Not to be confused with Gare Loch, the sea inlet between Helensburgh and the Rosneath Peninsula

Gairloch is a straggling community along the west coast of Ross and Cromarty in the Scottish Highlands, with a population of 620 in 2020. The land is hilly and farming isn't very productive, but shellfishing remains a traditional occupation.

Get in edit

From the south, travel via Inverness then north up A835 towards Ullapool, branching off at Garve for A832 past Loch Maree. This road continues north beyond Gairloch, passing Loch Ewe (with Inverewe Gardens) and Little Loch Broom to rejoin A835 at Corrieshalloch.

Westerbus 700 runs once M-Sa from Gairloch around 8AM via Achnasheen, Strathpeffer and Dingwall to Inverness, taking 2 hr 30 min, and returning to Gairloch around 5PM. Bus 711 sets off around 9AM and goes as far as Dingwall (which has a railway station), returning at 1PM.

Get around edit

You need a car. There's no local public transport except a school bus: Westerbus 705 runs once on schooldays from Torridon at 7:30AM to Gairloch and returns at 3:30PM.

See edit

  • The coastline is scenic with wildlife. Right by the harbour, you'll see seals and perhaps even minke whales. To the south is Badachro and Red Point, to the north is Melvaig and the lighthouse.
  • Gairloch Heritage Museum, Achtercairn House, Gairloch IV21 2BP (village centre). Apr-Oct: M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa 11AM-3PM. Gairloch through the ages: stone axes, Picts, crofts, fishing, lighthouses and whisky. Adults £4.
  • 1 Inverewe Garden, Poolewe IV22 2LG. Daily 9AM-5PM or dusk. Botanical garden, which a 19th-century enthusiast intended just as a windbreak, then his mania for collecting exotic plants got out of hand. Early seasons take colour from the rhododendrons and Erythroniums. In summer the walled gardens and borders are the highlight. Adult £11.    
  • 2 Rua Reidh Lighthouse, built in 1912, is on the headland 12 miles north of Gairloch, follow B8021 to the end of the public road at Melvaig. The last couple of miles are private track but you can walk it. The lighthouse is nowadays a B&B, plus the self-catering "Officers' Quarters", so you can't go in or drive up the track except as a booked guest.
  • 3 Arctic Convoy Memorial commemorates those lost in the 1941-45 supply mission to Russia (see below). It's at the end of the lane from Poolewe along the east side of the Melvaig peninsula.
  • 4 Russian Arctic Convoy Exhibition, Aultbea IV22 2HZ, +44 1445 731137. Apr-Oct: M-Sa 10AM-5PM. From 1941 the Allies tried to support the Soviet Union, which had been invaded by Germany. Very few supply routes were open and one was across the Norwegian and Arctic seas to the ports of Murmansk and Archangelsk. Supply ships and their warship escorts assembled in Loch Ewe then sailed in convoy, either direct or via Iceland, across dangerous waters. The loch was fortified against aerial and seaborne attack, and shore facilities were built. This museum tells the convoys' story. Adult £5, child £3.

Do edit

Inverewe Garden
  • Fishing: there's a choice of sea-fishing from shore, harbour or boat, or fly-fishing in the nearby lochs and streams.
  • Marine sightseeing tours. Gairloch Marine Life Centre has daily boat trips for wildlife spotting.
  • Golf: Gairloch GC is nine holes. Twice around is 4499 yards, par 62, visitor day ticket £30.
  • Gairloch Leisure Centre, IV21 2BP (behind museum), +44 1445 712345. M-F 3:30-9PM, Sa Su 10AM-4PM, closed mid-July to mid-Aug. Fitness classes, trampolining, archery and climbing wall, some activities need to be pre-booked.
  • Gairloch Highland Gathering is held in late June or start of July, the first Saturday after schools break up. Bands, games, food, drinks, dancing, Highland sports and so on.
  • Rent a boat at Gairloch Boats, for a fee of £50 per hour you can rent a boat for as long as you like and take a self-guided tour around the bay. You can often see shoals of dolphins and seals around the area. You operate the boat by yourself and will have to navigate around much larger vessels with only a radio (which often does not work) and the very friendly staff's phone number, as such, it's not for the faint of heart!

Buy edit

  • Buddha by the Sea is an offbeat gift shop in village centre. It has a reasonably sized book store, in addition to a cafe that features a fantastic view of the bay and serves small selection of traybakes and hot drinks.

Eat edit

  • The Steading Bistro is a coffee shop & cafe open F-W 11AM-5PM.
  • 1 The Shieling Restaurant, IV21 2BH, +44 1445 712888. Nov-Mar: M-Sa 10AM-4PM; Apr-Oct also evenings. Traditional Scottish fare: steak, lamb, seafood, venison. Winter lunch only, dinners in summer.

Drink edit

Sleep edit

Let's camp somewhere else

If you take the north loop of road past Little Loch Broom, the islands twinkling in the distance are The Summer Isles. But there's another island much closer to shore: the infamous Gruinard. During the Second World War, the British military wanted to test anthrax as a bioweapon - purely for defence of course, no intention of using it themselves. Weaponising anthrax and dispersal is straightforward, but how long would the target area remain unsafe and off-limits? A remote spot was needed, so in 1942 the government purchased Gruinard, put 80 sheep there, and let off a device. The anthrax strain was the highly virulent Vollum 14578, and the sheep soon perished. Forty years later, the island was still unsafe. Activists began demanding a clean-up, and grabbed attention with "Operation Dark Harvest": contaminated soil from the island was left at Porton Down military research facility, and at the Conservative party conference in Blackpool. Decontamination was set in hand, and in 1990 Gruinard was declared safe.

  • 1 Gairloch Sands Youth Hostel, Cairn Deag IV21 2DJ (One mile west on B8021), +44 1445 712219. Check-in: 5-8PM, check-out: 8-10AM. This 31-bed hostel is open Apr-Sep. No access between 10AM and 5PM, you have to go out during the day.
  • Sands Caravan & Camping, open April-Oct, is half a mile north of the hostel on B8021 towards Melvaig. Wild camping is also possible, but the weather and the midges are a torment.
  • 2 Myrtle Bank Hotel, Low Road, Gairloch IV21 2BS (Near jcn of A832 and B8021), +44 1445 712004. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10:30AM. Small 3-star with restaurant and bar. No dogs. B&B double from £140.
  • 3 Gairloch Hotel, Gairloch IV21 2BL, +44 1445 712001. It's a Victorian 70 room hotel with restaurant and bar.
  • 4 Sheldaig Lodge, Badachro IV21 2AN (Off A832 two miles S of Gairloch then west up lane for a mile), +44 1445 741333. Upmarket Victorian hotel; the heating system and some fittings likewise show their age. B&B double from £200.
  • Inverewe Gardens Camping & Caravanning, open all year, is just south of the gardens along A832.
  • 5 Pool House, Poolewe IV22 2LD (On A832 five miles east of Gairloch), +44 1445 781272. 300 year old hunting lodge with lively history, now an upmarket hotel. B&B double from £275.

Connect edit

As of July 2022, Gairloch has 4G from EE, O2 and Vodafone, but the signal is very patchy on the approach roads, and there's nothing from Three. 5G has not reached this area.

Go next edit

  • Go north to Ullapool, for ferries to Stornoway on Lewis.
  • South is Torridon and Kylesku, thence to Skye.
  • East takes you via Strathpeffer into more pastoral country around Inverness.
  • North Coast 500 is a driving itinerary that loops through Gairloch.

This city travel guide to Gairloch is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.