We woke to squeals of excitement: It was Easter Sunday and Easter egg hunt time! The night before we’d hidden a good selection of eggs all over the motorhome and some just at the children’s feet in their bunks. They found it as soon as they woke. An egg finding frenzy ensued.
Outside glorious sunshine greeted us. There were sheep grazing around us, it was quite except for sheep baaing and birdsong.
Breakfast was hot chocolate and Easter eggs, accompanied with some cooked langoustines we had bought the day before.
We drove off with the kids still in their pyjamas…now, that is definitely a huge advantage of travelling with a campervan or motorhome!
The first stretch was driving by crofts (the local little farms), pretty views, lots of sheep, some fluffy highland cows. We were on the lookout for the famous sea eagles, but only saw a buzzard. ( I was grateful for the borrowed Canon camera we had with us- the SX60 HS- which enabled us to take some fabulous pictures from afar).
As the road verred back East towards Torridon, the route along Loch Torridon was hair-raising at some points. High above the water, twisting on narrow single track roads.
The sun was shining, the sky blue but the weather gods were still flexing their muscles: There was a band of mist hovering above the water but below the tops of the mountains. The water below glistened, the snow on the mountain tops sparkled. Once in a while the road took is into the white milky cloud, with just 50-100m visibility.
We looped back via The Torridon (much more beautiful in the sunshine) and Kinlochewe. Beign Eighe tempted is with another walk, but we resisted… If only we had more time!
Driving along Loch Maree affords beautiful views, the lake’s blue and turquoise hues are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen in a while. There are a number of parking spots along this stretch to stop for a picnic and take in the sights.
Leaving Loch Maree behind the road weaves out to Gailoch. There is a sweet harbour here, which is the base what is officially the UK’s best whale watching cruise. They go out in a large open RIB, specially made. Chatting to the operator, he was very proud of being named the best operator, suggesting July to August were very good months to go whale watching and September was definitely the best.
Just a little further up the road is the village of Poolewe, beyond which are two special spots of the Highlands (immo) Inverewe Gardens Camping and caravan club site and Inverewe Gardens
The Inverewe Gardens campsite– another club site, but this time owned by the Camping and Caravan Club- is located just at the side of the “main” road. The manager was remarkably helpful, when we explained about not being able to contact them the day before. He even offered us use the toilets, have a shower (even though they were just about to clean the shower blocks) or empty our tanks. We didn’t take him up on it, but did have a good nosey. The site is laid mostly to grass, with some trees and plenty of flowers. The showers were immaculate as were the rest of the facilities. Just across the road is a pebbly beach where the kids were desperate to go and play. This is a site I could imagine spending a week!
Inverewe gardens are a short walk from the campsite, just on the other side of the bay. I had heard about these tropical gardens all the way up in the North of Scotland a long time ago.
The gardens came about thanks to the pioneering spirit of Osgood Mackenzie in 1862. This Scotsman embraced the Victorian era of discovery, experimentation and the popularity for all things exotic from far corners of the mighty British Empire. After purchasing the land with the help of his mother, Osgood set about exploiting the warming effect of the Gulf Stream and mitigating against the harshness of the winds by creating a buffer zone of pine trees and a walled garden. He imported plants from all over the world to create this surreal subtropical plant oasis. Osgood Mackenzie spent 60 years shaping this haven in the Highlands and his work was continued by his daughter Mairi after his death. The property is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
The gardens are great for families! There is a year-round discovery trail for kids. At Easter, when we went, this trail is sponsored by Cadbury’s and those who complete it are rewarded with a big chocolate Easter Egg. Other times of the year, I gather, the reward is the sense of achievement for having travelled the world through learning about the plants in the garden.
In early spring few flowers were out and the most interest came from the evergreens and the terrain, the interweaving paths and the quizzes at each point on trail. Having seen pictures, this is garden is absolutely beautiful as the blooms come out. We spent over 2 hours here. I can just imagine how much longer we’d have spent had more flowers been in bloom.
The entry fees to Inverewe Gardens are not cheap, however they are free if you are a National Trust or National Trust for Scotland member. (For us as a family just 4 visits a year to any property makes it very worthwhile to support this charity through our membership.)
