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Applecross Highlands drive

hello all,
While staying on the Isle of Skye, we plan on driving the Applecross Peninsula then up to Loch Maree.
We will be visiting Eilean Donan Castle, the backtracking a little toward LochCarron, up the Applecross road and through the Pass, then along the coast to Torridon... up to Loch Maree.
It sounds like a wonderful drive. I'm trying to get an idea about how long the drive would take ?
Is 3-4 hours in the ballpark ???

Posted by
1188 posts

Hi William
You don't say exactly where you are staying on Skye, so total journey time including getting to Eilean Donan is difficult to estimate. Where I live on the North West edge of Skye it would take me 1 hour 30 minutes just to get to the castle. There is a really cool place to take photos of the castle, just before the road bridge on the edge of Dornie. There's a slipway down to the water and you can park there and get some great shots across the loch of the castle, without any parked cars and buses in your shot. I have to say too that this castle is one that I would only want to see from the outside. It is very cramped inside and actually not that interesting and it's not very old (reconstructed in the early 20th century I believe).

Anyway, all that is by the by. On to your real question about the journey across to Applecross and onwards. If you just drove, without stopping to marvel at the scenery or to have lunch etc, then you might, just might, be able to do it in 4 hours. But that would really be pushing it, and doesn't allow for the inevitable traffic that you will encounter on the pass in particular. I'm assuming you are coming in the tourist season (Easter to mid October), which means there certainly will be traffic.

I'm assuming too that coming from North America you might not be particularly familiar with our very narrow roads, which in places are single track with passing places. If you've not driven on these roads before you will want to know how to use the passing places before setting off, as much of your route above has these types of roads (especially across to Applecross). I've posted this video before on this site, but it does a good job of getting the message across. Single track driving animation
You will also want to know that the driving etiquette (reinforced by posted signage) reminds drivers to pull over to allow faster (often local) traffic to get past. Also you must never park up in a passing place (even to take a few photos) as this can cause chaos with traffic backed up in both directions - it seems unlikely but I see this on an almost daily basis in the season.

The Bealach na ba pass itself (the name means pass of the cattle) is actually one of the highest mountain roads in the UK and is not for the faint hearted (it's one of my favourite drives!). It has lots of bends, sheer drops, is entirely single track with passing places, and if you meet the garbage collection truck coming the other way can give you some heart in the mouth moments. Here is a blog (not written by me) that gives a flavour of what to expect. Bealach blog

You can stop at the top of the pass and if it is a clear day you will have magnificent views in all directions. Bring a warm jacket as it is always windy and cold up there! Once over the top you still need to keep your wits about you as it's nearly as steep heading towards Applecross. Once there you may want to pause at the inn for lunch.

It really is a wonderful drive, but personally I would allow the best part of the day, to give you time to stop (when safe to do so) and enjoy the wonderful views.

Have a wonderful time.
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
174 posts

Thanks for the excellent tips !
we are staying in Luib for 3 nights, so shouldn't take us too long to get off Skye. We are actually almost on our we will be in Scotland May 10 to 20th. I have driven on the back roads in Ireland, so have a Flavor of the single track roads, but much appreciate the links to refresh my memory.
Is the Sligachan Hotel still serving up great food and drinks ?? I hear the views from there are fantasic, and since we are staying so close wanted to check it out. Any other "off the beaten track" things you can recommend on Skye.

Thanks again,

Posted by
1188 posts

hi again William

I wouldn't describe the Sligachan Hotel as serving up excellent food, but it is fine and certainly your nearest eatery. The bar selection is pretty extensive (especially as far as whisky is concerned) and they have their own beer too. In Broadford you might try the Cafe Sia which is a decent pizza place with some pasta dishes too I think. If want to go more upscale then I could recommend the Edinbane Lodge Edinbane Lodge or the Lochbay Lochbay Restaurant both of which serve absolutely exceptional food, but are about 45 minutes drive from Luib. Nearer would be the Old Inn in Carbost, about which I hear good things but haven't yet been to.

If you've not been across to the Isle of Raasay before than that's something you might enjoy if you like out of the way places. You can find some great walking there, with spectacular views back across to the Cullin. No need to book on the ferry. There's also a new distillery there. I'd also recommend a trip down to Elgol, one of the best drives on Skye, and with boat trip opportunities once you're there. We generally go on trips with the Bella Jane. Bella Jane Boat Trips If you've never been across to Canna or Rhum then a boat trip with Bella Jane could be a wonderful way to spend a day. You'll see seals, puffins and maybe sea eagles, dolphins and red deer.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1826 posts

We drove the Applecross Road a few years ago, heading NW towards Applecross. I was totally freaked out when we had to hang the back of the car over a steep drop because of a caravan squeezing past us towards the summit. I vowed to never drive that road again, but DH really liked the road and would like to do it again if I agree. My question: Is it better driving the road SE away from Applecross? Are you on the inside / away from most of the steep edges if you drive the road in that direction? I am probably not the only acrophobic who would like an answer to this question! Thanks for any clarification.

Posted by
1188 posts

Hi Cynthia
To try to answer your question about the best direction in which to drive the Bealach Na Ba, it really doesn't matter as it is a single track road so your car is essentially in the middle of the very narrow road all the way up, over and back down the other side.

There are signs at both ends of the road strongly suggesting that the roads is unsuitable for caravans and it's really also totally unsuitable for camper vans/RVs too. The passing places are very small and really only fit one car, so when larger vehicles use the road, or when cars get bunched up, it can get pretty 'hairy'.

Jacqui (Skyegirl)