In a previous edition we took the long trek to Strathnaver in Sutherland and answered the question ‘worth the journey?’ With an emphatic ‘yes!!’
The Coigach Peninsula is another part of Scotland that needs more than a modicum of effort to reach. The first 4½ hours to Ullapool is fairly easy going. After stocking up with provisions we took the road north and after 5 miles joined the single track that meanders into the peninsula alongside Loch Lurgan. For a passenger the view is stunning as we pass through the forbidding hills guarding the approach and pass under the iconic Stac Pollaidh. For the driver? It’s eyes on the road and eventually tennis elbow from raising a hand in acknowledgement for those fellow travellers waiting at the many passing places.
As we move on, the ground flattens out and we get a glimpse of the majestic Suilven and then the wide golden sands of Achnahaird beach. Our visit was based at the small hamlet of Altandhu and, as we approached at dusk, there was a misty-eyed moment as we crested a small hill and caught our first view of the Summer Isles set against a silvery Badentarbat Bay.
There are a number of accommodation options available on the peninsula – our house was in a quiet location between Altandhu and Reiff – another small hamlet at the end of the road which is well known to the rock climbing community and those less energetic, like us, who are content to stand at the sea cliffs gazing over the Minch towards the Shiants and Harris beyond.
Apart from the sea-birds there is hardly any noise at all. Sitting for several hours taking in the seascape you might be distracted only occasionally by the gentle throbbing of the engine of the M.V. Hectoria as it passes on its way to take tourists through the Isles to and from Tanera Mor. This is a trip well worth taking – apart from the opportunity to see the wildlife and sea structures on the way – this island has its own tea room and Post Office which dispenses its very own Summer Isles stamps as part of its private postal service.
On more energetic days there are several low level walks to enjoy – one past the working natural harbour at Old Dornie to the old salmon bothy at Fox Point is a particular pleasure. As we climb gently over the shoulder of the hill and look along the bay shore we see long abandoned crofts and run- rig fields and are reminded that in past times many more people tried to sustain a living here. As with our trip to Sutherland, dark tales of the Clearances are woven into the fabric of the place.
The township is also home to a marvellous cosy West Coast bar – Am Fuaran (the Well) which is surely the best place to sample the seafood fresh from being landed at Dornie and before it is whisked off to Inverness and on to the fine dining rooms of Europe. Visitors are also well served by the Polbain Store – best described as an Aladdin’s cave to replenish stocks and pick up useful local information.
The Coigach Peninsula is definitely not on the main tourist trail and is therefore free of ‘packaged’ Scotland. This is a place for holidaying in Scotland as it used to be – and so it will remain – so long as no-one decides to upgrade that road !!
For much more information there is a very good website www.coigach.com.