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.