Visit Wester Ross‘s latest campaign asks “Are you a West Coaster?”. The campaign aims to showcase the region through the eyes of the people who live and work there. They hope to encourage visitors to slow down and discover what it means to be a West Coaster. Being on the popular North Coast 500 driving route (Scotland’s Route 66) Wester Ross gets plenty of visitors, but they often rush through in the blink of an eye. Covering 500 miles of stunning Scottish coastline in a handful of days doesn’t make for a leisurely trip.
Wester Ross is a UNESCO biosphere and an area of outstanding natural beauty, that’s best savoured, not rushed. There’s loads to see and do – way more than you can cram into a flying visit.
For me, Wester Ross is somewhere to unwind and leave the worries of the world behind. My travel buddies Mr G and the Wee White Dug also love the region. It’s perfect for scenic hikes, wildlife watching, fun on the beach, lazy lunches and looking for hidden history. We fully embrace what it means to be West Coasters.
This blog features some of our favourite things to do in Wester Ross. So read on and find out if you have what it takes to be a West Coaster too.
1: Visit Wester Ross and embrace the great outdoors
We’re big fans of scenic hikes in quiet locations. In Wester Ross there are countless stunning walks and each time we visit we discover another absolute belter.
One of our favourite walks is a clifftop ramble which takes you on a loop from Rua Reidh Lighthouse near Melvaig and back again. The scenery is incredibly beautiful – some of the finest I’ve seen in Scotland. Having an elevated sea view makes it a good place to look for marine life such as whales and dolphins too.
Another of our favourite Wester Ross walks begins and ends in Poolewe. We describe the Loch Kernsay loop as a walk of two halves. The first part of the walk follows a private road, and for a while much of the view is obscured by trees. Once you leave the road and trees behind to join a narrow path on the shore of Loch Kernsay the wow factor really kicks in. It’s a scenic and immersive trail that takes you into the heart of Wester Ross.
In Wester Ross you’re never far from a pretty countryside ramble, even in a bustling port like Ullapool. One of the village’s not so hidden gems is Ullapool Hill. Even though the hill looms over Ullapool, many visitors don’t know it’s there, let alone climb it. A good path from the north end of Ullapool meanders its way to the hill’s rocky summit. There are several vantage points and places to rest en route to the summit, which once reached offers an amazing view that stretches for miles.
2: Visit Wester Ross and spot native wildlife
We love wildlife and always get a thrill when we spot Scotland’s native beasties on our travels. Over the years we’ve had some amazing wildlife encounters in Wester Ross, spotting red deer, seals, pine marten, slow worms and even a whale.
The pine marten sighting was special. It happened on a short break at Torridon Youth Hostel. The hostel has a feeding table in the garden and when twilight falls pine martens often visit to feed. A pair appeared on the first night of our stay and we were able to watch them from the warmth of the hostel lounge – lights out and with baited breath. It was amazing.
It doesn’t matter how many times we see whales on our travels either, it never gets any less exciting. Our Wester Ross whale encounter happened just outside Gairloch. We were driving along a coastal road when I saw a jet of water shooting into the air. It was a minke. It breached a couple of times, before disappearing in the direction of the Isle of Skye.
Then there’s Callum. A cheeky stag who hangs around a car park in Torridon looking for food. He’s not bothered in the slightest by humans being in close proximity to him. He’s a majestic boy, but a wild animal who shouldn’t eat human food. So, as tempting as it is to offer him a snack, we don’t for his sake. And if you have no luck spotting red deer in the wild in Wester Ross, you’ll find lots of them living in Torridon village in the National Trust for Scotland’s red deer enclosure.
3: Visit Wester Ross for beautiful beaches
Wester Ross has more stunning beaches than you can shake a stick at. If you’re lucky, you’ll sometimes get one all to yourself, even in high season.
At Red Point near Gairloch there’s a big sandy beach, fringed by high dunes. The sand is a striking red colour, hence the name. It’s a lovely place for a wander by the sea or sit and stare at it as you listen to the sound of waves lapping on the shore. If like Mr G you always have energy to burn, you could also charge down the steep slopes of the dunes and onto the beach. If you do, beware as you’ll fair gather speed as you go.
