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I was recently invited up to Scotland by Visit Wester Ross, to go and explore the stunning region of hills, mountains, valleys, lochs and coastline. It’s not an area that I was overly familiar with, but after just a few short days spent exploring, I can safely say that it’s an area that I’ve fallen in love with and will return to many times in the future, to walk the endless hills and enjoy the wild tranquillity of this stunning location.
If you’re planning your own weekend escape to Wester Ross – and I highly recommend you do – this guide will help you to make the most of your time. There’s so much to see and do in Wester Ross that it’s difficult to squeeze everything in, but in this guide I’ll share my tips on where to go, where to stay, where to eat and what to see.
Where is Wester Ross?
Wester Ross is in the northwestern Highlands, a solid 9-hour drive from my home in Warwickshire but one that was well worth the effort. Although my route was almost entirely made up of motorways and A-roads, the views from the Lake District onwards made up for the monotony of the journey, and the closer I got to Wester Ross the more blown away I was by the incredible landscape. After all, is there anything better than a road trip that involves heading towards snow-covered peaks?
Getting to Wester Ross
Getting to Wester Ross from England or Wales is going to involve a good amount of travel but there are plenty of options. You can, of course, make a road trip of it as I did. It was a lot of driving for just a short stay, but if you’re heading up for longer than three or four days then going by road is a good option.
You also have the option to fly to Scotland. Although there are no major airports in Wester Ross, you could fly to Inverness and hire a car from the airport. From Inverness to Kinlochewe (where I stayed in Wester Ross) the journey would be just over an hour.
Then there is the option of the sleeper train, something that has been on my bucket list for years. From London, you could travel overnight to Inverness and then change trains and head to Achnasheen in Wester Ross, a great option if you want to avoid driving.
Things To Do in Wester Ross
It’s a bit of an overused cliche to call somewhere an adventurer’s paradise, but that really is an apt description for Wester Ross. There are hills to walk, mountains to summit, lochs to paddle on, trails to cycle on and coastline to explore. You could very easily spend months here and find new things to do each day, but if you’re just visiting for a week or a long weekend, then here are a few of the highlights and the best things to do in Wester Ross.
Walking in Wester Ross
Wester Ross is an incredible place for those to spend their time walking in the hills. So it’s no surprise that much of the tourism industry in these parts leans towards the walking holiday market. From the moment you drive into the region, your eyes will be drawn upwards to the endless vista of rolling hills.
But there are walks to suit all abilities, from low-level lochside strolls to meandering forest trails, so you don’t have to be a seasoned mountaineer to enjoy the wilderness that Wester Ross has to offer.
The Visit Wester Ross website has lots of information about walking, and this book from Amazon lists 40 of the best walks in the region.
For those that don’t mind some steep and rocky terrain, the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail is an incredible walking route that should give you a perfect introduction to Wester Ross. It was the highlight of my visit and one that will live long in my memory. The Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail is one of the UK’s only waymarked mountain routes. Beginning at the edge of Loch Maree, the trail rises steeply through beautiful woodland before reaching a rocky plateau with epic views over the loch and the surrounding mountains. The walk will take you around four or five hours, and it can be very steep in places, but the rewards are in the views. It’s simply incredible.
Munro Bagging in Wester Ross
‘Munros’ is the collective name for all of the mountains over 3,000 ft in Scotland. There are 282 of them throughout Scotland and Munro Bagging is a popular pastime in which adventurers attempt to tick all 282 of them off the list by walking to the summit of each. Of course, several Munros sit in the Wester Ross region and many will be drawn here to tackle these mountains as part of their challenge.
