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Exploring Gairloch and The Isle of Skye, Scotland

The north-west of Scotland has so much to offer including local cuisine, culture and of course beautiful scenery! Last week I was exploring Gairloch and the Isle of Skye with a private coach group of 44. We had an incredible five-day trip taking in some of the many highlights not to missed when visiting the area, including the Kilt Rock, Corrieshalloch Gorge, and the town of Portree. Here is what you need to know when planning your trip to Gairloch and the Isle of Skye.



Gairloch Free Church of Scotland
Gairloch Free Church of Scotland Nestled Between The Two Beaches, Gairloch, Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography


Exploring Gairloch and The Isle of Skye, Scotland


Five days isn't long enough to cover all of Gairloch and the Isle of Skye but is enough to see a good portion, if you are short on time! It is possible to visit these areas with public transport but will take considerably longer and you will have less flexibility due to limited scheduled local transport, distances travelled, and opening hours. If you can, I highly recommend traveling by car.



Road going through the mountains
Scottish Scenic Driving Route ©M D Harding Travel Photography

Getting To Gairloch


From Edinburgh, we drove directly to Taste of Perthshire (1 hour) where we enjoyed a light lunch at the family-owned business and then straight up the A9 across the Kessock Bridge to the Gairloch Hotel (3 hours 30 minutes). The route is filled with stunning scenery from the mighty mountains to beautiful lochs, and glens.



Beach and Mountains
Scotland's Beautiful Beaches ©M D Harding Travel Photography

Accommodation


We stayed at the 3* Gairloch Hotel with its stunning views across Loch Gairloch. In the evenings we enjoyed dazzling sunset walks and evening meals with a view. The area is a great base for beach, woodland, and waterfall walks, Gairloch Museum, independent shops and during the summer months you can also enjoy a glass bottom boat or a canoe trip.



Scottish breakfast with a loch view
Breakfast With A View, Gairloch Hotel, Gairloch, Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography

Day 1: Visiting The Isle of Skye (Eilean Ban)


After breakfast, we set off along the long single-track road before joining the main road and across the elegant concrete Skye Bridge (3-hour drive). The Skye Bridge also known as Drochaid an Eilein Sgitheanaich (in Scottish Gaelic) opened in October 1995, initially a toll bridge, it spans 1.5 miles (2.4 km). If you are not driving, an alternative way to reach the Isle of Skye is by one of the most scenic train journeys through Scotland - The Kyle Line. Departing from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh eight times per day, the route takes 2 hours 40 minutes across the spectacular Scottish Highlands. In the shadows of mountains, through forests, and past stunning lochs, finishing with magnificent views of the Isle of Skye. You can walk across the Skye Bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh train station to the Kyleakin roundabout. If you do, pop into Saucy Mary's for the local seafood platter. It is delicious! From here you can also jump onboard the Scottish Citylink bus to the town of Portree. If you prefer, you can also take the Scottish Citylink direct from Inverness to Portee. Did you know you can also purchase a Scottish Citylink pass?


After a brief stop by Loch Alsh, we continued to the Kilt Rock. The incredible geological rock formation is composed of basalt, formed by volcanic activity over millions of years. Named after the Scottish kilt due to its likeness (with its many pleats), it rises up 295 feet (90 metres) above sea level. Don't miss the adjoining Mealt Falls that fall dramatically from the clifftop into the sea. There are also information boards detailing the lives of dinosaurs found in the area.


The town of Portree (Port-an-Righ, meaning the King's Port) is the largest town and capital of the Isle of Skye, known for its colourful houses, picturesque harbour, and is home to Misty Isle Gin. We had two hours to explore, shop, and eat before our return journey to Gairloch.

