Brian Cheung
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Northbound

Thoughts, photos and anecdotes from my travels through Norway, Scotland and Finland.

Wester Ross Wanderings

Yesterday and today (most likely tomorrow as well) was spent driving across Wester Ross, or in rough terms the western side of the mainland, with Skye and the Inner + Outer Hebrides lying further out to sea. The region is mountainous, and I lost count of the number of times I pulled over in a vain attempt to photograph some of the jaw-dropping landscape surrounding us (and in no way do I think my photos do the region any justice). 

From Conon Bridge we drove west to the Applecross Peninsula via Bealach na Bà (Scottish Gaelic for Pass of the Cattle), which is one of Scotland's highest roads passing through the mountains. There were numerous hairpin bends and steep inclines - hence plenty of incredible views and countless photo ops. We passed a few brave and stupid cyclists along the way, as well as numerous hulking camper vans that probably would have been smarter to skip the pass. Many of the smaller roads here are single lane except for passing points. This allows cars enough side space to bypass oncoming traffic, but if two vehicles are stuck facing each other in between pass points then someone eventually has to relent and reverse. 

We eventually arrived in the 'town' of Applecross. I use inverted commas because the town was no more than a lone pub, cafe and a few gift shops surrounded by a lose scattering of crofts and houses on the peninsula. We lunched at the beautifully honest/unpretentious restaurant at the Applecross Walled Garden that proudly displayed a 'recommended by Michelin 2016' sticker on the front window. I don't know if that means a star or not, but the food was delicious nonetheless. I found myself staring down a mountain of Skye mussels cooked in garlic and white wine while Jake had to tackle what he thought were prawns, but in actual fact was a mound of local langoustine drenched in garlic butter - all for the low low price of £18. In hindsight we're pretty certain the waitress screwed up, but we conveniently kept our mouths shut.

To walk off the seafood we hiked along the coast from Applecross Bay over the hills to the other side - an 11km round trip. The hike was good enough, but we were constantly in amongst a cloud of midges, and I definitely would have preferred a circular route - so I don't have to be looking at the same scenery twice. 

The sun was setting by the time we got back to the car, and despite more jaw-dropping vistas we only stopped once more for me to scream, stutter and squawk over a few highland cows (coos) found casually grazing along the roadside. I can't get over how perfectly photogenic they are, and to make my voice raise even higher there were a couple of calves as well. One of them was chill enough to let me give it a scratch behind the ears as my insides melted a bit. 

We arrived late to our evening pitstop in Shieldaig - another pleasant fishing village that looks like it exists purely to house tourists 3 months out of the year. After dumping our stuff we found the pub which mercifully did up some fish and chips despite the lateness of the hour. This area is all about the seafood, and of course I don’t mind eating vast quantities of the stuff, but I just wish the one cooking method wasn’t so typically fried with chips. You start feeling a bit heavier after repeatedly eating the stuff against your will.  

scotlandBrian Cheung