The main draw for visitors to the western end of the Coigach Peninsula used to be the remarkable (but now closed) Hydroponicum at Achiltibuie. On one of our visits we were surprised to see a bus full of foreign tourists leaving Achiltibuie head not back towards the main road and Ullapool, but rather around the loop of very minor single track road that extends still further towards the tip of the peninsula.
Whoever was guiding the tour knew what they were doing, for this little visited part of north-west Scotland gives a wonderful feel for the way much more of the country used to be until the 1970s, before the arrival of roads with white lines down the middle.
Turning onto this loop of road first takes you past the pebble beach at Badentarbat and the interesting collection of anchors, buoys and other artefacts lined up at its far end. Beyond is the pier that today provides the main access to Tanera Mor, the largest of the Summer Isles. The island has no permanent population, but a fishing station was established there by the British Fisheries Society in 1784, and at the height of the herring boom up to 200 vessels would be based there during the season.
The population, which had stood at 119 in 1881 dwindled to nothing by the 1930s, though the 2001 census did record five residents on the day the census was taken. In 1900 the island was purchased by a well known local smuggler and rumours persist of a cargo of rum being buried on Tanera Mor. It has changed hands several times since.
Further on, the road takes you through Polbain. Here you find the Polban Stores, carrying a remarkably wide range of stock. A mile north a side road gives access to the jetties serving the haven between Isle Ristol and the Mainland near Old Dornie. This is by far the busiest harbour in the area serving small fishing vessels and pleasure craft.
Althandu is the largest settlement on the loop road. Scattered across a south-west facing hillside above the coast, its attractions include the Fuaran Bar which offers food all day ranging from snacks to evening meals. Nearby is the The Summer Isles Foods Smokehouse, which is open to visitors.
Beyond the side road to Reiff the loop road heads east across the peninsula twoard Achnahaird. As you crest the high point on this road you are presented with one of the very best views in Scotland, taking in a panorama of the mountains of western Sutherland and giving an especially fine impression of Suilven.
If you can drag your way from the views, further on you come to Achnahaird. Here a side road takes you to Achnahaird Bay, with its rock framed beach, complete with a campsite ideally located to take advantage of the views east and north-east. A mile or so beyond Achnahaird you return to a junction with the road between Achiltibuie and Ullapool.