Poolewe is an extremely attractive village in a stunning location. It lies at the sheltered head of Loch Ewe where the fast flowing and very short River Ewe runs from Loch Maree into the sea.
Given its relative insignificance compared with more recently developed harbours like Ullapool, Lochinver, Kinlochbervie, Kyle of Lochalsh, Mallaig or Oban, it is a surprise to discover that Poolewe was at one time one of the most significant ports in north west Scotland. This owes much to the shelter it is given by Loch Ewe, combined with its location at the western end of one of the very few early land routes across northern Scotland.
As early as 1610, Poolewe was home to an iron furnace using charcoal produced in the surrounding woodlands. English ironmasters found it more economic to ship the ore to Poolewe for smelting than to ship the processed charcoal to England to run furnaces there. Or perhaps not, because the operation didn't seem to last long, possibly because the local woodlands rapidly became depleted.
By the end of the 1700s Poolewe was the terminus for a weekly mail service to Stornoway, with the mails being carried overland from Dingwall to Poolewe on foot. By about the same time Poolewe had become the port of entry for cattle from Lewis and Harris. There are stories from travellers of the day of the cattle being forced off boats in Loch Ewe and having to swim ashore.
Once on dry land, the cattle faced the long trek along a drove road that followed the north side of the River Ewe and the north shore of Loch Maree to Kinlochewe and Achnasheen en route to market at Muir of Ord. Despite this early development, the first proper road did not reach Poolewe, via Little Loch Broom, until 1851. This allowed a link to be made with the first steamer service to the Western Isles, which had started from Poolewe two years earlier.
Today's Poolewe comprises a main street of largely white rendered buildings running west from its junction with the A832. This is home to the beautiful (and surprisingly modern) St Maelrubha's Church while at the far end is the Poolewe Hotel. The village also extends back along the north bank of the River Ewe, while more recent additions like the village hall lie on the main A832. Here you also find more attractive buildings and the caravan and camping site overlooking the shore.
Poolewe serves as a focus for a number of smaller communities in the area. These include Inverasdale on the west side of Loch Ewe and Aultbea on its east side, plus Laide and Mellon Udrigle on the shores of Gruinard Bay.