The Scottish N500: The Scenic West Coast of Scotland Part Two

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Smoo Cave (c) ABR 2016

Waterfall in Smoo Cave (c) ABR 2016

Waterfall in Smoo Cave (c) ABR 2016

One of our first stops on the N500, after John O’Groats, was a place called Smoo Cave . I simply love caves (although I have not had the chance to go caving, I have visited caves in several different countries and continue to make it a priority when I travel), so based on that and my immediate love for the name, I just had to check this place out. The outer part of the cave that opens out onto the beach is a sea cave, while the inner cave, past the waterfall is a karst cavern. For the casual passerby, there is a section of Smoo that is freely available to anyone that hikes down the path that winds its way down the sea cliffs from the parking lot to the beach-front. This includes a large, stone room that is covered by a thin carpet of green, and a wooden walkway that leads back to a view of the waterfall that is the main visual prize of the location if you can’t go on the tour. Unfortunately, we didn’t do the tour ourselves, although it was very affordable, because we weren’t sure when the last group had left, and we didn’t want to wait around for a half hour for the next one. Pretty lame excuse! But we did still have a lot of driving left to do, and the weather was steadily going downhill, so we weren’t even sure that there would be another tour at that time, since rain can cause flooding in the cave.

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The bridge between Loch a’ Chairn Bhain and Loch Gleann Dubh (c) ABR 2016

The views coming south from Smoo Cave south to Lochinver were some of my favorite from the trip, and heavens, I was sad that we weren’t prepared for a hard hike. For one, if you ever drive this way- please stop at the turn off just north of the bridge between Loch a’ Chairn Bhain and Loch Gleann Dubh. The bridge isn’t particularly artful, although it is oddly pleasing to the eye… perhaps due to the juxtaposition of the concrete structure and the towering highland mountains beyond. The Lochs are breathtaking too, and I hate to say it, but in my opinion, much more beautiful than Loch Ness, although they are much smaller and lack a prehistoric monster (as far as we know). Driving past the bridge (south) you will then get some great views of the mountains that have stuck in my mind ever since the trip- three peaked Quinag to the west and Glas Bheinn to the east. Even when we visited the Isle of Skye, there were not mountains that outmatched these for beauty and mystique, in my opinion. And regardless, they are both great examples of highland mountains, and worth a gander if you like challenging hiking.

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Little Assynt Estate (c) ABR 2016

There is also some easier walks that you can check out on the way down from Lochinver to Gairloch. For instance, the Little Assynt Estate has a very nice area to walk around in with great views of a little loch and the mountains, as well as a place to sit and relax (and maybe fish as well?). The trails are dry and mostly flat here as well, so they make for a nice break from driving if you don’t have the proper equipment for a highland hike. We also walked up from Gruinard Bay to Eas Dubh Falls – which was a nice stroll along the beach, but the hike itself, up from the ocean into the hills to the waterfall, was quite boggy. Due to this, and our lack of proper, high-top hiking boots, forced us to walk through the bracken more than I would have liked, and I ended up getting a tick. So, do plan ahead, bring good, waterproof shoes, and be aware that Scotland does, in fact, have ticks. I definitely did not regret this second hike, however, as the waterfall was beautiful and the trail was deserted.

If you want to see more picture of my journey through Scotland, as well as past pictures, check out my travel Tumblr here.

On July 1st, I am planning on posting about the cities and castles of Scotland.

Feel free to leave relevant comments and/or questions below.

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Eas Dubh Falls (c) ABR 2016

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The Scottish N500: The Scenic West Coast of Scotland

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Castles and Cities of Scotland


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36 Comments

  1. It’s so beautiful! We’re going to be in Scotland in April and cannot wait to explore!

  2. Ivonne

    What a beautiful introduction to the scenery of Scotland. I love Caves and these sound amazing!!!

  3. Beautiful. I have only gotten to go to Scotland once and we drove through a lot of the country. The whole place is so beautiful.

  4. chavamazal

    I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland. Your pictures are so gorgeous. Those caves sound incredible.

  5. Amber

    Gorgeous photos! I would love to drive through Scotland. I know I’d love it.

  6. Scotland is such a beautiful place! I’ve only been once, but I fell in love with it when I visited! I can’t wait to go back!

    Jasmine / http://www.jasminekeclipse.com

  7. Josselyn Radillo

    I have that land in my bucket list since I started reading outlander ! I can’t to start traveling this year

    • I love that Outlander inspired you! I was extra excited to see the Isle of Skye because of Prometheus (which I admit, wasn’t the best, but I loved the scenery).

  8. I have Scotland on my travel list for ages now so I better start planning.
    Thank you for inspiration and beautiful photos – love them all!

  9. Beautiful pictures. I would love to visit that cave. I enjoy hiking and exporing but have never been in a cave. Scotland is on my bucketlist. I can’t wait to hear more about your journey

    • Thank you so much! <3 Caves are just amazing! I have seen them in a few different places, and they are all beautiful. Scotland is hard to beat though!

  10. OMG your pictures look like they came from a fairy tale book. Simply gorgeous. I have never thought to add Scottland to my travel list but I think I should

  11. I absolutely caves and I find them so beautiful. This one looks very beautiful. Sounds like you had a wonderful time.

  12. Heather with wellfitandfed.com

    I want to go here so bad!! It looks amazing!

  13. Are guests can enjoy the dip at Smoo Cave? It seems this is one of the best spot!

    -blairvillanueva

  14. lex

    never been to scotland but these images took me off my sit hear and landed me in those wonderful places you detailed.

  15. I have always wanted to visit Scotland! You took some gorgeous pictures on your trip. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be to explore it in person. Some of my roots and ancestors are from Scotland, so I might just have to make the trip one day 🙂

    • I think I have some ancestry there as well, but either way, I would highly suggest it. I actually had no idea how beautiful it would be before we went. It was a compromise between me and my husband on a location since we like really different things. I loved it so much though!

  16. Scotland looks beautiful! If it wasn’t on my list to visit, it is now!

  17. chelseadaigle

    That waterfall is absolutely breathtaking!

  18. Scotland looks beautiful

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