On our way to recommence our coastal tour we spent a night at a certified location next to the Inchbae Lodge Hotel at the foot of Ben Wyvis, just north of Garve in the Highlands. Garve sits on the Black Water on the A835 just past Loch Garve. Although we arrived in sunshine and blue skies, the amount of lichen on the nearby trees suggest it is frequently wet.
This did happen overnight and we left in rain the next morning. Back in Garve we took the A832 west through Corriemoillie, Lochluichart, the Grudie power station and Achanalt. The road runs parallel to the railway line to Kyle of Lochalsh. We had had to stop at the level crossing on our way into Garve the day before when the two-coach Scotrail train passed through.
There is a lot of mostly coniferous woodland alongside the road. We stopped at the Midge Bite Café for a coffee in Achnasheen. It was busy with even the police coming in for take away snacks. After that we took the A890 down Glen Carron. There was another level crossing at Balnacra. When we halted at Lochcarron for supplies, the sun was trying to peep through the clouds.
Heading to Applecross we passed Loch Kishorn. The loch is 80 fathoms deep and was used to build exploration platforms for the North Sea oil fields. It began in the 1970s and employed 3,000 people at it’s peak. It since declined but is now known as Kishorn Port and Dry Dock and undertakes work for the renewable energy sector, decommissioning oil and gas and aquaculture.
The Bealach na Bà (pass of the cattle) at 626m is the longest steep hill of any classified road in the UK and the steepest road in Scotland. It runs over the mountains to Applecross and is about five miles from the start in Kishorn to its end. The road was built in 1822 for stalkers to use on the Applecross Estate and was the only road into the town until the coastal road to Shieldaig opened in 1975. It meant that Applecross was one of the most isolated communities in Scotland. Before that the Bealach na Ba was a gravel road and even the CalMac mail boat had nowhere to dock because there was no deep water quay so a rowing boat had to ferry passengers and goods on and off the ship which lay off the slipway near Milltown. We got almost to the summit when it started to snow heavily. The snow gates were open but some people had got stuck so we had to reverse back to a wide bit in order to turn round and descend to take the alternative route. On our way down we pulled in to a passing place to allow the gritter to come down. Apparently, someone got stuck up there overnight. The rain returned and continued for most of our first night in the Applecross campsite. The following morning, we set off in the one dry hour to explore.
We set off along the Beechwood Trail towards the bay and the glen.
The name Applecross is derived from Apur Crossan and has nothing to do with apples. Crossan is the river that flows into the bay near the monastery site.
The small church was built on a monastery at Clachan by the Irish Saint Maelrubha in 673 who sailed over from Ireland in his curragh. Sadly, in 794 and 795 the Vikings destroyed it. Saint Maelrubha is said to be buried here but which grave is his is unknown. The remains of an old chapel are in the graveyard at Clachan.
The church building here was constructed in 1817.
The nearby Heritage Centre is unfortunately only open in the afternoon. We walked back along part of the beach enjoying the views and then along the Beechwood Trail.
Here there are four Sweet Chestnut trees which commemorate four trees in Applecross which are linked to various stories. Superstitions meant that no-one was to cut them down and they had to be left to die naturally just after World War Two.
The Applecross Trust was set up in 1975. They own 64,000 acres of the Applecross Estate that used to belong to the Wills family. They contributed £5,000 towards the setting up of the community filling station 2010. They manage farming, conservation, tourism etc – replacing commercial Sitka spruce timber with native broadleaf trees. 250 people live in Applecross and many still work in fishing and crofting. There are many more paths and trails to explore with ancient remains but heavy rain continued so we had to give up and apart from a meal in the Applecross Inn, will have to shelter for the rest of the day.