The Munros in Wester Ross include:
- Liathach – Spidean a’ Choire Leith (1055 m)
- Mullach an Rathain (1023.8 m)
- Beinn Eighe – Ruadh-stac Mòr (1010 m)
- Spidean Coire nan Clach (993 m)
- Beinn Alligin – Sgùrr Mhòr (986 m)
- Tom na Gruagaich (922 m)
- Sgorr Ruadh (960.7 m)
- Maol Chean-dearg (933 m)
- Beinn Liath Mhòr (926 m)
- An Teallach – Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill (1062.5 m)
- Sgùrr Fiona (1058.6 m)
- Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (1015.2 m)
- Sgùrr Bàn (989 m)
- Slioch (981 m)
- A’ Mhaighdean (967 m)
- Ruadh Stac Mòr (918.7 m)
- Beinn Tarsuinn (933.8 m)
During my few days in Wester Ross, I attempted to go up to the summit of Beinn Eighe but due to poor visibility and rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, I took a better-safe-than-sorry approach and turned back before reaching the tops. It should go without saying that the weather can change rapidly in the mountains, but especially here in Wester Ross, the mountains are large and remote and you need a good level of experience and good conditions to start thinking about summits.
The Wester Ross Coastal Trail
You’ve probably heard of Scotland’s North Coast 500 route, otherwise known as the NC500. As the name suggests, it’s a 500-mile circular route that sticks loosely to the coastline around the north of Scotland. It’s an incredibly popular route for people with motorhomes or people who want to explore Scotland by car, travelling between hotels and B&Bs. The Wester Ross section of the NC500 is the Wester Ross Coastal Trail, and it’s a perfect mini-road trip that can be done in a day and perhaps tempt you into planning a bigger NC500 trip in the future.
The Wester Ross Coastal Trail is a scenic drive like no other. Expect imposing mountains, stunning valleys, picturesque lochs and pristine coastline. Take your time and enjoy the views, and be sure to stop and soak up the peacefulness of the many quaint villages that you pass through along the way, particularly the idyllic old fishing villages like Torridon, which was my personal favourite. It’s hard not to daydream about owning one of those little cottages and living a simpler life on the edge of the wilderness.
Wester Ross is an area full of beautiful lochs and has an abundance of stunning coastline, so kayaking is a perfect way to explore. There are several kayak hire businesses in the region and you can book onto guided tours and be shown the highlights if you only have limited time. Of course, the water can be exceptionally cold in these parts through the winter months, so the majority of these kayak guiding and equipment hire businesses will be open only through the warmer months.
The quiet roads and epic views make Wester Ross a great place to get out and explore by bike. It would be a pretty spectacular place to spend a week or two bike touring in the summer months.
In fact, the Bealach na Ba at Applecross regularly features in lists of the best road rides in the country. Your legs and lungs are going to need some serious training before you tackle it though.
When is the Best Time to Visit Wester Ross?
I visited Wester Ross at the beginning of March, right at the very start of the tourist season for the region. Was this the best time to visit? Probably not, although it did have its benefits. On the plus side, visiting this early meant that the roads were quiet, there were deals to be found on hotels and I had the walking trails to myself (I did two long walks over two different days and didn’t see another person the whole time). The negatives, however, were that the weather was pretty changeable and although the first signs of spring were visible at loch level, it was still very much winter on the summits and any serious day in the mountains would involve crampons, ice axes and very careful planning.
The warmer summer months are definitely the best time to visit Wester Ross, but that’s no secret so expect the roads to be busier and expect the hotels to book up quickly.
Hotels in Wester Ross
I stayed at the Kinlochewe Hotel in Kinlochewe for two nights, and I highly recommend it. It’s well located for access to great walking routes: less than 10 minutes to the car park for the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail and less than 15 minutes to the car park for the Beinn Eighe summit routes.
The food was fantastic. The weather was pretty awful on one of the days during my stay, and I’d spent a long day in the mountains feeling cold and wet. Getting back to the hotel and having a bowl full of the locally-sourced venison casserole was just about the most perfect way to get me feeling great again. That and the pint of local ale.
The hotel has a long association with walkers and mountaineers. In fact, Hugh Munro even stayed here – the man all of the 3,000 ft mountains are named after. There are some thoughtful touches for walkers at the hotel, like the option to purchase a packed lunch to take in your backpack, and the Heading for the Hills form that you can fill out at reception each morning, letting the hotel owners know where you are heading and what time you are due back – something that could prove life-saving if something went wrong during your adventure.
And if big adventures in the mountains aren’t necessarily your thing, the Kinlochewe Hotel has an extensive and impressive collection of Scotch Whiskys and Scottish Ginfor you to enjoy instead.