Situated between the Torridon Hills and the Isle of Raasay, the Applecross Peninsula isn’t the easiest place to get to but getting here is all part of the enjoyment.
As long as you don’t have a large motorhome or caravan, the scenic route will take you over the infamous Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle) from Tornapress near Loch Kishorn to Applecross village. This road, which was built in 1822, climbs over 2,000ft in 5 miles around hairpin bends before descending into the village and is frequently cut off by snow in the winter months, just as it was for us in March 2016.
The alternative option involves taking the coastal route via Shieldaig, which obviously takes longer, but if you had come here before the 1970’s it wouldn’t have even been an option at all, and at least it gives you the opportunity to visit the picturesque village of Shieldaig.
The village was conceived in the early years of the 19th century when the Admiralty enticed families here with grants for housing and boat building. The idea was to build up a reserve force of able bodied seamen to help the Royal Navy out against Napoleon should the need arise, but fortunately for the men of Shieldaig it didn’t.
The name of Shieldaig seems to originate from Viking days and means Herring Bay, and the silver darlings gave fisher folk a source of income for many years. These days, the boats are more likely to return with prawns and mussels, rather than herring.
The drive out of Shieldaig is, as you would expect, narrow and winding, but you are rewarded with some great views across Lochs Shieldaig and Torridon towards the Torridon mountains. The road then follows Loch Torridon until it reaches the tip of the Applecross Peninsula near Fearnmore, where the views open out across The Minch towards the Outer Hebrides.
The road then takes a southerly direction and follows the western side of the peninsula with views across Inner Sound towards Raasay and the Isle of Skye.
Our journey around the coast road had been kind to us weather-wise, but as we got nearer to Applecross village, the clouds started to loom over the Isle of Skye, which is nothing unusual, it has to be said.
What most people think of as Applecross village is locally called Shore Street, and this is where the Bealach na Ba ends. In fact, there are several ‘townships’ on the peninsula which between them give a grand population of just a couple of hundred or so, but the Applecross Inn, where we were staying for the night is located on Shore St. After checking in we continued to drive on down to Toscaig, which is as far as the road goes before retuning back to the inn.
The Applecross Inn isn’t a cheap place to stay for what it offers accommodation-wise, but it’s a fabulous place to stay all the same. The ambience is great, the food superb, and the location is wonderful, and just to be able to spend an evening here watching the sun set across the water towards Raasay and Skye is difficult to describe.
Applecross, as I said at the start, requires a bit of effort to get to, but get here you must. This is a place where the weather dictates what the day will bring rather than the clock, and it’s what entices some to come here, and others to leave, but that’s the Highlands of Scotland for you.