A three seal day

Today was a three seal day. Let me explain.
We start the first of the National Tourist routes today, with the North
and West Highland route. It’s been planned to showcase the
absolute best of the area taking us past breathtaking ocean views,
loch after loch (we both love the lochs, they are visually stunning),
waterfalls and other key attractions.
Finally, we seem to be heading into truly remote territory. Chris has
been constantly surprised by the amount of tourist traffic compared
to the last time he was here.
We’ve a lot of ground to cover in the net few days, but we have
decided to try and break the driving up as much as possible so that
we don’t just spend endless days stuck in the car. One of the best
things about the routes is that apart from the stunning scenery, they
also take us past the highlights. The first of these is the Inverewe
Garden and Estate.
The gardens are set in 22 hectares with a further 769 hectares
managed for conservation. It wraps around the shore and part of
attraction is a wildlife hide where birds and water fauna can be
observed through one way glass. Needless to say, we see nothing
furry, but there are many seabirds, and lots of noted sightings of
otters, seal and minks which are noted on the board by visitors a
few days early. Minks! We are both really kicking ourselves for not
bringing binoculars.
We do see nesting herons, and at a high point on the headland a
filming hut has been set up to observe the herons during nesting
The gardens are lovely, with many exotic plants from Chile, South
Africa, New Zealand and Australia. We see gum trees and they look
really unusual here; they also have the very rare Wollomni Pines.
These and the other exotics are supported by the Gulf Stream which
warms the climate where it touches the coast.
There is also a beautiful flower and vegetable walled garden, a
rhododendron walk and many beautiful trees. Very good use of
colour and shape gives the garden a great structure.
We stop for lunch after the garden after checking out the wildlife
hide, and then drive up though spectacular wilderness, mountains
alternating with ocean and loch – we are back in national park
territory. In fact, most of the northern coast is protected, as it should
Our next stop is the Corrieshalloch Gorge and the falls of Measach.
There is a swaying bridge that is deemed safe to carry six people
only (gulp) but it has great views down into the gorge which is
hundreds of feet deep, and across to the falls. We also walk further
into the forest to a viewing platform that looks back across at the
Falls and shows them in all their glory. The platform has a metal
mesh floor which you can see straight down to the gorge
floor….gulp again.
Back in the car again for more stunning scenery as we wind further
north, and towards our first seal for the day. Again, the whole scene
exceeds itself around each turn. It’s very wild, very beautiful and
there is water, water everywhere. Ocean, lakes and rivers abound.
No otters though.
Getting towards the end of our day, we stop at the fishing village of
Ullapool and take a walk around the harbour and ferry service. Most
of the fishing boats have come in for the day, but there is one that’s
a late comer…and it has a hitchhiker. A grey seal has followed them
into shore and is patiently begging for treats. He’s lovely. He has a
very spotted body and quite long nose, and keeps bobbing up
around the boat as they clean up. His patience pays off – they throw
out their bait and it’s an appreciated treat. They are so clever to
have worked out that boats + patiently waiting = fishy treat. These
are wild seals too, no wonder they are so easy to train – they’re
We also spot an advertisement for a hotel some towns on that won
hotel of the year in 2012, and boasts a great menu based on local
seafood. We set out to make this our final stop for the day, and the
The towns is Kylesku, set in between Loch Glencoul, Loch Glendhu
and Locha’ Chairn Bhain, the latter of which runs out to sea. It
should be a great setting and it proves to be just that. The hotel is
very unassuming, but the food is divine, as is the French Viognier we
have with it. They proudly showcase the local suppliers at the front
of the menu – I try langoustines for the first time with a fluffy
whipped garlic butter that’s beyond light and we both have a sticky
date pudding to finish Yum, yum, yum.
We sit in a window seat with water views across the loch, which is
very serene and just gorgeous….and who swims past? Seal number
two. A common seal this time – rounder face and spottier than my
grey friend. The babies are born on the loch islands in June so this
little one is out likely 6 – 8 weeks old. Just a pup. And just before
our meal end, a friend of his goes by. So there you go…..a three
seal day. Bliss. Little pets.