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A home-spun take on Route 66, the scenic new North Coast 500 Highland route boasts everything from salmon rivers and soaring cliffs to sea caves and secluded, sandy bays
By Daniel Allen. Published on 21st June 2016
I remember a friend from Edinburgh laughing once when I enquired about Scottish weather in the spring. “You guys in London have the ice bucket challenge,” she explained, with a twinkle in her eye. “Up north, we just call it ‘going outside.’”
Waking up in the village of Gairloch, on the northwest coast of Scotland, I’m therefore mildly surprised by the view of golden sand and a cloudless sky from my bedroom window. Just below the hotel, a pair of seals frolic in the surf, while the horizon is edged by the distant mountains of Skye. So much for the dismal weather.
Perhaps because of Hollywood and Jack Kerouac, the phrase ‘road trip’ typically conjures up images of convertibles, flat-topped mesas and lonely desert highways. But today I’m continuing a road trip of a very different kind. The North Coast 500 — a new, home-spun take on Route 66 — is a journey as Scottish as Rabbie Burns or Nessie. No roadside diners or bumper stickers here.
After a hearty breakfast (“Would you like some white pudding with your black pudding, sir?”), it’s time to get behind the wheel. First stop: the Isle of Ewe Smokehouse, where I’m promised some of the finest smoked salmon in western Scotland.
Passing through a succession of gorgeous whitewashed villages, I skirt the shores of Loch Maree and Loch Ewe, their wind-ruffled waters overlooked by mountains with tongue-tangling Gaelic names. Highland cattle and tumbledown crofters’ cottages dot the iconic landscape.
Paula and Alistair Gordon, the husband-and-wife team who run the smokehouse, turn out to be utterly charming. Situated in Ormiscaig, on the northern shore of Loch Ewe, their home and garden boast magnificent views of the Torridon Hills, still dusted with snow in late March, and the more low-lying Outer Hebrides.
“Our products are imbued slowly with aromatic wood smoke and a west coast breeze,” explains Alistair in a lilting Scottish brogue, as he passes over a freshly smoked scallop for sampling. I make sure to pick up a gift box containing more of these divine creations on my way out.
Conceived by the North Highland Initiative — a project that aims to highlight the varied attractions of northern Scotland — the NC500 was launched in 2015, and has already won rave reviews. The 500-mile loop, which starts and finishes in Inverness, boasts everything from salmon rivers and soaring cliffs to sea caves and secluded, sandy bays. After a day-and-a-half’s driving, I’m already smitten.
Less than 15 minutes after leaving Ormiscaig, a short drive down a single-track road reveals one of the most idyllic stretches of British coastline I’ve ever seen. Lapped by a turquoise sea, the beach at Mellon Udrigle turns out to be a deserted arc of sand bisected by a meandering burn. To the north east, the mountains of Coigach provide a stunning backdrop, while a gentle breeze carries the plaintive cries of oystercatchers and curlews patrolling nearby Gruinard Bay.
Driving onward to Ullapool, I pass the sheer-sided spectacle that is Corrieshalloch Gorge, which, rather inappropriately, turns out to mean ‘ugly hollow’ in Gaelic. Then it’s on into an even wilder, more imposing landscape, as peaks such as the table-shaped Ben Mor Coigach and the colossal nunatak Suilven rear up from the rolling moorland.
I stop briefly beside Loch Assynt to admire the marvellously atmospheric Ardvreck Castle. Constructed in the late 15th century, this ruined fortress sits below the brooding bulk of Quinag, a reminder of man’s fleeting presence in this rugged, timeless environment.
The day ends in Lochinver, where I’m just in time to sample the wares of Lochinver Larder, northern Scotland’s most famous pie shop, before closing time. Gobbling down hunks of succulent venison, I look out over the local harbour as the engine cools. Geographically, I’m in the middle of nowhere. But if the next 300 miles are anywhere as good as the last 200, I’m in for a real treat.
A fairy tale day at glorious Attadale Gardens with a real Prince, HRH Prince Charles & just a few of the amazing folk & businesses that are all contributing & working together to make Wester Ross and the NorthCoast500 shine.