We enjoyed a lovely picnic on the lawn at Inverewe Gardens, in front of the manor house.
The chocolate eggs were the perfect desert and muchies for the 37 miles to our next destination.
The drive, again did not lack in beautiful scenery. The landscape was very varied from pink beaches to plains eroded by long-gone glaciers. With a toddler asleep clutching his Easter egg protectively we decided not to stop on the beach with ever reaching pink sand. It tempted us, we pulled aside and snapped some pictures and much to the Angelina and Hugo’s disappointment we drove on. These were the times when I longed to have a week more to explore this scenic route.
About half a mile before Corrieshalloch Gorge is a car park overlooking the valley carved by the river and ice long ago. The view was so beautiful we couldn’t help but stop and stand at this viewpoint taking in the breathtaking sights. This is a perfect scenic picnic spot!
Corrieshalloch Gorge, means ‘Ugly Hollow’ in Gaelic and is described by National Trust for Scotland (the managers of this Nature reserve):
Corrieshalloch is a a deep tree-shrouded chasm, a slot gorge, or box-canyon, that was cut as far back as 2.6million years ago by Ice Age glacial meltwater. The River Droma forges through the gorge, dramatically dropping 100 metres in just 1.25km through a series of waterfalls, including the thunderous 45m (150ft) Falls of Measach.
A brace of trails opens up the gorge to walkers, with a Victorian suspension bridge built by Sir John Fowler (one of the chief engineers behind the Forth Bridge), a jaw-dropping viewing platform and a viewpoint on hand to help visitors appreciate the full drama of Corrieshalloch Gorge, one of the wonders of the West Highlands, not to be missed, especially after periods of rain.
At Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve we parked at the designated parking at the top of the gorge and wandered down the path swithching back and forth. This is perfectly suitable for toddlers (and very elderly dogs too). I reckon most pushchairs would cope too. I went as far as the bridge with Max and the dog. It was a long way down under the bridge and I wasn’t up for facing my vertigo. We headed back to prepare afternoon snacks. Angelina, Hugo and the Madventurer crossed the bridge and walked on to the viewing platform. It took them over an hour to return. When they did they were enthusiastically telling me about the bugs and plants they’d seen.
After a quick snack we drove on. Our route took us through Ullapool. The fuel gauge was at about 1/3. We pulled into the first fuel station we saw on the route into town. After seeing the prices I quickly drove out without fuelling. Diesel cost a good 10% more than in Inverness. I attributed this to the fact the fuel station seemed to be an independent.
We found Tesco in town, for bread and hoping they’d have a fuel station. We were informed in the shop that the fuel station I’d pulled away from was the only one in town and for a good couple of miles in either direction too. After buying our bread I went back to the fuel station and filled up. I was like a dog with it’s tail between it’s legs… but the view made up for all:
That is a point to remember when driving in these parts:
- Fuel tends to be more expensive, so set off on your route with a full tank
- Fuel up when your tank is 1/3 or lower, as you never know how far the next pump is.
We were tired and Ullapool didn’t hold our attention for long. We drove on, knowing we needed to find a place to stop for the night. We were planning on wild camping by the roadside somewhere.
A couple of miles out of Ullapool, however, we came across a campsite right on the shores of Loch Canaird. The folks of Ardmair holiday park had a sign on reception instructing new comers of where to park and the they’d be around in the morning to collect fees. We drove in, parked up and within 2 minutes all 3 kids were out of the motorhome running down to the beach, playing with pebbles, climbing some rocks at the water’s edge. It was lovely to see them enjoying themselves so much! Kids need this sort of freedom to just play.
Max ended up wading into the water deep enough that his wellies filled with water.
I watched as I prepared a warm dinner, the Madventurer supervised from a bit of a distance with a camera in hand. He was keen not to interrupt their exploration and play.
While we ate dinner the sun gradually descended, giving us a glorious sunset over the water. We all turned in ready for the next day of adventures.
If you are familiar with the areas, I’d love to hear more of your experiences … please comment below
NEXT- North Coast 500- Day 4 – Knockan Crag> Assynt visitors’ centre> Stour Lighthouse >