This circular route takes you through some of the best that the Wester Ross area of the North West Highlands has to offer. This is a land of spectacular mountains and beautiful lochs, of magnificent sandy beaches and stark rocky promontories. And it is home to some of the best views in Scotland.
The main route shown in dark blue on the map is 103 miles long and should be tackled clockwise. This makes the most of the views, and tends to keep the sun behind you as far as possible. The route itself is now largely good quality road, though there remain fairly short stretches of single track road between Kinlochewe and Gairloch.
Getting to the closest point on the route involves a return trip of 25 miles from Inverness or of 12 miles from Ullapool, both journeys being on the excellent A835. You could also follow the route if based in Kyle of Lochalsh, though Kyle is 36 miles away from the nearest point on the route, over some not very easy roads.
Three excursions from the main route are suggested, all using exclusively single track roads. The trip out to Redpoint is 9 miles each way; the excursion to Melvaig is 9 miles each way; and the shorter diversion to Mellon Udrigle is 3 miles each way.
This tour will probably be taken most often by those based in Inverness. The route description therefore assumes a starting point at the more easterly of the two junctions of the A835 and A832, a little west of Garve. From here you head west along the A832 past the head of Loch Luichart to Strath Bran, where the road widens and opens up as you proceed along the north side of a broad, and in some weathers bleak, valley to Achnasheen.
At the roundabout beyond Achnasheen you carry on along the A832 towards Kinlochewe. There was a time, not so very long ago, when this whole stretch was twisting single track road. No longer. In recent years the road alongside Loch a'Chroisg and down Glen Dochart into Kinlochewe has been rebuilt to a very high standard.
Past Kinlochewe the A832 follows the south west shore of Loch Maree through beautiful mountain scenery. The summit of Slioch continually attracts attention through the trees lining parts of the road, but Beinn Eighe to your left is hidden by lower slopes of outliers. Two thirds of the way along Loch Maree the road cuts west across country to the coast at the head of Loch Gairloch. The final few miles is single track road, including a fairly narrow stretch in a gorge.
As you approach Loch Gairloch, the B8056 on your left provides the first optional excursion, taking you the 9 miles along single track roads through a series of scattered townships to the superb beach at Redpoint, complete with magnificent views to Skye.
Back on the A832 you proceed past the harbour at Charlestown to Gairloch, the centre of which lies a little way along the B8021. The Gairloch Museum is well worth a visit. Carrying on along this road gives a second optional excursion, 9 miles each way to Melvaig. Those wishing to walk the final three miles along the private road to the Rubha Reidh lighthouse can park at the end of the public road in Melvaig.
From Gairloch the A832 cuts across to Poolewe, an attractive village which offers, at Inverewe Garden, one of the main tourist attractions along this coast. North of Poolewe you follow the shore of Loch Ewe, albeit with some climbs and descents which offer tremendous views of the coast and inland mountains.
Having left the shore of Loch Ewe the road cuts across a promontory to reach Gruinard Bay. Here a 3 mile (each way) excursion which you really ought to take leads along single track roads to the magnificent beach at Mellon Udrigle, complete with its spellbinding views north east to the mountains of Sutherland.
The A832 skirts Loch Gruinard before running south east along the side of Little Loch Broom. You only catch glimpses of them, but to your right are the Tolkein-esque peaks of An Teallach. Past Dundonnell at the head of the loch, the road steadily rises to nearly 1,000ft as it follows the line of the Dundonnell River before cutting back to meet the A835 near Braemore. Close to the junction is the spectacular Corrieshalloch Gorge. The stretch of the A835 which completes the circuit is broad and fast, offering nice views ahead to Ben Wyvis.
Visitor InformationDistances: The main circular route covers 103 miles. The shortest transits to it are: from Inverness, 25 miles each way; from Ullapool, 10 miles each way; from Kyle of Lochalsh, 36 miles each way. Three suggested excursions add: Redpoint, 9 miles each way; Melvaig, 9 miles each way; and Mellon Udrigle, 3 miles each way.
Fuel: There are petrol stations open at least some of the time at Kinlochewe, Gairloch and Dundonnell.