Sunshine, Smiles & Friendship.Some photos from a Fabulous Friday in June with a visit from HRH The Duke of Rothesay (aka Prince Charles) when he visited Wester Ross. An excellent day was had by all, summed up by a comment made after the event:
We were all thrilled to meet HRH. It was almost as great as meeting up with all these fabulous very hard working and genuinley inspiring people looking after Scotland’s larder and land. We hope to see you on the North Coast 500, here are some of the folks you may meet on your road trip. Joanna and Alec of Attadale Gardens
Gille Brighde, Kishorn Seafood Bar, Applecross Smokehouse, West Highland Dairy, Strathcarron Brewery, Carron Restaurant, North Coast 500, Hebridean Whale Cruises, Gairloch, Torridon Sea Tours, Inverewe Garden & Estate, Aultbea Hotel, Isle of Ewe Smokehouse…..The Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, The Estate of Gairloch, ……and Visit Wester Ross https://www.facebook.com/Wester.Ross/
Just to help you March into spring with plenty of Omega 3’s in your step, we are offering 10% on our hand sliced smoked salmon packs.
These little 3 Omega’s are so good for us…….they boost brain power & keep our hearts healthy. Our bodies can’t produce Omega 3 naturally so by eating & enjoying fish & seafood twice a week that will give you the required .Mackerel, Sardines & Salmon are all top of the Omega chart and that includes smoked salmon!!! Check out our earlier blog post for more Omega fish facts.
To help you on your way to boosting those 3 Omega’s use our offer code below for a 10% discount on our 150g, 200g and 500g hand sliced smoked salmon.
Simply follow this link to our shop, fill your basket and apply our March Madness Code “March16” at the checkout.
In this amazing location we smoke & produce our unique hand crafted artisan products for you.
Using the finest Scottish Sustainable Atlantic Salmon with Freedom Food Accrediation. Smoking fish all year round and sending out our award winning products to our customers wholesale & retail in the UK & Europe. For all wholesale customer enquiries, please call Paula or Sally at Smoked Salmon HQ for more information 44 (0)1445 731304.
We designed & built our smokehouse, veiwing gallery & deli on the shores of loch ewe in 2010 and welcome visitors to our artisan smokehouse deli on the shore.
Funky Packaging & delicious gifts by mail order, despatched by us for ewe. Gift Boxes, Fabulous Feasts & Delicious dining…..
Packed with plenty ice to ensure your products reach you as fresh as a fresh thing.
When it comes to deciding what to eat we have a choice between high-fat superficial foods, or the wonders of fish and other seafoods that are rich in omega-3. These foods help boost brainpower, keep hearts healthy and much more, because it’s not superficial, it’s superfishoil!
Our bodies can’t produce omega-3 naturally, so we should try to enjoy fish and other seafoods at least twice a week. But this doesn’t have to be tricky – more than just a healthy choice, fish can also be delicious and simple, and we will show you how.
Fillet or finger, fresh, frozen or tinned, smoked, when it’s superfishoil it’s all good!
Check out our Top 20 of Omega’s
To measure this we look at how many milligrams (mg) of Omega-3 there are in 100g of each seafood. Here’s our top 20 rundown!
So there it is! Mackerel comes out on top when it comes to delivering some serious Omega-3 goodness! But thanks to this unique fat being found in good amounts in so many other varieties of seafood, it’s easy to get the recommended 3150mg Omega-3 fats in a week. Just tuck into two portions of seafood a week (with one of them being oily) and your body and mind will reap the benefits!
Kippers for Breakfast, Smoked Salmon for lunch and Marvelous Mackerel for Dinner.
Happy 2016 from all of us at isle of ewe smokehouse.
Here’s to a Blue Sky year from ewe to you. The fires are lit and we are smoking and sending out your fish once again.
We are now installed in our new office, IKEA’ed up and ready to get our smoked salmon & gifts out to you for Chirstmas. Continue reading →
The new North Coast 500 road trip is Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66. Drive it, bike it, cycle it! Voted as one of the worlds best Drives, wild beaches, high passes and spooky ruins… and what’s even better is we’re located on it!
North Coast 500: More than 500 miles of the best the North Highlands has to offer. The route way runs to and from Inverness, venturing round the capital of the Highlands, up the West Coast and back via the rugged north coast. Continue reading →