A Highland Tour: (1) Glenelg
Some of you will be familiar with this tiny Highland village though many are unaware of its location and appeal. Allow me to introduce you to Glenelg, one of the true hidden gems of Scotland. From the main ‘road to the Isles’ up the west coast an abrupt turn over Shiel Bridge takes us onto the Mam Rattagan pass which is a totally memorable drive, albeit not for the faint-hearted. Make sure and take a peak from behind the wheel at the fabulous viewpoint offering views over to The Five Sister’s of Kintail mountains due east, a sight to behold.
The Five Sisters of Kintail
The road is used for logging purposes but once featured herds of cattle and their drovers who were charged with the task of fording the Sounds of Sleat with their cattle on the journey from Skye to lowland market places. General Wade (or was it Thomas Telford?) dropped by this way too and constructed the odd military bridge along the road now taking the weight of logging lorries to its credit. At various intervals there are passing places and the odd barrier shielding the tight corners and sheer drops but not everywhere by any means so keep a sober head!
After the drama of the pass, the road descends through entirely pleasant pasture land and into the village. It was here on my first visit that I spotted a large imposing white house on the left which had been Glenelg’s former manse. Here would be my abode for the next week.
Before actually entering the village there is yet another sight to be aware of, the Hanoverian barracks which sits in scrubland to the left of the road. Upon my last visit the much ignored building surround by wire fencing had lost none of its interest due to the effect of the neglect offered it. Although fenced off from the public, I just had to crawl through a hole in the cordon and take a closer look at this scene of activity during the past. Apparently Bonnie Prince Charlie’s troops had commandeered the building during the time of the ’45 rebellion – how could anyone with a trace of romance in their soul drive past such an artifact of a different age?
Glenelg boasts but one watering hole – The Glenelg Inn. Boswell and Johnson recorded their disappointment at their lodgings in the hostelry in their separate tomes. The fact that the intrepid two were hugely disappointed at their place of rest after a hard day tramping on pony back over the pass need not deter the reader or potential visitor. Boswell’s mention of ‘rough rushes on the floor to sleep upon’ has changed slightly in the modern era.
On my last visit to the gorgeous Glenelg Inn I enjoyed a fantastic night with the locals after a sit in the atmospheric back garden peering over the silvery Sound towards Skye a very short distance away. The tales were of a few pretty wild nights where Klondikers would follow Boswell’s tradition by sleeping on the floor, usually after copious amounts of alcohol of course! The Glenelg Inn is not to be missed.
Perhaps the two things that Glenelg is best known for are its excellent examples of Pictish Brochs – ancient funnel-shaped dwellings. Dun Telve and Dun Todden are secreted away up a very quiet lane running through woodland. Their aspect helps to aid the imagination in thinking about those days 2000 years before Christ and the way these ancient and hardy people lived.
From the village during the summer months there is a small ferry service over to Skye which is not to be missed. The service carries a handful of cars and their passengers and takes but a few minutes to cross to Kylerhea.
Although the Sound of Sleat appears benign to the casual observer, a memory of mine is of a TV documentary in which a Royal Navy officer was offered the opportunity to use his skills in crossing the Sound by directing the ferry. The good officer found himself some way down stream as he struggled to master the currents between the mainland and the island much to his embarrassment!
My advice is for all that can to visit Glenelg at least once if possible. Please be aware that you will be back to this rare little corner of Scotland however.
Other places of interest locally: