Slioch must surely be one of the most celebrated, most photographed and most picturesque Munros in Scotland. It has been painted, filmed and written about for as long as man has done such things, for good reason to. Nestled in amongst the flowing hills of North West Scotland, Slioch occupies a position at the head of mythical Loch Maree which really does seem Edenic.
If you were to show pictures of Inverewe Gardens to someone who’d never been, then you could easily forgive them for thinking that the gardens are located in somewhere like Cornwall. Actually, it would be entirely reasonable for them to think that the gardens were anywhere in Britain where the sun is strong and the soil rich. So how on earth did this entrancing, world famous garden end up on the shores of the North West coast of Scotland, just next to Poolewe?
Salmon farming is on the face of it a godsend to rural communities. Remote sea lochs in the Highlands can, in a relatively short space of time, be transformed into genuinely profitable economic enterprises. This form of aquaculture is easy to implement and it serves a booming market with a high value product which is tasty, healthy and fashionable. It’s the sort of situation that businessmen and politicians dream of being a part of. Indeed, in recent years it has become Scotland’s largest food export and it has been held up by Scottish politicians to be a beacon of light in an otherwise largely faltering economy.
The Loch Maree Hotel is arguably the most famous hotel in North West Scotland.
In an age where the word hotel has become sullied somewhat by the proliferation of soul destroying bleak concrete monstrosities adjacent to motorways and airports, it’s important to remember what they originally symbolised. In this part of Scotland they signified the opening of the Highlands to tourism; one of the most important developments in Scotland’s economic history.
In December a remarkable thing happened. Eight vehicles that all once had a key role in the inspirational Ecurie Ecosse motor racing team sold for £8.8 million at Bonhams. The fact that these vehicles were mostly rare, fast and attractive goes some way to explaining why this happened, but it certainly doesn’t tell us the whole story. In order to understand that, one must take a look at the nature of team, its historic achievements and its legacy.
It is certainly true that most people have a romantic view of Scotland and some of the most evocative images people have in their heads involve crofting. In this image a few things will always be present. There will be a man who rivals the Scott’s Porage Oats logo for ruggedness (perhaps wearing a tartan scarf), there will be a charming croft, a trusty tractor and plenty of content livestock. In essence, this is perfect. Yet romanticism has rubbed the hardships out of memory and a proud nationalist illusion has superseded reality.
The epic landscape surrounding Loch Ewe belies its remarkable military past and present. To the modern onlooker, the site looks Edenic. Otters play in the shallows of the loch, fishing boats chug to and fro and the Alp-like Torridons rise up in the distance. I’ve already mentioned that British Tornado Jets fly in the area, but the Navy also use the place a lot, as they have done since the Second World War.
In World War Two it had a role to play with the infamous Arctic Convoys. The convoys started in 1941, and from September 1942, 19 convoys left from Loch Ewe. Loch Ewe was chosen due to its location and the fact that the loch has a narrow mouth, meaning that it was easier to protect from enemy submarines. A boom net was put in place here.