I woke this morning with a slight air of anticipation. Today was supposed to be the pinnacle of our experience driving the NC500, the Bealach Na Ba. To read the tales of it online you'd think it was a terrifying beast designed to kill unwary drivers with it's many hairpin turns, narrow lanes and wild coos.
I also woke in the still gorgeous village of Shieldaig. Yesterday's memories hadn't soured in the slightest and discussing it on the way home from the restaurant we both agreed that of all the places we had visited on this trip, Shieldaig is the only one we could live in.
We had a lazy morning preparing the van. Due to covid the campsite had installed outdoor showers, a wonderful idea that worked really well. And Robert spent nearly all morning throwing a ball for our neighbours dog Nell. This time we got to discover that it was the little boy that tired before the dog 😂 It was very sweet how attached Robert got to Nell in the short time we were there, he offered to give her the ball they were playing with to keep, asked if she could come to his birthday, and had a slightly wobbly bottom lip as we drove away.
As we climbed the roads out of Shieldaig along the coastal route towards Applecross there was a place to park and look back at the area. This view is one I will hold close for a long time.
An hour or so later we arrived in Applecross. I'd heard that it was a lovely place that you should spend some time looking round and enjoying. Lies. Apart from the Applecross Inn and Restaurant when you first arrive there is a community fire station and small shop about a mile and a half down the road. I popped into the shop to see what local delights and treasures they might have. I don't know why I expected such, it was just the usual small local shop groceries you'd find anywhere. Being as coronavirus has meant that places like this only allow one or two people in at a time, and they disinfect after you leave, you feel obliged to buy something even if you only really wanted to look. As such I came away with some sweets, cookies and satsumas 🤷🏻♂️ Heading back through Applecross we stopped by the Inn, had lunch, and moved Robert's seat to the front so he could better experience the Bealach Na Ba.
Starting out up the road is like any other single track road we've driven in the last week and a half, with the extra warning not to attempt it with a caravan and a heads up that the route is usually impassible in winter. It's been cold but not that cold 😁
The side leaving Applecross meanders slowly upwards until you reach the Bealach Na Ba viewpoint at 2054ft, giving some great views across the area.
In this direction the really impressive stuff doesn't start until you go down the other side.
There are several tight Alpine like hairpin bends, sheer drops and the passing places are short and thin. If you ignore the legends it is an impressive and entertaining drive, and it would be fun to try it in the other direction, although best in a car unless you're Chris Froome, a lot of the cyclists coming up the steep side had very gritted expressions on their faces.
Having successfully and safely traversed the Bealach Na Ba we journeyed on towards Lochcarron where our campsite for the night is. As it was still relatively early in the afternoon I asked Jane to look for a castle or similar nearby to visit. It happened there was one at Strome just 3 miles away. When Jane said it was just a ruined archway I thought she was joking.
No joke. Still the children found it entertaining enough to clamber over the fallen down stones. Something there must have sparked an idea in Robert's brain as on the way out he randomly came out with "What do spiders' poos look like?". It's a great question, what do they look like? I'd never even thought to wonder.