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Gairloch in North-West Ross-Shire
Part IV.—Guide to Gairloch and Loch Maree

Chapter II.—Approaches and Roads


HERE are four approaches to Gairloch by road.

1. From Achnasheen.

This is indeed the mode of entering Gairloch by road most generally adopted. The traveller usually reaches Achnasheen by rail. No time-tables will be given in this book. Trains, steamers, and mail-cars run at different times, and those times are liable to continual variations. The traveller should consult the printed time-bills issued from time to time, and which may always be seen at the hotels. The route from Achnasheen is described in our next chapter. It has many advantages. It avoids the uncertainties of a sea-voyage, and is worked in connection with the trains on the Highland Railway.

2. From Loch Carron.

A new road has been made from Achnashellach, leading from the main Loch Carron road through the Coulin forest, past Loch Coulin, to Kenlochewe. This road is strictly private. It passes through magnificent scenery, but as it is not available to the ordinary tourist it is not necessary to describe it here.

3. From Loch Torridon.

There is a road from Loch Torridon (described in Part IV., chap. viii.) by which Kenlochewe may be reached. This road enters Gairloch parish about six miles from Kenlochewe. Drive from Strathcarron to Shieldaig of Applecross, where there is a humble inn, and proceed thence on foot, or horseback, or by boat to the head of Loch Torridon. There is a right-of-way up the loch side to Torridon, and part of it is a good road. There is no difficulty in procuring a boat at Shieldaig. This approach to Gairloch not only includes the scenery of Glen Torridon, but also that of Glen Shieldaig, which is very fine, and well worth seeing. The route is strongly recommended. There is no hotel at Torridon, nor is there any service of steamers into Loch Torridon. Those travelling in a yacht will find it a pleasant expedition to visit Loch Maree and the adjacent parts of Gairloch from Loch Torridon. All who enter Gairloch by this route must walk from Torridon to Kenlochewe, unless conveyances have been previously ordered to meet them at Torridon.

4. From Gruinard and the North.

The estate road between Gruinard and Aultbea having now been rendered passable by carriages, there is no reason why it should not be used as a means of ingress or egress to or from Gairloch parish. The principal difficulty in the way is, that there is no bridge over the Meikle Gruinard river, and it cannot always be forded. A minor difficulty, not however of much importance, is that a quarter of a mile of private road between the ford on that river and the commencement of the county road near Gruinard House is in a very bad state. The best method of using this route as an approach to Gairloch, is either to walk it, taking the ferry-boat across the Meikle Gruinard river, or else to drive to that river in a conveyance hired from Garve or from the Dundonell Inn at the head of Loch Broom, and to have another conveyance from the river to Aultbea, Poolewe, or Gairloch, as may be desired,—the second conveyance to be ordered beforehand from the hotel at one of the last named places. The distances are given in the " Tables of distances." Of course if this route be selected for leaving Gairloch, the conveyance for the road north of Gruinard must be ordered beforehand. The route from Garve need not be described here. The last part lies over Fain Mor, or Feithean Mor, to Dundonell and Little Loch Broom, and thence forward to Gruinard. The road from Gruinard to Aultbea is described in Part IV., chap. xii. When a bridge is erected over the Meikle Gruinard river this route will no doubt become popular. It reveals some grand scenery.

Besides these approaches by road there is Mr David Macbrayne's service of west coast steamers, by which a large number of tourists arrive at and depart from the Gairloch pier during each summer. Gairloch is reached from Oban in one day, and the arrangements are so complete that you may even visit Skye from Gairloch and have eight hours in that interesting island, returning the same day. I have myself done this.

There is an approach to Gairloch which is sometimes adopted, and has its charms in settled weather. It is to take a boat from Ullapool to Laide, where, by previous arrangement, a conveyance may meet the traveller from one of the inns or hotels in Gairloch parish, of which Aultbea is the nearest. Of course this route may be also used as an egress from Gairloch, by previously arranging for a boat to be ready at Laide. With a favourable breeze the part of the journey on the water is delightful, to those who are good sailors, affording as it does magnificent views of the mountainous coast and of the Summer Isles. The great drawback is the uncertainty. I remember once leaving Aultbea, after an early breakfast, walking to Laide, and owing to a dead calm not reaching Ullapool until 9 p.m.

The pedestrian who is able to take advantage of the rougher roads not traversable by carriage, and the canoeist who, in summer weather, can explore any part of the coast at his pleasure, will find other means of entering Gairloch. Our map will shew all that is needed.

The roads within the parish of Gairloch are named in the "Tables of distances," which state also their condition. The main road from Achnasheen to Kenlochewe, Talladale, Gairloch, Poolewe, and Aultbea, which is maintained by the county, is usually in a good state of repair, and even the man on wheels—the bicyclist or tricyclist —will find this road yields him easy running. The great drawback is the steep hills, or "braes" as they are called, which have to be surmounted. These are for the most part unavoidable, though in one or two cases the gradients might be still further improved. The estate and private roads are also generally kept in good order. They are included in the "Tables of distances," which specify the parts where carriages will find it rough travelling.

Loch Maree is itself a sort of highway, and boats may generally be hired at Kenlochewe, Talladale, or Poolewe to traverse its length. But now that the little steamer plies on Loch Maree the tour of the loch is greatly facilitated. (See Part IV., chap, xiii.)


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