When we had arrived at Applecross yesterday the place was in full flow, with tourist cars filling the Applecross Inn carpark and parked all down the narrow street in front of the row of houses facing the water, so there was nowhere to put Thebus. Continuing on down the road - not having much choice in the matter as there was nowhere to turn - I eventually came to the Fire Station, really just a largish shed with a bit of a forecourt in front which at least gave enough space for us to turn round, so we headed back and at the very first house there was just about enough space to squeeze Thebus in. Not liking to take anyone’s parking space I knocked at the house door to check. It was ajar and I was cheerfully called in. The two guys inside said that it wouldn’t be a problem especially when I said I was just intending to stay for a meal rather than the night.
When they saw Thebus they also said - My God, you didn’t come over the pass in that did you? - as I had really not done a lot of research before arriving, simply having taken the road to Applecross when I saw the sign I wasn’t sure where I had come, but they assured me that the Applecross Pass would be far too narrow and crumbly at the edges for Thebus
Thinking that if this “pass” was no good for us, and not wanting to retrace the rather long coast road to get back to the turning of last night I decided to head on past the Applecross Inn again and ask at the Post Office -j I had spotted a sign opposite the Fire Station last night. Fortunately for us there was room at the Post Office to turn, as the guy there informed me that there were only two ways out of Applecross, either back the way I had come, or over the pass, known in Gaelic as the Bealach na Ba which means the pass of the cattle, and locally just called the Bealach.
I didn’t want to take silly risks, but by the same token it was a long way back using the coast road, and the pass was actually heading in the direction I wanted to go. His wife seemed dubious about my taking the Bealach route, but he said the way I had pulled into their carpark I would be fine. So the Bealach na Ba it was to be.
In the event everyone on the pass seemed to be coming towards me, so it did make the driving more difficult. Thebus was too long to get into any of the passing places, so it was always me that had to do the manouvering, a bit hairy, especially with no off-side kerb mirror, and no passenger to give me advice as to how close I was to the crumbling edges of the potholed road which disappeared off into nowhere
To add to my difficulties most of the motorists seemed to be travelling in groups, and getting past four or five vintage cars at one time made things even more tricky. The worst bit was when a BMW, instead of staying where he was and I might have had a chance of getting past, pulled right on down into the next passing place, forcing me first of all to come to a complete stop, then not only having a really stiff hill start but needing to pull over to the outside edge in order to get past him, which was not helped by the fact he hadn’t even pulled in as far as he might to the hillside, presumably in thoughts of getting his car dirty. At least he had the grace to get out and signal me through, as I had no hope of seeing how close my offside wheels were to the edge. Though whether it was for my benefit, or whether he was worried about my getting to close to his pride and joy I am not sure.
Anyway we survived and made it to the top, where I had a short breather in the carpark before tackling the downwards side with the worst of the hairpin bends. You can walk on up to the summit from the carpark, but it looked too far for me to countenance.
Though there were wonderful far reaching views on the way down I was concentrating too much on the road ahead and approaching traffic on the hairpins to see anything much than just occasional glimpses, though I was lucky that not much traffic seemed to be coming towards me when we did reach the worst of the haipins. Even having taken them extra wide involved me backing up a couple of times to actually make it round. So there was little chance to take in the scenery and as for stopping to photograph anything - that was completely out of the question. But I have raided Wikipedia for some free access photographs.
This is a good bit with crash barriers and well marked edges, though you can see it is only on the bends it widens out, and the forshortening means the steepness of the incline is not all that apparent.
So after a more exciting drive than I would have really liked, we were down at the bottom and not too far from Kishorn, where I had heard good reports of the Seafood Shack, now painted a fetching seaside blue and renamed the Seafood Bar
This is not my image, but is 'borrowed' from their own website, though I am sure they won't mind. My photos of it disappeared in the laptop virus fiasco.
I chose the Scallops in Garlic served with a croissant, as it was still late morning and that had a breakfasty ring to it. It was tasty and interesting, the scallops cut into pieces and served in a small ramekin with a warm croissant on the side. Then, as I hadn’t breakfasted and it was now getting close to lunch I decided to try the Squat Tailed Lobsters, which are like prehistoric shrimps, not all that much meat in them, and a lot of ‘cracking’ to get it out, but nice and tasty. Apparently they don’t travel well, so are only available close to where they have been caught.
The place got quite busy as lunchtime came round, so I shared my table with a guy who lived locally but had come to meet his sister who had just arrived on the train for a visit. And a most interesting chat we all had while they had some seafood, waiting for the local bus to take them on to their destination, it appeared he was not in favour of Scotland splitting from the rest of the UK, which was apparently not a view shared by the proprietor of the establishment.
Having enjoyed my meal and chat I then drove on taking the road which would lead me to the Skye bridge, and passed through Lochcarron - this has to be Scottish 'suburbia' at its best. The most attractive local bank was closed, but looked as though it was still functioning as a bank, at least I hoped it was as I posted a couple of cheques in through the letterbox - and how many banks in England can you do that anymore?
Then filling up with LPG at the local station and getting a few supplies at the obligatory attached shop I asked about parking, as there were many signs along the lochside forbidding overnight stopping, but was told that I would be fine at this time of year, and also that the signs had been put to prevent an ongoing problem with the some of the travelling community, setting up camp in caravans for weeks at a time to pick cockles and whelks. But I still made sure I was well away from the centre of the town, and spotting a long layby with a Kirk on one side and a golf links on the other we pulled over for the night, and although it was a main road there was little or no traffic to disturb us throughout the night.
I have only recently found out that the word ‘links’ refers to the type of grass and playing qualities of a course, rather than the way it is set out, and comes from the old word hlinc, meaning high rising ground with particular reference to sand dunes, and so predates the game of golf. This type of land tends to support brown topped bents and red fescue grasses, which make for a hard, fast playing surface, demanding more accuracy from the players.
That evening poor Phoebe, as usual wanted to head to the very middle of the carriageway to ‘do what she had to do’, but as the road ran for an incredibly long distance on a level plain next to the sea loch I kept seeing headlights in the distance and hauled her back in. And it took me until very early the next morning when she really HAD to go, to realise that there would be sufficient time, and she was not in danger of being run over. Getting up at about four, without thinking I just opened the door and there was a veritable stampede of startled deer feeding on the tasty short turf of the golf links.
When I had asked about where to visit in the area I was told I simply MUST go to Plockton, as it was a place not to be missed, and looking on the internet there were several restaurants with fine quality shellfish on the menus, so we duly headed to in that direction