23rd May (day 19)
Having sampled the delights of the Oban Distillery single malt last night (plus a pint or two!) I was now regretting ringing Neil from the Coulin Estate last night to book a morning’s trout fishing on Loch Bharranch. I had arranged to meet Simon one of the estate workers at 10:00am Lochside. It turns out his wife was the chef at the Kinlochewe Hotel, good job the food was excellent. Before going on, just a note about Kinlochewe CC site if you stay there – don’t park under the trees, as these are like Picadilly Circus for midges. Try and get in the open. T’internet is non-existent really and whilst I thought the Kinlochewe Hotel was a good idea after finishing our meal to go and get the laptop to update the blog, it was not a good idea. Everybody had the same idea! Could have written a letter and posted it and it would have got wherever quicker. I tried to upload images etc. but just ended up wasting battery time (which I forgot to replenish back at the site after the beer and whisky!). Lesson learned. Might look into a spare laptop battery if we are going to do more wild camping.More information on the Kinlochewe site – just before we set off a butcher, baker and candlestick maker van arrived on site tooting his horn, Janette shot off like she was competing in the 100mtr olympic dash, and won! Fresh veg, fresh meat, bread, milk and even the obligatory ‘Tunnocks’ caramel biscuits (which must be eaten on this tour) could all be purchased off the van. We saw him later in the week in another village or two showing off his wares so if you are in this area ask around for when the ‘Kenneth Morrison’ van will be around.
Anyway, I ramble. On to the fishing. The wind was starting to rise so I knew I had to get going, Simon pointed out the best spots but really they would be governed by the wind. Working my way around the small loch the best was early on, had two small trout when the wind was not so strong and was behind me. Both trout took a Greenwell’s wet on the dropper and pretty quick on the take after the flies hit the water (dry fly on the point). Nothing else, and 2 hours later was back in Hilma warming up with some minestrone soup.
We were now heading in the direction of Applecross made famous by Monty Hall’s BBC2 television programme. I remember a week ago whilst we were proud of ourselves for negotiating the Kyle of Tongue loch side road (not part of the NC 500) someone saying that he has no fear of ‘any road’ now having negotiated the Applecross route. What were we in for? We have not read any guides, we had looked at the North Coast 500 website but mostly just doing this on the fly so to speak.
Getting to Applecross coming down from Kinlochewe was a piece of cake. Yes, single track roads with passing places (as are lots on this route – more on that later) but nothing to write home about. About 4:00pm we started to look for a spot to park up before Applecross as we thought it might be ‘rammed’ judging by all the other campervans and motorhomes we were passing. We found a lovely spot overlooking the ‘Inner Sound’ across to the Isle of Rona and the Isle of Rassay with the Isle of Skye behind them (N 57.27 853, W 5.51 745). Low cloud across the sound gave it an eerie feel.
24th May (day 20)
We wake up to miserable weather, drizzle and low cloud. In a funny way though it has a weird kind of beauty, I guess it is the fact that it is a different wet and drizzle from your own back garden. Breakfasted we drove to Applecross – a stunning beach estuary and in hindsight there did seem to be plenty of places to wild camp around the bay, but hey, we are always finding somewhere new and we were more than happy with where we stayed last night. Always time to come back. Applecross did seem a bit touristy but with a decent pub, nice looking café and stunning views what else could be expected. Did see another motor-homer emptying his black waste down the public loos and wasn’t really sure what to think. Never having been in that position (which could have been on of desperation, I don’t know) as we have always gone to a campsite and paid our dues for that. What really upset me though was he was using the public tap outside the loos to clean his cassette. Now I didn’t see any signs saying this was why the tap was there, there may well have been, and if so I hold up my hand and apologise. I just couldn’t help thinking about the cross contamination if walkers, cyclists, etc. needed some fresh water. Rant over, but if anyone knows that this is OK at Applecross let me know and I will correct the blog.
Not much for us to do at Applecross as we had quite a drive to get somewhere near the finish of the NC 500</a>. Little did I know the words of the chap saying he had ‘no fear of any road’ having done the Applecross section, would come back to haunt me.Neearrrgghhh – what a nerve jangling drive, definitely not one for the faint hearted or anything longer than about 8 metres I would think. We climbed out of Applecross admiring the views and thinking what a lovely site if were driving down into the village from this side. Then we kept climbing, and climbing, the road narrowing, cloud enveloped us, and yes, we kept on climbing. A single track road with passing places has been the norm now for plenty of miles on the NC 500, but this was something else. The passing places were shorter and narrower than on the lower roads, with visibility at 50yds this was no laughing matter. Somewhere near the summit (couldn’t tell because of the cloud) I pulled in to a large layby (which made me think it was the summit) for a brief respite. I’m sure in better weather and a clearer picture of the road ahead it might not be as bad as I am making out (wimp that I am) but today was not a good day to be doing this. At one point we were on a bend, stopped 1 foot from the Armco and a very steep drop with 2 rented campervans trying to get past us, I could have swore I heard metal scraping on stones, I know it wasn’t Hilma’s. Eventually after many hairpin bends and stoppages for passing vehicles we dropped out of the cloud breathing a sigh of relief, still a way to go down on the narrow road, but at least I could see the way now and pull over in plenty of time for oncoming vehicles. At the bottom I had to get out contemplate what I had just done, actually best not too, so I quickly got back in Hilma and on we went.
We pulled over on the A896 over about 15 minutes later for lunch at the Kishorn Seafood Bar. This is one of those memorable foody moments that will stay with me forever. I’ll always think of that exhilarating, nerve jangling drive now with the fantastic reviving food we had at the end of it. If you do the 500 you must stop here and try it (that’s if you like seafood). We shared a mixed seafood platter to die for.
Well refreshed we continued on, planning to reach the Muir of Ord which would complete our tour of the NC 500. We came across Lochcarron which looked a place well worth visiting again at some point in the future. The road (which now seemed like a motorway) took us down a massive glen carved out by the ice age towards our final destination.
One final thing to do before the muir of Ord and the finish line – visit another distillery. Because the Glen Ord distillery was so close to our finish line we called in to buy a bottle to celebrate the finishing of the 500 tour.
In comparison to our recent days the countryside was now much greener and verdant, none of the peaty bogs and rough boulder strewn land we had grown accustomed to. It almost felt like a different country, like a culture shock a new beginning, which of course it was. Although the 500 tour was nearly over it really is the start of something new, just what we have yet to find out, but boy I can’t wait for what the future holds for us. We won’t be hanging up the writing just yet as we have a couple of more nights before heading home so we will write a conclusion to this wonderful event in our lives. Janette says she wants to go around again, NOW!We feel privileged to have shared this with all others on the tour and anyone that comes across this blog, we hope you find it interesting and of value. And please, please do try the Applecross route, but perhaps leave it until the end like we did (unless of course you are a seasoned mountain motorhome driver).Bon Voyage – enjoy, you won’t regret it😊