More Scotland


Wester Ross, Scotland

The drive from Skye has everything that is the essence of Scotland: Christmas trees, heather, bracken, lochs and sea and streams, rowan trees, grassy bogs, craggy rocks—all framed by mountains. This is the edge of the Highlands, where long-horned cattle wander across beaches and sheep climb hillocks, and midges swarm round tourists. This is Scotland, and I love it. 

We had rented a studio flat with breakfast near Applecross, and we drove there from Portree on Skye. The road (there seems to be only one) was sometimes single-carriage, sharing space with a railway track that ran between us and a loch (or it might have been the sea—my most-asked question was is this the sea or a lake? and sometimes it was only possible to know if we looked at a map).

The mountains were crossed by the same road, twisting round hair-pin bends, rising above the valley, the occasional (too occasional in my view) barrier to stop cars plummeting down the mountain. Then down the other side, the sheer sides of rock blasted by dynamite long ago on one side, slopes of pink heather blowing in the breeze on the other.

Applecross was little more than a road junction, with a few buildings. We followed the road along the coast, past houses that seemed to have been randomly splattered along the cliff edge, until we reached Spindrift, the flat attached to the owner’s house.

Inside, I walked to the window and stopped. We faced the sea, the sun was shining, and across the water was the island of Rona, with the blue shadows of mountains looming beyond. While I looked, a sheep wandered past the window.

We scrambled down a path (made by sheep I’m guessing) to the beach. There was the tumbled remains of an ancient stone house, and pebbles down to the sea. We walked along, jumping from giant pebble to giant pebble, sometimes detouring to keep our balance when a stone wobbled. After about 200 metres, we arrived at the stone archway, carved by the sea, reaching over a pathway of rocks. We walked into the cold shadow beneath the arch, then out into the sunshine next to the waves. A solitary space.

When we returned to the house, I found my binoculars and scanned the water for whales or dolphins or seals. The waves part and black skin flashes in the sun before gliding back out of sight. I have no idea of perspective, no idea if I am seeing otters or whales, but I am certainly seeing something and that’s exciting enough.

Searching the sea for signs of life. The occasional sheep would wander past the window and stare in at me.

Later, we strolled along the cliff top. Something big and black was in the water—a submarine! We watched it drift away. There were Highland cattle wandering the cliffs, their sharp horns curled like Viking hats. One had a calf, creamy and shaggy and unbelievably cute. Some sheep had settled next to one of the many passing place signs, looking for all the world like they were waiting for a bus. Midges floated around us, but there was a breeze, so we only saw a few and they were only a bother when we stopped walking to look at the view.

This place is perfect, the most beautiful place I have ever visited. The peace is a tangible thing, there are miles in every direction of unspoilt countryside.

When we drove to Applecross for dinner, we could see the jagged mountains of Skye across the water. It is almost more beautiful from here than it was when we stayed there. We ate in The Walled Garden restaurant, where the food wasn’t as nice as the menu, but it was clean and friendly and set in the walled garden of a big house, so the outlook was pretty. I chatted to a couple on the next table, we discussed the beauty of Scotland and the annoyance of midges, and the woman gave me her midge repellent (Smidge) because it was nearly empty and she had plenty more, and because she was very kind.

On the way back to the flat we saw a herd of deer on the hillside, they raised their antlers as we passed and stared back at us, deciding whether to run. Beautiful.

The owner of the property was waiting when we returned, and she gave us warm bread for breakfast tomorrow. She had filled the fridge with salmon and ham and cheese, pots of yogurt and fresh milk. On the shelf was butter and marmalade, sachets of porridge and a bowl of eggs. Tomorrow we will eat salmon and scrambled eggs, with a pot of coffee. The perfection will continue.

Thanks for reading. More of my travels through Scotland in future blogs. If you want to stay at Spindrift, it’s a studio-flat, with a tiny kitchen area (sink, fridge, microwave) a modern bathroom, and a view to die for. Breakfast is provided. (spindrift-applecross.co.uk) We booked it through Airbnb.

Take care. Love, Anne x

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anneethompson.com

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