Another gorgeous beach is Mellon Udrigle near Laide. It’s a stunning bay of golden sand and azure sea. It’s a favourite with the Wee White Dug, as it has rocks to climb on and shallow pools to paddle in. Climbing and paddling are two of his favourite things.
Firemore beach near Poolewe is a hidden gem. The tidal beach sits on the shore of Loch Ewe. It’s a lovely sheltered spot if you fancy a dip. It’s also a good place to look for wildlife, as seals and dolphins are known to visit the sea loch.
One of the most spectacular views in Wester Ross overlooks Gruinard Bay. Many visitors stop to admire it while completing the North Coast 500, but only a fraction take time to explore the beautiful beach and sheltered coves around Gruinard Bay. The last time we visited the boy and I paddled in a deserted cove, while Mr G climbed a large rock – time outdoors must incorporate some form of mild peril.
These are just a few of our favourite beaches in Wester Ross. There are many more equally beautiful beaches in the region.
4: Visit Wester Ross and discover hidden history
For me Wester Ross is a dream, because it’s full of hidden history and there’s nothing I love more than a hidden history hunt.
Wester Ross played a key role in the Second World War. Loch Ewe acted as an assembly point for ships sailing to Russia as part of the Arctic Convoys. At Rubha Nan Sasan, a well-preserved WWII battery overlooks Loch Ewe. There’s also a memorial honouring the brave seamen who made those perilous journeys to Russia.
Wester Ross’s most poignant reminder of WWII can be found near Badachro. On the evening of 13th June 1945 a B-24 Liberator aircraft carrying American servicemen home after the war in Europe ended, crashed in poor weather killing all on board. The remains of the aircraft are still scattered beside a remote lochan. A plaque beside the wreckage is dedicated to the 15 servicemen who died in the crash. It’s so sad to think how excited they must have been to return home after fighting a bloody war.
Torridon is a pretty village by the shore of Loch Torridon. One of my favourite spots in the village is an open air church. The church resembles an amphitheatre and has rows of stone benches inside and a large rock which acts as a pulpit. It dates to the 19th century when a period of unrest led to members of the Church of Scotland breaking away to form the Free Church. It’s hard to imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to sit on a cold, stone bench, listening to the minister ranting about fire and brimstone.
Also worth a mention are Strome Castle on the northern shore of Loch Carron and Sand Archaeological Trail near Gairloch.
5: Visit Wester Ross and taste Scotland’s natural larder
Wester Ross is somewhere that celebrates Scotland’s rich natural larder. You’ll find quality, locally grown and sustainably reared produce served throughout the region. And whether you’re dining in a five-star restaurant or a village cafe, you can be sure that the Scottish venison, lamb, beef or seafood you’re eating hasn’t travelled hundreds of miles to reach your plate.
We’ve had loads of great dining experiences in Wester Ross over the years.
Nanny’s in Shieldaig sets the bar high when it comes to porridge. Their porridge tastes like manna from heaven and is by far the best porridge we’ve ever eaten. We reminisce about it often.
Then there’s the delicious homemade soup from the Bealach Cafe at the foot of the iconic and hair-raising cattle pass, the Bealach na Ba. It’s the perfect warmer on a chilly day.
The most amazing fish and chips is served at Applecross Inn. The batter is as light as a feather and the chips cooked to perfection. And instead of the usual haddock supper, you can go upmarket with a monkfish supper instead.
The Badachro Inn is a brilliant spot for a long, lazy lunch. The traditional Highland inn is cosy and friendly and the food is fab.
In Kishorn, the Kishorn Seafood Bar is a Mecca for seafood lovers. Mr G raves about their scallop rolls and fish soup and I loved their veggie orzo pasta dish.
For takeaway coffee with a smile, Roasters Coffee in Poolewe is a must. The coffee is rich and aromatic and gives us just the boost we need after a rugged ramble.
I could rattle off many more great places to eat in Wester Ross, but you probably get the picture – it’s a foodie’s dream.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this whistle-stop tour of Wester Ross. Maybe the thought of a slow, fully immersive travel experience has resonated with you. If it has and you’re planning a Scottish road-trip, why not head to Wester Ross and live like a local.
This blog was written as part of a paid partnership with Visit Wester Ross, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time …