6-8 October: Working our way up the wild and wooly north-west coast

Author: Mrs A

Location: Ullapool and Altandhu, north-west Scotland, UK

After driving off the ferry from the Isle of Lewis, we turned right and drove a few hundred metres along the road to The Royal Hotel, a pub with a large car park and electrical hook up points available to motorhomes for a token payment of £10.

The Royal Hotel – there is always (some) blue sky in Scotland (briefly!)
The view from the hotel across Loch Broom and the rugged mountains beyond

After getting set up, we went into the pub for dinner. There we met a lovely Canadian couple on holiday from the USA who had just finished travelling the route around the north coast of Scotland. They were happy to share their tips for places to visit, and in return we helped them with some ideas for their upcoming trip to Australia. It was a fun evening and we enjoyed a meal and bottle of wine together.

Weather-wise, it was a rough night, with the wind blowing up to gale force, rocking us from side to side, inter dispersed with torrential rain. Neither of us slept well, with Mr A Googling in the wee hours ‘how easy it is for a motorhome to be blown over?’ (answer: not easy unless you’re on a hill or already unstable). The ferries over to and from the Isle of Lewis were cancelled due to the rough conditions making us grateful we’d left when we did.

We decided to stay in Ullapool a second night, with the village being the largest settlement we’re likely to come across for quite some time. We took our sheets, towels and some clothes to a local laundromat to be washed, and dodged the showers wandering around some of the many little shops and cafes, finding a great spot for lunch.

The afternoon rewarded us with lengthier dry spells so we pulled on our hiking gear and did a walk that started behind the pub. It was short but fairly steep, taking us up to 250 metres (824 ft) with some fabulous views. Up the top it was very windy, and we watched the clouds gathering over the loch ready to give us another good soaking.

Plenty of benches on the walk up to enjoy the view
Definitely appreciated when breathing is misbehaving
The landscape changes as we move on up the highlands, fewer trees, more heather and low lying hardy shrubs
The higher we hike, the windier it gets, but the views keep on rewarding
Just about at the top now and the sky is getting darker – time to speed on down before the rain gets us!

Tuesday morning we moved on our way, calling in at the last small supermarket, pharmacy and smokehouse (!) we would see for a while. Our destination was the tiny settlement of Altandhu.

The hills disappear under another rain storm on our drive up the coast
Silvery lochs surrounded by mountains on every corner
Looking out across the Summer Isles as we travel down the road to Altandhu

Altandhu is a tiny hamlet on the coast, looking out over the Summer Isles. It is described as being virtually untouched for the past 40 years, and driving down the windy single track roads, it felt quite familiar after our travels around the islands last week.

Little Altandhu on the north east coast

We pulled up at our campground in strong wind and rain, wondering what on earth we were doing. But as always, a break in the weather soon had us appreciating the spectacular scenery that is uniquely Scottish.

The view from our camp spot
Look carefully and you will see Truffy parked down by the beach!

Checking in we learned that the Port a Baigh campground shop was in fact the only store for the whole area, and it’s pretty well stocked up with groceries. Apparently before this shop opened, local residents had to drive at least a two hour return trip into Ullapool to get their litre of milk.

Sensing a break in the rain, we pulled on our wet weather gear and went for an explore. We walked down to the next bay, Old Dornie.

The locals aren’t too used to seeing people walking, and voice their disapproval
Water water everywhere…wish we could send some of this to drought stricken Australia
Traffic jam on the road
Heading down to the bay…grateful for the waterproof overtrousers!
Three old ladies out for a stroll
Stopping for a cup of tea with a fine view
Watching the next storm rolling in over The Haven
Years’ of fishing equipment on the shore

We actually learned that some changes are afoot in the area, after the largest of the Summer Isles, Tanera Mor, was purchased in 2017 by London businessman Ian Wace and his wife Saffron. In 2018 they commenced plans to rejuvenate the island, building luxurious holiday accomodation for up to 60 guests, utilising existing buildings and renovating other structures on the island. The project is taking around four years to complete, and as a result has breathed substantial life into the area.

Many of the tradespeople are being housed locally, and the little bay we walked to was a ferrying point for many of the materials and personnel. The lady running the campground shop told us she had joined her partner on a tour of some of the properties, marvelling at the brass baths…it sounds intriguing!

We decided to book in at the local pub for dinner, the Am Fuaran Bar. This was a short walk from the campground and housed in an old 1800s renovated building. The late father of one of the publicans used to live in the house, and the pub is full of photographs and memorabilia. It was warm and cosy and absolutely buzzing with locals and tradespeople from the Tanera Mor project. We had a delicious meal – a beef pie for Mr A and delicious locally caught langoustines for me (cross between a small lobster and a large king prawn). Finally, the pub we have been looking for!

Sunset was a lovely if brief affair
Finally the quintessential Scottish friendly pub with great food

2 Replies to “6-8 October: Working our way up the wild and wooly north-west coast”

  1. I did see on one of the Facebook forums (HOG, Motorhome Madness… one of them) a picture of a MoHo blown over in Croatia last summer. The answer I seem to remember (from the comments) was to always park it into the wind if the forecast is for gales (or worst case, get up and reposition it).

    We’ve had a night like that in Gibraltar… very little sleep and lots of worry (or paranoia). Scary stuff. Safe travels.

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