A stone throw away from the campsite is Beinn Eighe, Britain’s first National Nature Reserve. The weather was not in our favour. We saw none of the, supposedly spectacular, cluster of mountain peaks that surrounded us. In this nature reserve there are a network of trails here catering for all abilities with woodland and steep mountain trails for the more adventurous.
The visitors’ centre is an excellent starting point to tell about the history of Beinn Eighe and the wildlife that lives here. A bird feeding station just outside the window of the centre draws in lots of birds that visitors can sit and watch from within the centre not disrupting them as they feed. The kids found this fascinating.
We were up for a walk to start our day and choose the Buzzard Trail, the easiest trail. It was well laid out and marked. Most of this short circular path runs mostly on open land, with some steps to go up a bit and down. There are some additional, artist pieces along the track- a couple of carved rocks and some quotes- keeping the trail interesting whatever the weather. The trail is totally suitable for even the littlest toddlers, our LittleLife child carrier did not get used, just carried on this outing. (Even though our toddler had a melt down when lost the stone he had asked me to carry while he carried a big rock.)
Facilities at Beinn Eighe include toilets, parking and cycle rack, picnic site, viewpoint, and interpretive panels. There is a good walking path and cycle path leading out to the visitors’ centre from Kinlochewe.
We spent an hour and a half at Beinn Eighe, counting the time spent at the visitors’ centre and the walk.
From here we set off to drive one of the most beautiful stretches of the Highlands: we looped back to Torridon and drove over to Applecross via the Bealach-Na-Ba, the high pass. A 38 mile drive.
I was a little concerned about this route with the motorhome, as this was the first bit of single track roads we were doing on this trip. I needn’t have worried: luckily there wasn’t much traffic and the passing points are frequent along most sections of the single track road. None-the-less it was a slow drive. The top speed our GPS registered was 40 mph (64 kph), the average moving speed 20.8mph (33.6kph). There was rain, low clouds, yet the sun sometimes poked through and gave us glimpses of the most stunning views. It was well worth the drive even with the weather we had.
Along the route, which passes by some of the oldest smokehouses of Scotland, we stopped at Loch Torridon Smoke House in Shieldaig, where we bought some hot and cold smoked salmon. The lovely Mandy even showed us how it is done, explaining the difference between the two processes. Her salmon is sourced locally, from ethical farming practices. She also had some fresh langoustines, so we followed her down to the pier and bought 10 little snappy crustaceans to make as a special birthday treat for Angelina, who loves prawns and crab.
There are a couple of purchase opportunities- eggs, honey, other smokehouses- along the route for local products- just make sure you have cash on you so you are able to take advantage of the delicious goods on offer.
The Torridon, a very pretty country house is in fact a hotel. There is also a good restaurant here. They run lots of outdoor activities like sea kayaking, mountain biking, guided walks. The leader of these activities is Ryan, who had been the youngest member to have joined the Scottish Mountain rescue team at 16 and has volunteered for a good many years since. I happened to run into him when I was trying to find out if we could book onto sea kayaking.
Sadly, there are no activities for a family with such young children as ours. Ryan was also good at highlighting the dangers of the Highlands and the lochs, the changeable weather.It was fascinating talking to him. (Later I found Ryan’s story online)
The part of the North Coast 500 I was particularly looking forward to is the famous Bealach-na-Ba. Even with the weather it was worth it. You see, the weather was toying with us. Every once in a while the sun would push rain and clouds aside and afford us a small vista. Not far, but still breathtaking.
On our drive we were competing with Ian, the cyclist. We drove behind him, with no overtaking places, for a mile or so before starting the ascent. Overtook him, stopped for a photo, then he overtook us. We watched in awe as he ascended the 626m of Bealach na Ba pass. We overtook him as he stopped for a drink. Then he overtook us as we stopped at the top to play in the snow and build a snowman. Taking in the views…not!
We later bumped into him at the Applecross campsite and just couldn’t resist introducing ourselves and congratulating him on his achievement. Chatting, he told us that he’d cycled the almost 50 miles circuit of the peninsular that day… just for fun.
Our progress for the day had been a lot slower than we had hoped.
So many had recommended the Applecross Inn we popped in to have a look and grab a hot drink. The Inn was packed. The selection of foods on the board was amazing, tempting us to stay and eat there. The temptation was too big to resist.
We ordered seafoods and a venison burger (they had specially made a child sized one up for our order). While we waited the kids found some blocks and some cards to play with. When the food arrived the kids hijacked my dressed crab and I ended up having the burger. It was the most delicious burger I’ve ever had! Even as a child-sized portion it was filling.
I was, eventually, allowed some crab…also very good. The Madventurer had scallops and praised them, followed by mussels which he hardly got any of, as the boys just kept eating more and more. The tables around us just kept glimpsing over and whispering something and glimpsing over and muttering among themselves. As our table was being cleared, one of the ladies said to us from her table: “It’s so wonderful to watch your children eat shellfish!”
For the evening we were booked into Inverewe Gardens Camping and Caravan Club site. There was no way we were going to make that and I had tried to call earlier to cancel, but had no mobile signal for most of the day. There was no point in hurrying to get there in the midst of darkness either. We decided to drive on while it was light and find a good spot on the roadside.
Our drive took us 10 miles out of Applecross along the peninsular. We found the perfect parking place with stunning views over the Isle of Skye in front of us, across the water.
The sun set, we watched it descend behind the Isle of Skye sipping hot cups of tea in the front seats of the motorhome, the kids were in their bunk beds by then. As the full moon lit the landscape around us we snuggled down to sleep too.
I’d love to hear about your adventures and recommendations in the area
NEXT– North Coast 500- Day 3: Lots of driving> Inverewe Gardens> Corrieshalloch Gorge> Ardmair >
(coming online 15 June)