Gairloch in North-West
IV.Guide to Gairloch and Loch Maree
Chapter VII.Poolewe to Aultbea
LEAVING Poolewe we follow the county road over Poolewe bridge, behind
Pool House, and along the shore of the bay that forms the head of Loch
Ewe. Notice the picturesque pool in which the River Ewe joins Loch Ewe,
so- much finer than the usual muddy estuary of an east coast river.
After passing on the right the Londubh or Inverewe burial-ground and the
home of James Mackenzie at Kirkton (referred to in the last chapter), we
cross a small burn. This forms the march or boundary between the estates
of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, Bart, of Gairloch, and his half-brother Mr
Osgood H. Mackenzie of Inverewe. Since the parish of Gairloch was entered
at Luibmhor, near the west end of Loch Rosque, we have been on the
territory of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
On the right is Srondubh, with a few
trees, and by it the farm buildings of the home farm in connection with
Inverewe House. The road skirts along well cultivated arable land until
the Inverewe plantations are reached.
Inverewe House was erected by Mr
Osgood H. Mackenzie in 1865. It is beautifully situated in a northern
recess of the bay at the head of Loch Ewe, in the shelter of a rocky
headland called Ploc-ard. The house has a Highland character; it faces due
south, and commands a fine view of Beinn Aridh Charr. To the south the
summits of the distant Gairloch mountains and the rocky ranges of Craig
Tollie and Cliff Hill, with the mouth of the River Ewe and the bay at the
head of Loch Ewe in the foreground, form an enchanting picture. From the
village of Poolewe the housesurrounded as it is with planted woods now
well grownis a pleasing object. There are walks in these woods, and
separate sea-bathing places for ladies and gentlemen. There is the best
anchorage for yachts of the largest size close to the house.
Inverewe gardens are wonderfully attractive, yielding as they do exquisite
flowers nearly all. the year round. The following remarks about these
gardens are from one of a series of letters from the Highlands which
appeared in the Times in the autumn of 1883:-
"Thanks to genial winters,
from the softening influence of the Gulf Stream, ornamental gardening
richly repays one in those sheltered situations that slope to the
sea-arms. The most enchanting spot in that way which I have seen is the
garden of Inverewe, on Loch Ewe, rented at present by Lord Fitzwilliam.
The garden was laid out by the proprietor, Mr Osgood Mackenzie, whose
taste must be as unimpeachable as his knowledge of flowers. The gardens
form a terraced amphitheatre, shelving gently towards the Loch, and backed
up by the hanging woods, which have only been recently planted.
Fruit-trees, but a very few years old, are already loaded with plums,
The low stone walls
that front the earth-banks are covered with many of the rarer creepers,
some of them almost semi-tropical, with luxuriant myrtles just bursting
into flower, and with clusters of roses of wonderful size. But what is
most remarkable is the marvellous vividness of the colours in such
brightly tinted flowers as crimson roses and scarlet gladioli. The warm
damp seems to give a brilliancy to the tints which I have never seen
either in England or in southern Europe."
The highroad now takes an
easterly course, and, passing young plantations; soon comes in sight of
Loch-nan-Dailthean. Here is Tournaig, the residence of the Dowager Lady
Mackenzie of Gairloch, with its beautiful little garden, described in the
Times letter just quoted, as follows :
"Even more noteworthy, perhaps,
is the less pretentious garden at Mr Mackenzie's pretty cottage of Tournaig, situate two miles inland. There, a mere pit in the heather,
which must have originally resembled a stone quarry, has been turned,
chiefly by blasting, into a little fairyland of leafy luxuriance and
gorgeous colouring, though where the plants find soil to strike their
roots is a puzzle. As for the
cabbages, in their swelling
proportions they are rather like balloons than ordinary vegetables. And it
must be a piquant experience to stroll of a morning among flower-beds that
recall the beauties of Bellagio or the Isola Bella, and afterwards to go
out ptarmigan shooting or deer-stalking on some of the most storm-beaten
hills in the whole breadth of the Highlands."
About half a mile beyond
the head of Loch nan Dailthean, and a mile south from Tournaig, is the
pretty natural wood called Coille Aigeascaig, whose charms are celebrated
in Alexander Cameron's song, given in Part II., chap, xxiii.
