Monday, 10 October 2016

1 Family, 4 Days, 684 Miles and a Few Cheeky Sheep: A Weekend in the Highlands

Drumbeg with the Quinag in the distance.

My family and I, like most families, have really busy lives; from working, to looking after children to caring for other family members – we often find it difficult to carve out quality time where we can all be together, so at the end of August my parents were so kind and booked the gorgeous Glencorse House for us all to stay in for a couple of days. We booked it well in advance so we could all clear our schedules and just have some down time. From where we live near Glasgow, the drive to Drumbeg took us around 8 hours, although that did factor in 2 pit stops of around an hour each. The truly spectacular thing about a road trip in Scotland is how the landscape can change with each turn in the road. It’s incredible.

A Home From Home

Glencorse House is a beautiful four bedroom rental farmhouse located in Drumbeg, Lairg. The house is situated in the most incredible location; 14 miles from the fishing town of Lochinver along what is mostly single track road and forms part of the famous NC500 trail, dubbed the Route 66 of Scotland. This road is not for the faint hearted, with passing places, hair pin bends, blind corners and sudden drops, not to mention the rather cocky sheep, who roam freely wherever they like. It's white knuckle for sure.
The house itself sits on an elevated position looking across to a stunning loch; every room has a loch view. There’s nothing better than sitting in a quiet, peaceful garden with a hot cup of tea just basking in the tranquillity – that’s my kind of serenity right there! Everything in Glencorse House is luxurious; it’s plain to see that no expense has been spared which definitely makes for a more enjoyable stay. We felt truly spoiled to be able to stay in such a beautiful, well finished home.
The gorgeous, well appointed Glencorse House.

Highland Heather and Scottish Weather

I came across the sentence ‘The land breathes magic’ and that absolutely applies to this section of Scotland, its untamed splendour at its best. The drive up was certainly scenic, however the route between Ullapool and Lochinver is incredible - the landscape becomes more rugged. It’s truly breathtaking.
Gorgeous wild heather blankets the moorland, making a dramatic addition to the landscape. August is a great month to visit Scotland because that’s when wild heather is in full bloom – the best time to get truly stunning pictures.

The weather was mostly bright and dry whilst we were there however there were a couple of dull over cast days and, personally, these are my favourite; there’s something about an over cast, grey day that somehow emphasises the mountains, makes the water choppy, just makes everything look more rugged and intimidating – that’s true Scotland!

Paradise in the Highlands

As mentioned before, we had a gorgeous loch only about 50 yards from our front door, however if you walked about 200 yards up the hill you were at the Drumbeg View Point which looks across to Eddrachallis Bay and Handa Island, this viewpoint is incredible, the grass just falls away to stunning clear water and a copse of small islands.

L-R: Loch view from Glencorse House and the view from the Drumbeg Viewpoint.
We had heard lots of chatter via Facebook and other social media outlets about the Achmelvich beach, which is around 15 miles from Drumbeg so we decided to go along and see what the fuss was about. Wow – I have never seen a beach like this – not ever. The sand was purest white and the water was turquoise blue. What entertained us about this beach was the walk way, it is white wood and gives the beach a ’Hampton’s’ feel; you honestly forget you are in Scotland for a second. Achmelvich is one of those places that remain fresh on your mind, it truly is like Heaven on Earth and I have some amazing memories of our brief visit. There's nothing quite like the feeling of the sand in between your toes (plus it makes your feet nice and smooth - and who doesn't like smooth feet!)
I love this place - Achmelvich.
We also made the trip to Smoo Cave whilst we were there, Smoo is located near Durness, about 45 miles from Drumbeg. Whilst the scenery on the trip there and back was incredible, Smoo Cave itself was a tiny bit disappointing, I mean I'm no Bear Grylls or anything but you only get to go in a tiny bit - I would have liked to see more for sure. The descent down to the cave and back is not for the weak hearted, no seriously, my heart almost gave out whilst pegging back up those steps - some of them are huge! I'd say it was a mixture of the heat and the gigantic steps - nothing at all to do with my fitness...
If you do visit Smoo - be sure to try the Smoo Cave Hotel for some food, after our hike back up those awful steps, we were hungry and definitely more than a little thirsty so we chose the Smoo Hotel. The custom was great and the food was delicious! A little gem.
The descent to Smoo and the cave entrance.

Saving the Best til Last

As the saying goes 'keep the best til last' and that my friends is what I've done (yup, you're welcome) One of the most special places we visited was The Little Soap and Candle Company. From the outside, The Little Soap and Candle Company looks like a small shed, it's based at the end of a bumpy, stony track road and you could quite easily pass straight by it. The inside is a different story though, as soon as you walk up the steps and through the door, your in a little hut of Heaven, there are shelves lined with candles, bath salts, oils and unique bits and bobs that are all natural and handmade and are inspired by the surrounding environment. The company is run by mother and son duo Helen and Danny. The real magic is outside, behind the shop in the form of the Secret Tea Room. There's something truly tranquil about sitting in a hidden tea room amidst heather covered mountains and a real working croft, enjoying some of the nicest tea and cake I've ever had, listening to the gentle tinkle of the wind chimes together with the occasional bleating of the sheep on the other side of the fence. It's definitely good for the soul and I'm pretty sure I left a little piece of my heart there.
Our trip was incredible, we saw and did too many things to write about but I hope you get a feel for how special Drumbeg and the surrounding area is. We are so lucky to have such natural, rugged beauty near enough right on our doorstep. I'd definitely love to go back for a longer period of time and explore a bit more and maybe travel some more of the North Coast 500 too.
Thanks for reading, feel free to comment below and recommend any places you think we should visit next.

p.s. These are some of the cheeky sheep I mentioned!

See you in the next post.

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