Looking for a great road trip to Gairloch that can be done in 1 or 2 days?
This itinerary can be done in 1 or 2 days from Inverness, Dingwall or Strathpeffer. It takes in part of the NC500 route but also includes a much less visited, but no less stunning part of the Highlands.
Gairloch is a great place to stay.
Read on for the full itinerary.
1. Gairloch Road Trip – The Route
If you are travelling from Inverness you’ll need to head North on the A9.
At the Tore Roundabout (8.5 miles from Inverness) take the second exit signed the A835 to Dingwall.
At the next roundabout (4.5 miles) take the 2nd exit signed A835 towards Ullapool.
This is a main road and a lovely scenic route in itself.
2. Gairloch Road Trip – Day 1 – Great Views and Scenery
Gairloch Road Trip
If you are looking for something to eat or drink for your journey then Tarvie is a good little stop. It’s been going for a long time and after a change of hands a while ago it has developed into somewhere that has nice homemade cakes and speciality burgers.
There has been a change since our last visit. Previously there was a window hatch where you placed and received orders. There was a little cafe inside but this has now changed and service is from inside the building, with the cafe having been turned into a shop.
If you are looking for some North Coast 500 items they have them here, alongwith various other items – everything from clothing to coasters.
There are outside tables at Tarvies if you want to sit and enjoy your food and drink on site.
Gairloch Road Trip
4. Black Water Falls
This is a really lovely spot to stop off at and we rarely go past without stopping when travelling on this road. Black Water Falls is a series of waterfalls pouring over rocks. While the waterfalls are particularly high the setting is lovely. They are easy to view from the old road bridge that crosses them.
There are a series of walks alongside the river, although these are accessed by some deep and uneven steps in places.
If you are feeling more adventurous then you can clamber down onto the rocks beside the river.
It’s a great spot if you fancy doing some photography too, with lovely colour contrasts along the bank.
Thankfully they have now opened up the public toilets which are located at the back of the car park area. This makes it a handy spot to stop off along the road to Ullapool.
5. After Garve Turn Left on the A832 towards Gairloch
Garve is 26 miles from Inverness. Shortly after you pass through the village, after crossing the railway line and past the large hotel on your right you will come to a left-hand turn just as the road bears to the right.
Turn left onto the A832 which will take you towards Gairloch.
Gairloch Road Trip
6. Corrieshalloch Gorge
If you are looking to view a spectacular waterfall Corrieshalloch is impressive. It is viewed from a suspension bridge across the gorge. This suspension bridge has a limit for the number of people that can be on it at any one time.
Corrieshalloch can get quite busy so you may have to wait a little while to get your turn on the bridge.
Having turned left on the A832 you will see the car park for Corrieshalloch Gorge on your right hand side.
There is a winding gravel path leading down to Corrieshalloch. It’s quite a way down to get to the bridge itself.
The bridge has a limit of 6 people at any one time on it and the falls are about 200′ underneath. You cross over the bridge and then follow the path keeping the river on your left to a scenic viewpoint.
If you have a good head for heights you will be fine!
Gairloch Road Trip
7. Scenic Photo Stop
If you carry on a little past Corrieshalloch Gorge car park you will see a lovely viewpoint on the right-hand side. There is plenty of parking here and it is a great spot to get a photo down with hills rolling down on each side and the River Broom at the bottom.
Gairloch Road Trip
Blink and you miss it – Dundonnel is quite small. However, it is a nice spot to stop and take a photograph and if you park opposite the Dundonnel hotel (currently closed) you can take a wander down to the edge of the loch shore.
There are marshes stretching across from Dundonnel which I’m sure would make it a good spot for bird watching too.
Gairloch Road Trip
9. Wild Goats
We were very lucky to see a herd of wild goats on the shores of Little Loch Broom. This is the large loch that you pass on the right-hand side after Dundonnel.
These goats are easily identified from their domesticated cousins by their longer horns, shaggy coats and colours. They have wonderfully coloured coats as well.
When I first moved up to the Highlands I saw many more wild goats but over the years have seen them less and less so it’s great to see a herd still roaming and living in this area.
Gairloch Road Trip
10. Ardessie Falls
You will pass Ardessie Falls on your left-hand side. There is a house set down on the right-hand side. There is no parking at the falls itself but a bit further on, just on the left, there is a parking area so you can easily walk back.
The falls are lovely with the water disappearing down a dramatic drop under the road. It’s definitely worth a look and a photo if you are passing.
Scottish Highlands Road Trip
Aultbea is a small village on the edge of the coast. There are some guest houses, a shop, a coffee shop and a stag roaming through the village when we visited.
12. Russian Arctic Convoys Exhibition
This small exhibition centre is located on the outskirts of the village. It tells the story of the oft-overlooked convoys that took place in the area.
Entry costs £4 and visits need to be booked in advance to help deal with social distancing.
If doing a circular drive you come down into Gairloch and end up by the shore.
14. McColls Store
There is a little convenience store located by the shore. There is parking just along the road on the left hand side if you are coming down the hill into Gairloch.
Inside there is everything you would expect to find, snacks, food, drinks, newspapers etc.
McColls is open from 7am to 10pm every day.
15. Hai Yang Takeaway
We had already got something to eat for our evening meal but if we hadn’t we would have definitely tried this Chinese takeaway. We parked near it and the smells coming out of this little building were amazing and there was a queue of visitors which is always a good sign.
It’s open 4pm – 10pm each day and has good reviews.
