Sunday, 6 August 2017

Gairloch

Baosbheinn and Beinn Alligin from Gairloch pier
We had agreed to take a cottage in Gairloch for a week so that I could join John as he walked some of the more remote corbetts as he approached the end of his corbett round. It would also give us chance to renew acquaintance with this west coast hotspot that has become a destination for retirement and holidays in recent years. My aim was to walk 4 corbetts with John and 2 munros that I still needed to finish my current round. The weather forecasts were not encouraging and so it proved.

After a long day in the Letterewe hills in the rain on Sunday, we visited the National Trust Inverewe Gardens on the Monday and explored Gairloch including the beach at Big Sand. The gardens, famous for the rhododendrons and plants found in warmer climes were splendid. The garden was established in the 1860's  by Osgood MacKenzie, whose father was the Laird of Gairloch. The garden sits above the south facing bay where the gulf stream dupes them to believing that they are not in Scotland. There are numerous trails that allow an exploration of the specimen trees and glimpses of rocky headlands and intimate bays. Within the garden are stands of giant american redwoods as well as Japanese gardens, and a walled garden that hosts plants from around the globe.

The house is a South African inspired design built by his daughter, Marie Sawyer, after the original baronial style house burnt down in the 1920's. The oak panelling was produced by the Glasgow shipyards that fitted out the ocean liners and the national trust volunteers gave a good summary of the history of the house, the estate and how it had been based upon Essex wealth. The original owners involvement in hunting, shooting and fishing were evident in all the artefacts.

The next day we made a visit to Red Point, I had not been here since the 1970's when I worked for Ross and Cromarty on a survey of tourism activities. The beaches were quiet on a day visited by more showers than people. It was the random development of houses along the 10 mile long single track road that surprised me. Highland Council have always been fairly relaxed about allowing development but it has not added to the landscape quality or done much to support quality housing. The original stone built crofts, many now derelict, fit more easily into the wild landscape and have a timeless quality that most of the new properties fail to achieve.

On other days we drove to Aultbea and made local walks to waterfalls and lochans, walked along the fine local beaches and watched a golden eagle fend off an attack from thirty or so seagulls. There is a fine bookshop in Gairloch attached to the Mountain coffeeshop. Meanwhile the constant stream of motorbikes and motor homes reminded us that the heavily promoted North Coast 500 by the Scottish Tourist Board had ruined the reclusive peace that was once the main attraction of Scotland's north west villages

Poolewe from Inverewe gardens
View across the bay from Inverewe Gardens


Torridons from Big Sand at Gairloch
Baosbheinn from our cottage
Beach at Red Point
Croft ruins at Red Point
Raasay from Red Point

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