12 In travel/ uk

highland fling: postcards from scotland

i fall in love with every place we visit and scotland was no exception.

okay, so we also had a sweet van (1) to cruise around in, and some stunning weather that really did show us the highlands at their finest.

about an hour after we left the pick-up point in our van florence, i realised there was no way we would be able to stick to the original itinerary. the old vw just can’t be hurried (top speed was about 55mph – that’s downhill with a tailwind – cruising speed about 40mph) and so plans had to be changed in order to adopt a slow travelling style. slow travel turned out to be the theme for the week!

first stop: food. and (thanks to the power of teh internets) we found a great farm shop (2) not far from our starting point. we picked up some locally smoked salmon, fresh trout pate, scottish cheese, oatcakes and two loaves of freshly baked (still warm) bread. so delicious that we ate almost half a loaf straight away.

the jacobite
our first full day we spent taking the jacobite steam train from fort william to mallaig (3).

this railway journey has been voted best in the world a couple of years running now and is the journey that the hogwarts express train takes in the harry potter movies. it crosses the beautiful glenfinnian viaduct (pictured above) as part of the journey. have a look out for it next time you watch one of the movies…

the jacobite
we had stunning weather and breathtaking scenery the whole way.

arriving at mallaig, we wandered out to the harbour where the skyline bristles with fishing boat masts and colourful reflections dance on the water.

mallaig

mallaig - looking towards isle of skye
and there are wonderful views out towards the isle of skye

fush and chups
(in a place like this, fish & chips were definitely required for lunch)

kippers by post

the next part of our journey took us over one of the most amazing roads i’ve ever travelled: the bealach nam bo, or bealach na ba (depending on who you ask). all my photographs from this road were taken out the window as nic navigated the steep and windy roads – no places to stop and far too steep to coax florence into a hill start!

bealach na ba - the pass of the cattle

bealach na ba - the pass of the cattle

The Bealach nam Bo (the pass of the cattle) is an old drove road used in past times to take cattle to the market.  The coast road was completed in 1975, and prior to this, the coastal townships were only accessible by foot path or by sea. The Bealach nam Bo is the highest pass in Scotland at 626m (2053 feet) above sea level.  The road incorporates a number of hairpin bends and is unsuitable for learner drivers, caravans or those of a nervous disposition. (4)

bealach na ba - the pass of the cattle

we ended up at the campsite at applecross (5), where plans changed again as we realised it was far too beautiful there to stay only one night and our second full day was full of exploring the applecross area on foot.

applecross inn

walled garden, applecross

scottish highlands

being checked=

tuesday we packed up again and took the low road around the coast from applecross to the tiny northern lights campsite (6) overlooking little loch broom.

northern lights campsite, little loch broom

then following day, after a hearty breakfast of porridge with cream & brown sugar (in honour of my maternal grandmother), we trundled on again to the summer isles located on the Coigach Peninsula. here, i could have stayed forever.

coigach peninsula

higland cattle - havin' a scratch

polbain stores, coigach peninsula

it’s a tiny part of scotland with only about 80-100 residents all year round. according to the chap who runs the polbain stores (7), when the tourists are away, the locals get rowdy down at the local hall and have been known to have quite the party in the off-season. guess they have to do something to keep warm!

croft grown salads, coigach peninsula

badentarbat bay, coigach peninsula

we had dinner booked at the local summer isles hotel (8): it boasts lovely views across the summer isles, a michelin starred restaurant and a whisky nook. we thought we’d give florence a night off, and managed to get a great deal on the last room they had available – in the annex, with a nest of baby swallows just outside the door. perfect!

summer isles hotel, coigach peninsula

swallow & babies, summer isles hotel
(don’t their little beaks and tufty heads remind you of muppets?)

thursday morning, we hopped on a boat at Badentarbat Bay (9) that took us on a leisurely ride around the summer isles, stopping to look at seals and caves along the way, before landing on the only inhabited island called tanera mor for lunch. the place has its own stamps, so i purchased some to send the postcards i’d written to family & friends along the way.

badentarbat bay, coigach peninsula

postcards from tanera mor

friday was our last day in the camper and i have to say that, after the summer isles, our night on the shores of loch ness was pretty average. the glens are beautiful but the lake itself didn’t really appeal. plus we didn’t see nessie, so there’s not really anything to show from there.

with love to you wherever you are,
leonie
p.s. more photos up on flickr. comments welcome and appreciated.

FOOTNOTES:

  1. cheers to mr. petherick for this phrase. the van mentioned was rented from escape campers
  2. fencebay farm shop. go there! well worth a visit. delicious smoked fish, pate, cheeses and BREAD. try the bread.
  3. the jacobite
  4. Source: The Applecross Peninsula; A tour of the peninsula
  5. applecross campsite
  6. northern lights campsite
  7. polbain stores
  8. summer isles hotel
  9. summer isles cruises
  • Karen Travels
    13/09/2010 at 00:45

    Why am I just now seeing these pictures?!! I am envious!! I am applying to a teacher exchange in the UK….this post makes me hope I actually get in!!

  • Amy
    26/08/2010 at 21:26

    Huge smiles with every word and photo. And thank you so very, very much for listing in detail where you went, where you bought the yummy food, what road you traveled… because someday, if I am able, I would love to visit those places. =)

  • Francesca
    23/08/2010 at 17:18

    Gorgeous photos! I love those muppetty birds :-) And I want to go on that train! Beautiful! xo

  • katherine
    23/08/2010 at 16:37

    It’s at the top of my wishlist…one day. Until I can, I’m enjoying it through your beautiful photos! Love the coo and the boat bench and the postcards (you really do send postcards from…)! :)

  • Swirly
    23/08/2010 at 15:03

    LOVE the bench in an upturned boat!

  • Catherine
    23/08/2010 at 08:23

    I love the photo of the boats reflected in the water… and the old boat standing against the wall. We didn’t get to that part of Scotland, just drove up the west to Fort William and then across past Loch Ness which I agree is fairly ordinary (though I have some great pics of Urquhart Castle)
    A week and a half in Scotland wasn’t enough to see everything I wanted to see – hope to get back some day.

  • Mel
    22/08/2010 at 18:57

    I love Scotland, my favourite bit is the Wester Ross area and Loch Broom. We have stayed a few times in Leckmelm near Ullapool and Ceilidh Inn in Ullapool is our second home. I am going to retire to Scotland one day. Lovely photos and it looks like you had a fab time.

    Melxo

  • Angie
    22/08/2010 at 18:57

    Such beautiful, beautiful photos! I feel like I’ve been there with you too now :) x

  • Carol
    22/08/2010 at 18:22

    I absolutely adore Scotland and seeing these photos causes me to miss my beloved cousin & Scotland. Beautiful photos!

  • bella
    22/08/2010 at 15:16

    Breathtaking! Scotland is so beautiful from your view.
    -and thank you for sharing your links! i’m very interested in the northern lights campsite for when i visit. xo

  • Tara Bradford
    22/08/2010 at 14:00

    Leonie, I see you’re no longer afraid of that camera! Gorgeous, gorgeous photos! Well done, you! Looks like you had a fantastic time. xo

  • Susannah
    22/08/2010 at 13:56

    oh wow, your photos make me want to explore my country a bit more! xxx