I had a wee shopping list of local products including Misty Isle Gin, craft beer from Cuillin Brewery, Skye Sea Salt, and Chocolates of Glenshiel (Loch Duich). As well as, a quick stop at the Isle of Skye Candle & Co Visitor Centre (old Aros Centre). Time does fly when you're having fun! If you can, highly recommend a longer visit. There is so much to see and do on the Isle of Skye from the magical Fairy Pools, Dunvegan Castle, Old Man of Storr, Fairy Glen, Talisker Whisky Distillery, Colbost Croft Museum, the 5* experience at Skyeskyns to name but a few.


Geological rock formation
Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography

Day 2: Ullapool (meaning Ulla's Steading in Norse)


On route, we stopped at the dramatic Corrieshalloch Gorge National Reserve. The gorge is said to date back as far as 2.6 million years ago when glacial waters melted to create the box-shaped canyon. Today you can take the short 20-minute walk down the grey gravel path to the historical Victorian suspension bridge and marvel at the plummeting Falls of Measach (the River Droma travelling through the one-mile hollow). The gorge is said to be one of the most spectacular gorges in Britain! Look out for different species of ferns and the rare cranefly.


After a brief visit and photo stop at Corrieshalloch Gorge, we took the opportunity to visit the unique Rhue Lighthouse dating back to 1902. The lighthouse stands at 11 metres high, with stunning views across Loch Broom. The single-track lane is not for the faint-hearted, once at the end of the road there is a large turning place with a small car park. From here it is a 20-minute walk down to the lighthouse.


The small fishing village of Ullapool sits nestled on the shores of Loch Broom, with white-washed cottages and flanking hills. Gateway to the Outer Hebrides (Isle of Harris and Lewis - Stornoway) and is a stop on the NC500 driving route. With a population of only 1500 (2020), it is a tranquil qetaway. This was a flying visit on this occasion with a quick look around the shops, a walk along the harbour and of course a delicious bite to eat.


I stumbled upon The Bothy, a small independent cafe. Comfortably seating up to 8 people, with toilet facilities. Don't despair if full, there are seating benches along the harbour front.

It was a sunny but brisk day, I was grateful to shelter from the wind and enjoy a delicious hot Lorne sausage roll (square sausage), homemade Tiffin (medley of dried fruits topped with a layer of chocolate), and a hot chocolate. Another popular option is The Caley Inn offering a good range of food and beverages. We were soon on our return to Gairloch. Next time I'm planning a visit to the Ullapool Museum and a walk up Ullapool Hill (Meall Mhor). Do you have any recommendations?



Ullapool and Loch Broom
Ullapool and Loch Broom ©M D Harding Travel Photography

Day 3: Gairloch


Our final day was another beautiful one, the bright blue skies travelled as far as the eyes could see. After a hearty full Scottish-cooked breakfast, a small group of us set off on a much-needed walk (a lot of sitting on a coach). We took off for the golden sand beach straight across from the hotel, across the sand dunes, through the small woodland up to harbour, and then crossed the main road, onto the Estate of Gairloch to follow the waterfall trail. After all that walking we were ready for lunch. The closest place en route back into Gairloch was the golf course. A hearty bowl of leek and parmesan soup, and a delicious hazelnut hot chocolate later, I was ready to continue the beautiful walk with stunning views across the golf course, beach, and out over Loch Gairloch. We were all grateful for the beautiful weather and the soaring temperatures (a scorching 12 degrees, hot in Scotland for this time of year). We were all over-clothed and feeling the heat, we went in search of an ice cream/ice lolly/popsicle. The coastal village of Gairloch has a population of around 750, with schools, local and independent shops, fuel garage/gas station as well as, an incredibly informative museum. After another impressive sunset, dinner was served and the evening was played out by a talented local musician.



Sunset at Loch Gairloch
Sunset at Loch Gairloch, Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography


Our return journey back to Edinburgh was very smooth, limited traffic and beautiful views. Stopping again at Taste of Perthshire for a comfort and refreshment break.


The area of Wester-Ross is stunningly beautiful! I can't wait to return.


Have you visited the area of Wester-Ross in Scotland? What was your highlight?


Until next time..Happy Travels,

Michelle








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