This post is part of a paid partnership with West Coast Waters to promote the many ways you can immerse your senses around the Scottish west coast
A couple of months ago I was sitting on a bench in the pretty hamlet of Strathcarron, scooping up small mounds of cooling ice-cream dispensed in a tub at the local shop. The Scottish summer was doing what it was supposed to for once. It was warm enough to ditch my jacket (a rare occurrence!) and the azure blue sky was dotted with enough white cotton ball fluffs to stop my pale skin from burning. Gazing across the echo of crumpled brown hills on the still waters of Loch Carron, I mindfully celebrated my first west coast trip of 2021.
This was the start of my summer holidays and my next stop was the Isle of Skye. The last time I had followed this route was back in 2019, before the world was gripped by a pandemic and the freedom to travel was something I took for granted.
In the two years since I last wound my way along Scotland's west coast and over the sea to Skye, much has changed, but as I sat quietly inhaling the salty tang from the loch I also realised how much has remained the same. The timeless landscape of Wester Ross was exactly as I remembered and the feelings it inevitably stirs up in me hadn't disappeared. It all felt familiarly reassuring.
On my last trip here I made a detour to Plockton for an overnight stay before crossing the Skye Bridge. My relationship with Plockton goes way back to the mid-90s, to a time when a Highland policeman named Hamish Macbeth was a regular fixture on tellies around Scotland. The quaint TV village with a breathtaking backdrop was quickly added to my travel list.
Even though I've visited many times since, on my West Coast Waters Campaign in 2019, I got to experience the village and coastal scenery from a whole new perspective. Guided by Alison from Sea Kayak Plockton I absolutely loved every minute of my first sea kayaking adventure, despite being more than a bit apprehensive at the beginning. Rounded off with a seal spotting cruise with legendary local Calum Mackenzie and a locally landed seafood dinner at The Plockton Inn, I don't think my day could have been any better.
OVER THE BRIDGE TO SKYE
However, on this trip I was heading straight to Skye for a unique overnight stay in Boris the Military Pod, a converted army radio repair workshop in Kylerhea on the south east coast of the island. Located within walking distance of the shoreline, I spent the evening sat on the rocks watching bobbing seals in the Kyle Rhea strait, the narrowest point between Skye and the mainland. Sitting by the calming waters of the west coast was quickly becoming a theme for this holiday.
I could also spot the characterful Glenelg Ferry - the short journey from the mainland on the last manually operated turntable ferry in the world is my favourite way to travel to Skye.
All too often, visitors make a beeline for the same cliched sites that seem to appear on every 'must do' Skye list and consider the island ticked off their bucket-list, often within a day!
As someone who has visited Skye many times and stayed in a different area each time, I can tell you there is much more to see and do, I'd even go as far as saying there are some better things to do.
On my last trip I stayed in Waternish and joined Divers Eye Boat Trips on one of their short cruises to the now uninhabited Islay Island. Wandering around the ruins of a long row of waterfront cottages and the laird's house which has a murderous past was a real highlight. I was the only visitor that day and despite being a stone's throw from the rugged and bustling Skye coast, it felt a world away as I stood alone among the remnants of past lives.
From a trip around the Sleat Peninsula to a boat trip to reach the remote Loch Coruisk, there are countless unique and memorable experiences to be had in Skye if you are willing to let go of your FOMO and break away from the crowds.
THE OUTER HEBRIDES ARE CALLING
For many people visiting Scotland, Skye is their final destination, yet the world famous pristine beaches and Gaelic culture of the Outer Hebrides are just a ferry ride away. Rather than Skye being the end of the road, I view it as a stopping off point and a stepping stone to many more island adventures.
For my summer holidays this year I opted to sail to North Uist where I ended up touring 9 islands that were all new to me and I'll be delving into that trip on my next blog. For now, I'm going to reminisce a bit about my previous crossings from Skye to the captivating Hebridean islands of Harris and Lewis.
From heart-stoppingly gorgeous beaches to ancient standing stones, I could write all day about the appeal of these islands so I'll stick to some of my personal highlights from my previous visits here which include some brilliant ways to immerse your senses Western Isles style -
ACROSS THE WATER TO WESTER ROSS
If an island has more than one ferry route connecting it with the Scottish mainland, it opens up all sorts of possibilities for a circular adventure. After arriving in Harris via Skye, I opted to then take the ferry from Lewis across to Ullapool which is back in the Wester Ross region where my trip first began.
I realise this blog is a little out of sync as it is focused on memories rather than a logical timeline and my highlights have been plucked from multiple excursions in this part of Scotland. However, as this post, like many of my trips, started in Wester Ross, it also seems a good place to finish.
There is a lot to be said about the magnificence of the scenery in this region and I can confirm every compliment is well deserved. From weathered mountains to rocky islands scattered across murky lochans, it is a place once visited, you will never forget.
Memorable experiences are plentiful, from climbing an iconic peak to sailing around the coast. These are some of my personal recommended ways to enjoy Wester Ross -
I hope my look back at some of my own highlights from travelling around Scotland's west coast has given you some new ideas for immersing your own senses in this part of the country. If you want to follow one of my previous trips, you can find my entire West Coast Waters itinerary here which includes a circular route with everything I got up to including where I stayed and ate on my journey.
To discover even more suggested itineraries from other parts of the west coast, head over to the West Coast Waters website.
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