(2022 update – I tried this takeaway and didn’t think it was that great actually. The main course didn’t come with any rice so I ended up just with vegetables in sweet and sour sauce and some prawn crackers. There were limited vegetarian options available)
16. Gairloch Hotel
We booked a very last minute room at the Gairloch Hotel. There had been a mix up with bookings and we thought we were staying in Aultbea but this turned out not to be the case. Thankfully there was WIFI available in the guest house so I was able to jump on the internet and book one of the last twin rooms at the Gairloch Hotel.
The Gairloch Hotel is a large hotel set beside the shore. It deals with lots of coach parties. It has 70 bedrooms and an on site bar and restaurant as well as meeting rooms and lounge areas.
We arrived around 6pm by which time the car park was nearly full. It was the October school holidays and the hotel was clearly busy.
After a quick and easy check in we headed to our room, number 6, located on the ground floor to the left of reception and just past the meeting rooms.
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17. Gairloch Road Trip – Day 2 – Even More Stunning Scenery
The view from the front of the Gairloch Hotel is lovely – a bay with hills to the left and out to Longa Island.
We decided to head out of the hotel to get breakfast.
18. Gairloch and Loch Ewe Centre
Just along from the Gairloch Hotel there is a community centre which has a shop and lovely little cafe inside. There is seating outside with great views across the bay. Having been there before and had a lovely meal and cakes we decided to head somewhere different for our breakfast. However, we will visit the centre again!
There is plenty of parking alongside the centre and also inside is some tourist information and of course toilets. A great stop for coffee, cakes and soup too!
19. Gairloch Museum
Gairloch Museum has recently won a museum award, so it’s well worth a visit.
It’s a small museum but with an interesting range of exhibits. It has a changing range of exhibits and at time of writing has a Romantic Scotland exhibition happening.
There is free parking outside.
Visits need to be booked in advance. Tickets cost £5 for adults and £2 for children. It’s open 10-5 from Tuesdays to Saturdays.
20. Crumbs – Gairloch
We went to Crumbs for breakfast. It’s a small takeaway located on the road out to Big Sand.
If you are looking for a hot breakfast roll instead of a full breakfast then this is a good place to go. The coffee is instant coffee but that was made up for by having a really nice piece of crispie cake which was absolutely delicious.
As a vegetarian it was nice to be able to enjoy vegetarian haggis for a change too!
21. Victoria Falls
After a leisurely breakfast, we picked up the A832 and headed out of Gairloch. We stopped at Victoria Falls which is after Slattadale Forest. It is signposted off the main road, and after a short rough uneven track there is parking on the right hand side.
The falls are easy to reach by taking a short path signed from the car park. This leads to a little wooden viewing platform that not only gives lovely views of the falls but also over Loch Maree and the islands in the centre of the loch.
If you take a left off the wooden platform you can follow a short path uphill to the top of the falls where it is easy to clamber across the rocks for another view.
You can then continue along this path going uphill for another viewpoint before coming back down to the car park again.
It’s a lovely spot to stop if you are passing.
22. Benn Eighe Visitor Centre
Having previously visited this centre many years ago I decided to stop. However, on arrival, there was no cars in the car park giving it the appearance of being closed. It wasn’t which was great.
Benn Eighe Visitor Centre is in a small white building. On reaching the entrance I found no one inside so enjoyed reading the interpretation boards myself before wandering outside to the wildlife viewing hide.
There are some bird feeders outside the window but most interesting for me was a scratching noise in the roof of the hide. I think a mouse must have made a home underneath the cosy grass roof!
If you want to take a wander round there is a very easy flat level walk around the woods which has various sculptures along the way. It was a peaceful and pleasant walk on a hard path.
There is also an easy walk up to the wildlife viewing area too.
The path brings you back to the visitor centre where there are toilets at the back of the building, a welcome pit stop if you are passing.
If you are interested in finding out more about the local wildlife and area then it is definitely worth popping in.
23. Kinlochewe Service Station
If you are looking for a nice coffee, cake, or soup then this is a great stop. There is an outdoor seating area where we spent a pleasant half an hour or so enjoying a lovely soup and one of the most delicious caramel shortbreads I have tried.
It was nice to watch people coming and going at the filling station and it was a mix of locals and visitors.
If you want to enjoy a nice coffee they have options for gingerbread, caramel and other syrups too and the coffee was nice and smooth.
A quirky and unusual stop in the Highlands with lovely food and drink.
(2021 Update – the outdoor seating appears to have gone perhaps because they can now use the seating inside)
24. Glen Docherty Viewpoint
After leaving Kinlochewe you climb up a bit of hill. At the top on the left-hand side is a small parking area and a viewpoint. It is well worth stopping here as there is a lovely view back down the glen.
The loch is Loch Maree.
When we stopped it was also the rutting season and it was magical to hear the stags roaring at each other across the glen too.
25. Ledgowan Lodge Hotel
This beautiful lodge is situated at Achnasheen. If travelling from Gairloch back to the East you need to take a right turn onto the A890 and you will see the lodge, which is clearly signposted, just a short distance on your right hand side.
The hotel was full of guests so not open to non-residents. However, in the grounds, we met a very friendly chicken and saw a stag which was delicately eating some bread. A great close up encounter which my nephew adored.
I’ve visited Ledgowan Lodge a number of times with groups and love the interior. It’s chock full of interesting objects and furniture and it has the loveliest toilets as well.
Ledgowan Lodge is also available to book as a complete holiday home – your own hunting lodge! Check out the details.
26. Continue back to Garve
Carrying along the A832 you come back to the A835. Turn right and you will pass through Garve which and then continue back to your starting point.
27. Inverness to Inverness
The total mileage for this trip starting in Inverness is 161 miles. There is one small stretch of single track road with passing places, otherwise the road is all one lane in each direction. A full day will ensure there is time for plenty of photo stops and something to eat. Two days will enable leisurely place with a visit to a museum or two along the way.
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