OUR FIRST WEEK USING A MOTORHOME
We approached our week using a motorhome with some trepidation. This was our first experience of this type of trip, which we had chosen because it would give us total flexibility and independence about where we travelled and where we slept, ate, and used bathroom facilities during the Covid precautions.
We need not have worried. Pamela, the rental manager, at Struans in Perth, gave us a warm welcome and a comprehensive introduction to the vehicle, explaining how to use the various facilities and features.
The motorhome was in pristine condition and very sophisticated in its equipment. There was much more storage space than we had expected and it was comfortable and cosy, even during the periods of cool or poor weather.
Our main concerns were with driving so large a vehicle, but we quickly got used to it, using the side mirrors on bends and corners to see if there was somebody tucked in behind hoping to get past.
We used two campsites, one at Poolewe, very handy for Inverewe Gardens and local walks, and one at Ardmair Point just north of Ullapool to explore the wonderful landscapes and geology of the North West Highlands Geopark.
The site at Poolewe was charming with a great deal of space between the pitches, ideal for setting up dining etc outdoors, while that at Ardmair had beautiful views but was rather cramped in comparison with Poolewe. We also realised at Ardmair the importance of booking a hard standing pitch given the vagaries of the weather! Both had lovely lochside locations from where we viewed both red and black throated divers.
Setting up at the campsites proved to be very straightforward, connecting to the electricity point, replenishing the water tank, and emptying the tanks, which was much easier than we had expected. We were given a warm welcome at both campsites and friendly guidance from fellow travellers when required. It was very peaceful at night at both sites – people seemed to retire early, some ready for prompt morning departures to follow the North Coast 500 route.
At Poolewe, we spent time in the NTS garden of Inverewe among flowering rhododendrons and wonderful trees, getting a brief view of an otter from a seat below the walled garden. There is an excellent medium length lowish level walk around Loch Kernsary, starting and finishing at the campsite. We encountered beautiful banks covered in birch trees surrounded by primroses and violets, and the hills rang out with the calls of the cuckoos.
Ardmair Point has a superb location directly on the shore with views across Loch Broom to hills and the sunset. We found that the nearby Morefield Hotel offered a hot meal delivery service, either early evening or mid evening, selected from a comprehensive online menu. These meals arrived directly to our motorhome door. They were generous portions, well insulated, which could be eaten directly from the containers, cutting out a lot of preparation and clearing up.
We started our exploration of the geopark at the Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve Visitor Centre. This is on the main road (A835) a few miles north of Ullapool where there is an explanation (open at all times) of the amazing geological history of the area, superb views, and a short walk along and over the crag.
Very old rocks have been shunted many miles from the east due to tectonic earth movements, sliding over the top of much younger rocks. This is the Moine Thrust. The place where the two rocks meet can be easily seen on the walk along the foot of the crag
The line of the Moine Thrust at Knockan Crag Visitor Centre
The wider area of the geopark, extending north towards the spectacular Kylesku Bridge, consists of a base layer of ancient Lewisian Gneiss. Sitting on top of this has been a thick layer of Torridonian Sandstone but nearly all of it has been scraped away by ice during the “recent” period of glaciation. This has left a few remnants of the sandstone in the form of dramatic isolated mountains, each with a distinctive shape. Of these, the most well known and spectacular are Suilven, close to Lochinver, and smaller Stac Polly, rising to the north of the single track road to Achiltibuie.
Suilven from the east
Stac Poly from Knockan Crag
Further north on the main road, there are two good walks to see the Limestone caves near Inchnadamph. At the Traligill caves, one can see the river disappearing into the limestone rocks to flow underground and re-emerge further down the valley. At the Bone Caves nearby to the south, humans are thought to have once sheltered, and the bones of wolves, bears and lynx have been found.
The Traligill caves at Inchnadamph
Our trip passed all too quickly. On the last day, we packed up our stuff and gave the interior of the motorhome a good clean before setting off for Perth. (We had paid a modest supplement to return the vehicle by 3pm, rather than the usual 10am). It was an easy drive south down the A9 (apart from some heavy rain showers) and we were able to refill the diesel tank at the Tesco fuel station just across the road from the Struans site. It was then easy to remove our luggage to our adjacent car; have the motorhome checked over by the friendly Struans staff; and give thanks for the really excellent service and help that Struans had provided.