A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 24 August 2009


North of Glenelg, and beyond Strathcarron and Lochcarron, there's an innocent-looking road to your left signposted 'Applecross'. But the heart beats slightly faster when you read the sign's small print: 'unsuitable for caravans and learner drivers, not to be attempted in wintry conditions...' This is the notorious Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle), Britain's highest road, and the route which boasts the greatest ascent of any road climb in the UK - winding precipitously from sea level to 2054 ft. It's one of only 2 roads accessing the remote and beautiful Applecross peninsula. I set off up it.

Luckily my car was up to the job. Though the steeply inclined hairpin bends were a little scary, I must admit. I didn't look a deal at the vertical drop on the left hand side but kept my eyes firmly on the road. Which was narrow. It twisted and turned. It was single-track. There were passing places - but some of these were worryingly out of sight, hidden behind the next corner. What if some blasé local van driver hurtled round a bend straight at me? Reversing down a 20% gradient with a 500 ft drop on one side and a jagged, rocky mountain on the other did not appeal. However I survived without major mishap.

Stopping in a small parking area at the top, I got out the car and stomped around. A strong wind lashed mercilessly at my face. I walked up to a small cairn just above the road. From it the view was magnificently wild. The peaks of Meall Gorm (2328 ft) and Sgurr a' Chaorachain (2539 ft) dominated the pass. Further west lay the Isle of Skye with its outer islands of Scalpay, Raasay and Rona. After a further 15 minutes I'd reached the coastal village of Applecross itself and had pitched my tent on one of the most isolated campsites in Scotland. Yes, the whole place, the whole peninsula, was indeed wonderfully remote. But not uncivilized. For later that night in the lively and cheery Applecross Inn I ate one of the best fish suppers I'd ever had in my life.


Val said...

Lovely. Just lovely.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

What great a trek you describe. Glad you survived and were rewarded with such a good supper!

jay said...

It looks just gorgeous!

I used to do those hairy one-track roads without much thought, but these days I'd let someone else take the wheel. Not that I'm a learner, or have an unsuitable car, just that I have two wrecked shoulders and I would worry about the fine manoevring that might be needed if I met something.

Looks like it was worth it though. What a peaceful and beautiful place.

Angus said...

Such a shame you didn't get to walk around the peninsula; having lived here for a while now I believe that whilst the road is interesting, there are far more magnificent places to be found on foot. Deserted fishing villages and shielings, precipitous cliffs and crags and of course, solitude. I hope you return some day to immerse yourself in the true beauty of Applecross not just it's roadside splendour.

kimberly said...


TheChicGeek said...

Such beautiful pictures....The land is gorgeous in your part of the world...How fortunate you are to be able to experience the beauty that surrounds you. It always feels so good to get out in nature and have an adventure!

You have a lovely blog :)

Have a Happy Day!

The Solitary Walker said...

Angus - would love to return and see more of the real Applecross, but unfortunately on this trip I hadn't the time. I wanted to get a general flavour of Scotland's western and northern coasts in just 3 weeks - so that left less time than usual for walking. However, I did do quite a lot of walking nevertheless - which you can see from my other posts. I will certainly go back - to Glenelg, to Applecross, and to Sutherland and Caithness, which were superb. (Had a peek at your own blog. How enviable to live in Applecross!)

Chicgeek - welcome to my blog, and thanks for reading!

The Weaver of Grass said...

That fish supper sounds right up my street. Your holiday sounds good too Robert. Love

am said...

Have been following along mostly in silence, not knowing what to say about the deeply affecting beauty of wild Scotland. Am moved to speak after seeing the white house all by itself, a house that reminded me very much of the house R built (but didn't live in) in La Honda, California --a house all by itself in the redwood forest there.