Established in 1951, this is the UK's oldest nature reserve, and also one of the largest with almost 18 square miles of open moorland, woodland and bogs. It was set up to protect the largest remnant of ancient Scots pinewood in Scotland. The Loch Maree Islands Nature Reserve has just been incorporated into it, and the whole area is managed by Scottish National Heritage. It is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The reserve has a visitor centre and a woodland trail and a mountain trail. Both trails run through the remains of the Caledonian pine forest. The views from the top of the mountain trail are absolutely stunning – well worth the effort. Beinn Eighe itself is a splendid mountain and two of its summits are classified as Munros.
One of the most famous features of the mountain is the corrie of Coire Mhic Fearchair, or the Triple Buttress Corrie. This was the scene of an aviation tragedy in 1951 when a post-war converted Lancaster crashed just below the summit of the mountain in atrocious weather conditions. All eight crew members died in the crash and the remains of the aircraft can still be seen today. The tragedy led to the formation of the Torridon Mountain Rescue Team.
Half a mile north of Poolewe is this world famous garden which is one most popular botanical attractions in Scotland and not to be missed. The garden was created on a patch of bare rock by Osgood Mackenzie, the youngest son of the laird of Gairloch, in 1862 and he spent his entire live developing a garden with a remarkable collection of trees and shrubs from around the world. It is full of colourful exotic plants which flourish here thanks to the warm currents of the Gulf Stream. The garden was given to the National Trust in 1952. It is interesting whatever the time of year, but perhaps the nicest time to see it is in spring when the Rhododendron collection is at its best.
A spectacular mile long gorge and waterfall, formed at the end of the last Ice Age. The gorge is 200 feet deep and one of the finest examples of a box canyon in the UK. The river plunges 150 feet over the Falls of Measach. The falls can be viewed from a viewing platform and a Victorian suspension bridge, both accessed from a car park on the south side of the gorge.
The story of the gorge is linked with Sir John Fowler who was the pioneering engineer behind the London Underground. He purchased Braemore Estate in 1857 and spent many holidays there. Near his house deep in the woods, was a full size tunnel in the hillside, obviously experimenting with the Metro in mind! We saw it some 20 years ago - whether it is still there is anyone's guess.
There are numerous wildlife tours that can be taken from Gairloch harbour, catering for all ages.
Glass bottom boat trip – Crystal clear waters provide 'Sealife' with the perfect location for seeing up close our wonderful and spellbinding undersea marine world. Ideal for children of all ages.
Trip around the bay – Gairloch Marine Life Cruises offer scenic and wildlife survey cruises around Gairloch, aboard a 31 foot motor boat.
Whale watching trips – Hebridean Whale Cruises operate whale watching and wildlife cruises from Gairloch, aboard Orca 1, a superb 11 metre offshore RHIB. The skipper will take you offshore where the glittering Hebridean waters are favoured with an abundance of marine wildlife, in search of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sharks - the ride is always exhilarating and often thrilling.
Trips to the Shiant Isles – Hebridean Whale Cruises can also take you on a unique trip to the remote and fascinating Shiant Islands, home to many thousands of puffins, guillemots, razorbills, sea eagles and other sea birds
And from Badachro, you can take a trip with a local skipper on his traditional creel fishing boat. Come and see the shellfish and sea life as the creels are hauled in, filled with langoustines, squat lobsters, crabs, octopus, starfish, scorpion fish and beautiful shells.
For canoeing and kayaking, Ewecanoe, based in Aultbea, offers fun and exciting paddling experiences amongst sheltered sea lochs, wide sandy bays and beautiful inland lochs.
There are many mountains within a short drive, many of which are Munros or Corbetts. There are five Munros which are easily accessible and justly popular – An Teallach, Slioch, Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin.
At 3,484 feet, An Teallach, lying on the northern fringe of the wild Fisherfield Forest and overlooking Little Loch Broom, is a major contender for the most impressive mountain in Scotland and not for the faint hearted! It can be reached from Dundonnell.
Slioch lies north of Kinlochewe and reaches a height of 3,218 feet. It towers above Loch Maree and must be one of the most photographed mountains in Scotland. It is climbed from Incheril, near Kinlochewe. The start of this walk is very pleasant, alongside Kinlochewe River to where it joins Loch Maree. It is possible to walk through to Poolewe from here, through the Inverewe Estate.
The area between Little Loch Broom and Loch Maree, which has An Teallach to the north and Slioch to the south, is the Letterewe and Fisherfield Forests, more commonly known as The Great Wilderness. It is a remote and spectacular region of mountains and lochs and can be reached from Poolewe, Kinlochewe, Gruinard and Dundonnell. It is a long walk in, and not for the inexperienced.
Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin are all reached from the road from Kinlochewe to Torridon. Even if you don't climb the mountains, the views along this road are second to none; it is one of the most delightful drives in the area.
If you don't fancy such a gruelling day climbing a Munro, try our favourite 'little mountain', An Groban in Flowerdale. Only 1256 feet but the panoramic view from the top is staggering.
The area has plenty to offer if you are a hillwalker, with access to vast tracts of wild mountainous country. There are many fine walks for all ages and abilities. Although you are free to roam anywhere, we would advise keeping to the paths as much as possible – it can be pretty hard going off road! Millions of indigenous trees were planted in the area ten years ago and care is needed when walking to avoid the holes left by the tree planters. We have listed a few walks below, there are many others if you have a map and a bit of imagination.