening toasting in front of a log burning stove in a local bunkhouse followed, with an interesting character to share some sipping Jura and a wealth of travel stories.
The next day found us making our way to a favourite part of the highlands, Applecross in Wester Ross. Another night in a bed and breakfast, but the main attraction was dinner at the excellent Applecross Inn. People travel far and wide to dine here and it’s easy to understand why, first class food in a lovely location.
Read about Iain’s stay in Applecross here: The Applecross Inn and Campsite; Scotland
A good night’s sleep in a comfy bed with some excellent hospitality courtesy of Clive and Maureen, owners of the campsite and bed and breakfast left us suitably refreshed. Ready to return to the camping trail once more and we headed off up the west coast through Ullapool, before reaching Clachtoll. Yet another charming west coast beach, which required driving along some stunning roads, with scenery that could have stopped us over and over again…… in fact it did!
Clachtoll beach campsite is perfectly placed to take advantage of the west coast sunsets, with perfect access to the water there is plenty to see and do. It was a bit wild and windy, so pitching the tent in the shelter of a wooden terrace seemed a good idea. Sunset beckoned however, so we were soon grabbing our cameras once more.
The next stage of our journey will take us to John O’Groats, Scrabster and then onto Orkney and beyond!
Guest post by Alison Bailey
I started as a photographer at the tender age of three when my Dad gave me my first camera, a Kodak Brownie. I crawled around ‘taking pictures’ of everything, even though there wasn’t any film, and I’ve been taking pictures ever since.
I’ve worked as a Lab Technician specialising in Pathology to the promised land of Olympus cameras, and even a spell in law enforcement. I’ve returned to my first love now however, focusing on wedding photography. I predominantly use digital today, but the traditionalist in me still loves film, and the skills required to develop it.