Ullapool is very small village with a population of approximately 1,500 people. Waking up there was a lovely surprise; the sunrise was beautiful and despite the following overcast weather it was a pretty little place. We headed down the road to the coastal road to have a daytime look around the area.
It was now time to hit the road and head south towards the Isle of Skye. We hit some snow on our way on the A835 around Corrieshalloch Gorge but it was also pretty spectacular; there is just something about snow that makes everything seem so much prettier.
During our 2 and a half hour journey towards Portree we passed the Glascarnoch Dam and made a few photo stops on the way. The temperature was only 1 degree at this point but driving conditions were actually pretty good and the roads were well gritted which is always a positive.
Finally we made it to Lochalsh, where we stopped to get a coffee and some snacks. The view across Loch Alsh really was quite something; the sun was peeping through the clouds and we could see the Skye Bridge in the distance.
The Skye Bridge is free to cross unlike a lot of bridge crossings and spans the sea between Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin. The bridge has only been in place since 1995 and prior to that Skye was only accessible by ferry which led to huge queues in the summer months. Initially it was a toll bridge but this was hugely contested by locals and abolished in 2004. It increased traffic and tourism to the island hugely following the bridge opening. We crossed the bridge and started our 45 minute journey to Portree; the main town on Skye where we had booked a B&B for the night. Despite the quite gloomy weather the drive was very scenic with winding roads and snowy mountains.
We reached Portree late afternoon and found our B&B Grenitote which more than adequately met our needs for the night. The hosts were kind, there was parking outside and the room was comfortable. We headed into Portree after unpacking to grab some dinner and to explore further around.
That evening and the next morning we were struck by atrocious weather; torrental rain and winds which put a stop to us spending longer on Skye. There is always a risk that the bridge could shut in high winds so after a rather lovely cooked breakfast at our b&b we decided to head back towards the bridge to mainland Scotland. At present the bridge was still open and we had a rather windy and rainy drive but did stop on the way at the Otter Hide not too far from the bridge. The rain gave us a brief respite but the otters were hiding; instead we got some rather nice views and some very muddy feet!
We were both disappointed at our very short time on Skye; however the weather forecast was not due to improve any time soon and so decided to continue our trip onto Fort William where we hoped for better weather and views of Ben Nevis (fingers crossed!). We made a stop at Eilean Donan Castle, situated on a small island and probably one of the most photographed fortresses in Scotland. The castle has been featured in many films including Highlander (1986), Entrapment (1999) and James Bond; The World is not Enough (1999). It is argued to be one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland but from our limited knowledge I preferred Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven. It was very pretty none the less.
As we neared Fort William we yearned for a view of the famous Ben Nevis mountain; at 4,411 ft above sea and the highest visible landmark for 459 miles we must be able to get a good view? We headed for the Commando Monument which was also a Ben Nevis viewpoint to see if we could get a clear picture. Despite the weather we did actually manage to get a fairly good view of it!
It was getting dark so we headed into Fort William checked into the Imperial Hotel in Fraser Square. A spot of dinner and well earned rest were in order as tomorrow was going to be a long day – check out our next post for our journey to Edinburgh via Loch Lomond and Glasgow!
Carol & Nigel xx