There is a
small cave among the hills two miles due east from Tournaig. It is called
Uamh Mhic 'ille Rhiabhaich, or "the cave of Mac Gille Riabhaich." The cave
is close to a loch bearing the same name, on which are two small islands,
one of which seems to have been a stronghold. An account of Mac Gille
Riabhaich, who lived in this cave, is given in Part I., chap. viii.
one of the fields at Tournaig is a place where the natives in the old days
used to bleed living cattle landed here from the Hebrides (Part II., chap.
At Tournaig the road bends to the left, and passes the Tournaig
farm buildings, where lives Alexander Cameron, the farm manager, who is a
Gaelic poet (Part II., chap, xxiii.). The branch of Loch Ewe which
approaches Tournaig is called Loch Tournaig.
In Loch Tournaig is a small
peninsular headland, on the north side of the Inverewe Point called the
Dunan (see illustration). This headland is insulated at high spring-tides.
On it a dun, or fort, is said to have formerly stood, but tradition does
not say who held it. There are many loose stones on the top, though no
traces of walls or foundations can be found. The strongest evidence that
this was the site of a fort or other similar place, is found in the large
and regularly placed stepping-stones which connect it with the mainland.
The now superfluous height of these stones seems to point to their having
been placed there when the sea was at a higher level.
From Loch Tournaig
the road ascends, and has a devious and rather tedious course, until
Drumchork is reached. At one point on the way is a peep of the well-known
form of the Storr rock in Skye; and further on a burn is crossed, which is
the march in this direction between the estates of Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie
and Mrs Liot Bankes. The western shore of Loch Ewe is well seen, with its
townships of crofts. Loch Ewe is a fine expanse of water, opening due
north to the Atlantic. Isle Ewe soon comes fully in view, with its little
settlement towards the nearer end; whilst in the far distance may be seen,
beyond the north-eastern extremity of the North Point and above the mouth
of Loch Ewe, the northern parts of the Long Island, or at least of that
part which is in the county of Ross, and is called "the Lews." Sometimes
the three summits behind Stor-noway may be distinctly discerned.
Drumchork, which is nearly seven miles from Poolewe, comprises a
commodious shooting-lodge some way up the hillside (now leased by Mr C. E.
Johnston), and nearer the road, on the right-hand side, a square of farm
buildings, erected about 1880 on the site of the old house of Drumchork.
This place, as well as the village of Aultbea, and the territory on both
sides of the following road, including the whole of the Green Stone Point
(except Mellon Charles, which is Sir Kenneth's), is the property of Mrs
Liot Bankes. Her estate extends westward from here to a burn on Slioch,
where it marches with Sir Kenneth's estate. Towards the north her property
is bounded by the sea, and then by the Meikle Gruinard river; thus it
extends beyond the parish of Gairloch; it may be said to include all the
parts of the parish up to Slioch lying to the north-east of Loch Maree,
the River Ewe, and Loch Ewe, except Mellon Charles and the Inveran beat
belonging to Sir Kenneth, and except the estate of Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie.
The latter extends northwards and eastwards to Fionn Loch and the summit
of Beinn Aridh Charr. The road turns off, to the left, just below
Drumchork, to the village of
This village comprises an inn and post-office, and at some distance a
large Free church and manse, with a stable where horses that have brought
people from a distance to attend church can be put up. It may be said to
comprise the hamlets or townships of Aultbea, Bad-fearn, Tighnafaoilinn,
and Cuilchonich, which cover about a square mile.
The name Aultbea
signifies " the birch burn," but there are not many birches there now. The
burn runs into the sea close behind the inn. The county road at present
terminates here. The bay is formed by the Point of Aird, the channel
between which and Isle Ewe is barely half a mile across, and affords safe
anchorage. Here stands Aird House, occupied by Mr Muir. It was erected by
the Mackenzies of Gruinard, and was the residence of that family for some
The inn is old-fashioned, but sufficient for bachelors who do not
object to roughing it a little. The landlord, Mr Forbes, is most civil and
obliging; and excellent angling, both in Loch Ewe and on some good
fresh-water lochs, can be had by those staying at the inn. Mr Forbes can
also provide a good horse and trap, and can arrange for the voyage from
Laide to Ullapool suggested in Part IV., chap, ii., as a mode of exit from
Gairloch. The hand-line fishing accessible from Aultbea, and the lythe
trolling round the north end of Isle Ewe, are probably the best in
One of the two Gairloch policemen is stationed at
The road beyond Aultbea to Laide, and thence forward to
Gruinard, has been put in excellent order by Mrs Liot Bankes, through
whose property it passes. This and the branch roads are described in Part
IV., chap. xii.
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