Saturday 9 June 2012

Road Trip

Ben Stack rising beyond Loch More as I headed NW from Ben Hee

I don’t really like driving. I avoided learning to drive for as long as I could but eventually it became a necessity. Mostly I regard driving as a chore and my interest in cars is limited to having one that works properly most of the time and doesn’t cost too much to run. They’re just tin boxes to take you from A to B. My ideal car would be one where I can tap in my destination then sit back and let the machine take me there while I look out of the window, read, write, sleep or otherwise use my time more usefully than by driving. Unsurprisingly my favourite form of mechanical transport is the train, which I use for every journey I can.

Arkle rising above Loch Stack
Given this, I surprised myself when I decided to drive back from the walk in the NW Highlands described in the last post by a longer than necessary route. Why did I do this? Well, from the top of Ben Hee I could see sunshine out to the west along the coast and an overcast sky to the south and east. Also along the coast was one of the most spectacular and dramatic landscapes in Britain. I knew the shorter drive south east would soon become routine, especially under a blanket of cloud. The coast could be anything but mundane. I had plenty of time and so could drive slowly and stop frequently. The decision was made.

The great buttresses of Quinag

The drive, along the single track A838 to Laxford Bridge and then the slightly wider A894 and A838 to Ullapool, was splendid. These must be two of the most scenic roads anywhere. Most of the route is also on one of my favourite Ordnance Survey maps, Loch Assynt, which mainly shows hills, water and open space. The roads run through the heart of this special land rarely fenced and with mostly wild land to either side. Over every rise and round every bend there are more glories to be seen as mountain succeeds mountain and loch follows loch. And always there is the sea, the end of the land, the margin between the heights and the depths.

Ardvreck Castle, Loch Assynt and Quinag


The drive to Ullapool took half a day. I stopped frequently to stare at the hills and lochs and take photographs. There was a brisk NW wind that kept the air sharp and clear with no haze. There were clouds speeding across the sky but the sun shone often and the colours of land and water were amazingly bright. Picture postcard perfect in fact. And that’s what the photos show. All taken during the afternoon with the sun high in the sky there are no dramatic magic hour low sun shots or moody side lighting. But on a day like this that overhead light was fine, showing the landscape in all its finery and detail. All the photos were taken either from the roadside or no more than ten minutes stroll away.

Ben More Coigach and Ardmair Bay

Ten minutes after leaving Ullapool heading east I left the sun behind and the world turned grey. Soon drizzle was falling. Colour had left the land. I still had 100 miles to go. I didn’t mind. For once a road trip had been worthwhile in itself.

Ullapool - time for ice cream


  1. Ardmair Point our favorite place in the world - thanks for bringing it to us

  2. Some super pictures. As you say picture postcard perfect.

  3. Fantastic photos, much better than my camera phone could manage when I was up there!!.

  4. lovely post chris. I hope to be up there in september

  5. Tony and I were recalling several fabulous trips to NW Highlands staying at Kylesku right under Quinag. Your blog and fabulous photos make us wish we were there now!

  6. Couldn't agree more about cars, Chris. My sole ambition is to keep mine for as long as it lasts and at the minimum cost legislation and safety considerations will allow.

    You're right, though; now and again you do happen upon a stretch of road worth driving. Great article and shots again.

  7. Beautiful pics,
    These places are looking perfect for camping, I wish to go there once with my family.