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Kinloch Hourn: Looking Back from the Path to Barrisdale Bay
Kinloch Hourn: Looking Back from the Path to Barrisdale Bay

In his wonderful book A Dance Called America James Hunter says: "There are few more scenically spectacular journeys to be made in Britain than the one that takes you from the Great Glen through Glen Garry to the edge of the Atlantic." In this, as in much else, he is right. Yet it is a journey made in its entirety by very few people: for nowadays it is a journey through a largely uninhabited landscape to an even more deserted destination visited only for the joy of being there.

Tomdoun Sporting Lodge
Tomdoun Sporting Lodge
Tomdoun Church
Tomdoun Church
Church Interior
Church Interior
Deer Near Loch Quoich
Deer Near Loch Quoich

Many people start the journey, travelling the A87 west from Invergarry as it heads towards Kyle of Lochalsh. But very few spare more than a passing glance for the minor road that continues west as the A87 climbs north away from Loch Garry.

View North from Loch Quoich to the South Glen Shiel Ridge
View North from Loch Quoich
to the South Glen Shiel Ridge
The Return View
The Return View
The Road Above Kinloch Hourn
The Road Above Kinloch Hourn

The sign at the junction points to Tomdoun and to Kinloch Hourn, and beyond it are 22 miles of spectacular single track road heading more or less westwards until you find the sea at the head of Loch Hourn. For more information about Scotland's single track roads and how to drive them, visit our feature page on driving single track roads.

The road first follows the north shore of Loch Garry before passing the tiny hamlet of Tomdoun, complete with its Sporting Lodge and the beautiful little Tomdoun Church.

Further west the road climbs towards the imposing Glen Quoich dam. This huge structure, 1050ft long and 105ft high, was built in 1957 and raised the waters of Loch Quoich by 100ft. Built as part of a series of major hydro-electric schemes in the Highlands in the 1950s and 1960s, its waters feed the Quoich power station further down the valley.

When the dam was built the loch increased in size from three to seven square miles, inundating the grand house whose gardens explain the rhododendron plants that now mass on parts of its north shore, and the excellent stalkers' paths that climb the mountains of Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach to the north.

Loch Quoich branches towards its western end, and from the bridge that crosses a northern arm there are stupendous views north to the "rear" side of the South Glen Shiel Ridge.

The road from the A87 to Loch Quoich was improved to the standard you see today (though still single track) to service the building and later operation of the dam.

But the onward journey north west to the sea at Kinloch Hourn is an altogether more adventurous journey. Much of the road from Loch Quoich to Kinloch Hourn displays its lack of use in the strip of moss that runs along its centre. Coupled with extreme gradients, especially as you make the steep descent to Kinloch Hourn itself, sharp bends and intrusive stone walls, this really is an interesting ride.

And Kinloch Hourn itself? A farm; some houses on the north shore; a couple of small car parks, one for folk leaving their cars overnight or longer, the other for day visitors; the end of the road; and a collection of short jetties.

The car parks are a clue that the main attraction of Kinloch Hourn lies not just in its spectacularly beautiful setting. Rather it lies in the track that takes up where the road leaves off. This track can be followed on foot a further seven miles to beautiful Barrisdale Bay, long seen as one of the two main gateways to Scotland's most remote and challenging mainland region, Knoydart. For Kinloch Hourn is not the end of the journey for most who get this far: it is simply the beginning of the best part.

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