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A tour through inhospitable areas in the Higlands

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Wednesday 18 June, a tour through inhospitable areas in the Higlands

The sea at Ullapool The sea at UllapoolIt looks gloomy when we get up, but at least it is dry. Today we are going to make a tour through the Highlands and we drive first to Ullapool, the largest town on the northern west coast of Scotland. A place where it is reasonably quiet even in high season while there are so many wonderful things to do and see. Boats are quietly floating in Loch Broom now, but once glaciers moved high hills here for more than 70 kilometers, in the days of the ice ages.
House at Rhue Sheep in Strath CanairdWe mainly follow roads that we do not know yet, sideroads that often are deadends. We have made the trip through this area already a few times but it never gets boring; the inhospitability of the area makes it beautiful and we meet more sheep than people. Until the 19th century, many more people lived here, but the landowners discovered that it was cheaper and more profitable to drive away the people (tenants who rented a piece of land) and let them run sheep, a period called the Clearances. Now there are indeed more sheep than people.
Rain at Knockan CliffAt Knockan Crag is a visitor center with information about the area, and especially the geological features of the area. Glaciers have shaped the landscape during the ice ages into what it is today: the hard rocks are left over like mountains and hills, the rest is carved into long valleys.
Landscape along the A837 Enjoying the viewAt Ledmore junction we go west again and follow the road through the beautiful landscape. Even the sun occasionally looks past the clouds, but it is not really hot. Occasionally we step out for a short walk, but also from the car we fully enjoy the peace and nature.
Bridge over Oykel RiverThe road follows the Oykel river where occasionally an abandoned hotel or telephone booth is next to or a bridge like in the picture. There is a valley at Rosehall, Glen Cassley, which we have never explored before, so there we go again.
Glencassley Castle, in Glen Cassley Deer in Glen CassleyAnd Teije is quite right (occasionally) to drive into this kind of dead-end roads, because very soon we see on the top of a hill a small castle that is not on any castle map. Private property as clearly indicated. What would it be nice to be able to live in a little castle in such a spot. Occasionally a miserable tourist like us who drives past, but further only rest and lots of animals in the wild. I would have binoculars with me all day.
Glen Cassley Waterfall in Glen CassleyGlen Cassley is quite a long valley, with now and then a waterfall. At the end of the road is a lonely country house although we are closely watched by a car driving into the terrain. People who do not like visitors, that is clear.
Carbisdale Castle, now a youth hostelOn the way back to Beauly we pass by Carbisdale castle, one with ghosts while it is not even that old because it was built between 1906 and 1917. Now it is probably the most chicque youth hostel in the United Kingdom.
We have made a nice trip, but for the people who live and work here it must be difficult to build an existence. Life in Scotland is not cheap, but the more north you come, the more expensive everything becomes because of transport costs. This is certainly the case on the western islands. Also the stories we hear in the pub tell of a hard life in which a lot of work has to be done and existence is always uncertain.


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