Day 9 – Driving the NC500 in winter – Lochcarron

We may be staying in Lochcarron, but today saw us spending most of our time further north making up for lost ground following yesterday’s snowy escapades!

We debated long and hard over whether to drive the Applecross Pass and decided to leave it until tomorrow. A good thing as well as we heard after we returned home that it had been closed through ’til midday anyway for safety reasons.

Click here for… “Your Ultimate Guide to Driving the NC500 in Winter”

Instead, we took the low road from Tornapress along the white valley in which lay Loch Damh. The loch was looking amazing this morning; there was a barely a ripple to be seen and the imposing ranges on her eastern shores were reflected near flawlessly.

This region had also clearly received a lot of snow over the last few days!

NC500 - Lochcarron - The road from Tornapress to Shieldaig

NC500 – Lochcarron – The road from Tornapress to Shieldaig

While taking photos Andrew noticed some movement out of the corner of his eye. In the distance were three large bucks leaping across the stream and running for the hills!!

You can just spot them in the next photo…

NC500 - Lochcarron - Reindeer!!

NC500 – Lochcarron – Reindeer!!

From Shieldaig we drove along the southern edge of Upper Loch Torridon to Kinlochewe, enjoying the great views across the loch to the EPIC mountains on the other side! Don’t worry, we’re coming back to this section tomorrow to do the drive out to Diabaig 🙂

Over the last week there’s been one negative aspect that keeps annoying us…public toilet accessibility!! Kinlochewe was no better. There are public toilets clearly marked, and yet they’re locked up…? Really frustrating.

Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve was our next stop, and thankfully their loos were open, despite everything else there being shut for the season (until Easter!).

NC500 - Lochcarron - Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve Visitor Centre

NC500 – Lochcarron – Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve Visitor Centre

There’s a really good loop walk, the ‘Buzzard’ trail, that takes you through the pine forest and up the brae. At times the rock step were a little slippery due to ice, but in the main it was a really good walk to get warmed up, and only took around 20 minutes to complete.

It didn’t climb all that far, but the views from the top side of the trail were fantastic, especially with these little pools of sunlight paddling their way up the valley, over Loch Maree and up towards Kinlochewe.

NC500 - Lochcarron - Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve

NC500 – Lochcarron – Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve

Another example of how little wind there was this morning…

NC500 - Lochcarron - Beinn Eighe reflections

NC500 – Lochcarron – Beinn Eighe reflections

Close to the visitor centre there were a few really interesting sculptures placed in random locations. For those with children, this whole network of trails would be fantastic for a family outing! Heaps of picnic benches and lots of space for the kids to run amok 🙂

NC500 - Beinn Eighe sculptures

NC500 – Beinn Eighe sculptures

NC500 - Lochcarron - Beinn Eighe sculptures

NC500 – Lochcarron – Beinn Eighe sculptures

Only another 5 minutes up the road was the Glas Leitr car park, the trail head for two more walks exploring the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve.

We wouldn’t have time for the Mountain Trail, instead taking the shorter Woodland Trail that looped up the side of the mountain range and then back down to the carpark.

A really interesting little hike, and not requiring too much effort. There was a very calming feel to the forest; green and orange mosses draped over gnarled and stunted pines, dew drops glistening on beech, the cheerful burble of tiny rivulets of water coursing downhill to the distant Loch Maree. And there were so many footprints in the snow! Some human, but most from the various forms of wildlife that inhabit the hills.

NC500 - Lochcarron - Beinn Eighe Woodland Trail

NC500 – Lochcarron – Beinn Eighe Woodland Trail

Here’s an optical illusion for you! An aerial photo of ice floes? Or an upward look through the branches? 😀

NC500 - Lochcarron - Optical illusion

NC500 – Lochcarron – Optical illusion

We took the opportunity at Loch Maree to put back a few sandwiches and recoup our energy. The old trees by the loch’s edge were a photographer’s dream!

NC500 - Lochcarron - Loch Maree

NC500 – Lochcarron – Loch Maree

Our final destination for the day was Gruinard Bay where we were hoping to have enough light left in the day to complete another short hike up the river to a set of waterfalls.

Along the way was (more!) stunning scenery…

NC500 - Lochcarron - By the shores of Loch Bad an Sgalaig

NC500 – Lochcarron – By the shores of Loch Bad an Sgalaig

By the time we reached Gruinard Beach, the starting point for the walk to Eas Dubh Falls, the light was fading fast, but we thought we’d just have enough time. Unfortunately we’d neglected to save a copy of the trail map to our mobile phone and so we were going by memory…left side of the bridge (or was it right side?), over the fence (or was it through the gate?), along the left bank of the river (or was it the right?). In the end we just picked a trail in front of us that seemed to be heading in the right direction (we could see the falls in the distance) and went as far as we could.

Which wasn’t very far.

In hindsight we WERE on the correct side, and we WERE following the right trail, we were simply missing the confidence that comes with directions and/or time. If we’d had either on our side then we definitely would have pushed a bit harder.

Regardless, we still had a great time exploring the fields alongside the river, even being joined by a herd of very inquisitively shy deer!

NC500 - Lochcarron - Deer!

NC500 – Lochcarron – Deer!

NC500 - Lochcarron - Deer at Gruinard Bay

NC500 – Lochcarron – Deer at Gruinard Bay

We’re not sure what this shoe was doing hanging form a gate, but it looked kind of cool…

NC500 - Lochcarron - Random shoe :)

NC500 – Lochcarron – Random shoe 🙂

That was it for these two ducks. We called it a day and drove back to Lochcarron, already thinking about what we could do on our final day in the area!

For our adventures on Day 10…click here!

If you missed our earlier shenanigans, you’ll find them here:

NC500 - Lochcarron - Random shoe!

NC500 – Lochcarron – Random shoe!