All beautiful countries share this problem – you can’t see Scotland for tourists blocking the best views and roads.
Find unspoilt and less traveled paths with this series of articles on the Secrets of Scotland
If you are looking to go off the beaten track in Scotland, find some places that are not clogged with tourists, turn your back on Loch Ness and Edinburgh and head for the West Coast. As I posted on my blog last week, a lot of the foreign tourists seem to head from Edinburgh up to Loch Ness, then over to Skye. Some of them might journey on further North, but many don’t. The months of July and August are pretty much high season for tourism in UK and it was quiet in the areas that I am going to recommend. Well, perhaps not quiet, but not overrun with people.
To be honest, I find the best months to visit Scotland May and September. Those are the months that we have had the best weather and have found it easier to find a B&B without booking ahead – which you really cannot do in high season if you want a particular hotel or B&B. All of the places on our trip were booked out when we were there.
If you go to the West Coast, you probably will go to Skye, and to be honest you probably should as otherwise EVERYONE you talk to will tell you that you missed the best bit of the country. We visited the homestead of the Mcleods, Dunvegan Castle, had a wander around the castle (with our dog, Daphne in my handbag, Stealth Dog Style). She stayed with the very nice woman at the ticket office of the Seal Boat Trip while we had a whirl in a wee green boat with a bona fide sailor – don’t you think he looked the part?
We stayed at the Marmalade Hotel which was highly recommended on Trip Advisor, and rightly so. It was ideally situated to make the most of the view of the bay, which you can enjoy from either the window of the bedroom (ask for a room with a view) or from the picnic benches in front of the hotel. The hotel staff were very pleasant, the breakfast freshly cooked and delicious. We ate in the hotel in the evening, which was good – again freshly cooked, often local ingredients.
The village of Portree is small, I found it slightly disappointing. Part of the problem, in my opinion, is the bus station/car park in the centre of the village. This is certainly a practical place to have it, but a better use of the space would be a pretty village centre, with trees, benches and perhaps a cafe with tables outside ready to take advantage of the days when the sun shines.
Anyway, enough amateur city planning. Moving onwards from Skye, going North, we drove over the humpbacked bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh, then skirted Loch Carron, a very scenic drive, through the village of Lochcarron. Husband wanted to stop here, but I insisted on driving on as the next destination had been highly recommended – Applecross.
To get there, we had to drive over a mountain pass that rivals the Swiss mountain passes that we have come to know and love. A stunning drive – crisscrossing the mountain to the summit, all the while twisting in our seats to look down at the views across to Skye. The difference between the Swiss passes and this one is the speed at which you can drive. It is all single track road with passing places, which was the reason for the signpost at the bottom of the pass stating No Caravans, and advising that the route is not suitable for novice drivers.
The plateau of the mountain pass offers a 360° view that is impossible to describe. The old mountain pass, named Bealach nam Bo – the Pass of The Cattle – offers some of the most stunning scenery in Scotland. It is breathtaking.
The drive down the other side of the pass is just as hair-raising. As the beach of Applecross Bay comes into view, and the road levels out head for Applecross Gardens, with the Potting Shed Cafe.
The Gardens had been sadly neglected for many years, when in 2001 work began to restore them. The fruits of the proprietor Jon’s labour are abundant and are used in the cafe/restaurant which offers delicious meals and cakes. We had sandwiches and cake as we had an evening meal planned. The panini was delicious, the addition of pesto and dried tomatoes to the parma ham and feta cheese made for a mouthwatering concoction. The scone was so large, that I could not finish it, but one of the best I have tasted.
I am something of a scone aficionado – such a simple cake but so many variations and ways for them to go wrong. Applecross scones were firm yet light and fluffy. The cafe is a delight – unpretentious and simple with honest, good food.
I loved this – a book to record sightings of wild animals in and around Applecross.
Deer on the beach, otters in the bay, and the sweet record left by Megan, from Ireland – Pinemartin – Fluffy