Gairloch has a prize-winning heritage museum, with informative displays on the local lighthouse, illicit whisky stills, fishing and crofting life, and the effects of World War II on the area. The hands-on activities will have children and adults travelling through time on the dullest of days.
Further World War II displays and information are also available at the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum at Aultbea, on the shores of Loch Ewe, around 12 miles north of Gairloch.
Events are run in the community centre and around the area throughout the year: look out for information advertising the latest events in the local paper, Gairloch and District Times, known locally as “yellow pages” due to its yellow cover. Activities and events are also advertised on the local radio station – Two Lochs Radio – which is available online as well as on the airwaves. The recently completed Gale Centre in Gairloch offers a comprehensive listing of events and activities in the local area as well as a gift and coffee shop.
Nearby Inverewe Gardens, at Poolewe, are astonishing – at the same latitude as Moscow, the gardens are full of exotic plants from as far afield as the Himalaya, China, New Zealand, Africa and America, indeed they even grow palm trees! As well as the extensive paths around the garden, with seasonally changing plants to view, this National Trust for Scotland site has a restaurant and café, and the recently-opened Mairi Sawyer’s house gives an insight into life for one of the garden’s founders, with interactive exhibits. The gardens overlook Loch Ewe, and a wildlife hide on the shore gives a sheltered spot to view wading birds and otters. The Pinewood Trail is a lovely 45-minute walk to the village, and is great for dog walkers.
Poolewe Village Hall also hosts a Market on Tuesday mornings which offers a wide range of local food produce, as well as craft and gift items. The proceeds of the market support local charities. There is a small indoor swimming pool in the village.
Gairloch’s nine-hole golf course, set in spectacular scenery behind a delightful beach, has been played on since the late 1800s. Visitors are welcomed, with day or weekly rates to play the greens. The clubhouse is open to the public for refreshments and there is ample parking.
Pony trekking and beach rides are available at Gairloch Trekking Centre, at Red Point.
There are many local gift shops and galleries, too many to list them all: Latitude 57 in Badachro and Treasure Chest Gifts by Gairloch harbour are recommended. The Perfume Studio and Aroma Café in Mellon Charles, by Loch Ewe, and Isle of Ewe smokehouse nearby are also worth a visit.
You can find out about Beinn Eighe, Scotland’s first National Nature Reserve, at the newly refurbished visitor centre, on the shores of Loch Maree, near Kinlochewe. Experience easy walking trails in the vicinity or for the more active, the mountain trails.
If you would rather see mountain scenery from the comfort of your car, a trip south to Torridon village can be amazing when the mountain tops are clear, with views of the spectacular Beinn Eighe ridge, Liathach, Ben Alligin and other major peaks. The road is single-track so can take longer than expected during busy times of year. Torridon has a Countryside Centre and Deer Museum. There are many pleasant eateries and shops in the village of Shieldaig nearby (a different Shieldaig to the one near Cairns Cottage!).
A trip north from Gairloch will also reveal spectacular mountain scenery, from impressive An Teallach to the Coigach and Assynt mountains near Ullapool, as well as fantastic coastal views to Gruinard Island and the Summer Isles. Why not stop off at the Corrieshalloch Gorge for a memorable short walk with stupendous views. Ullapool has many attractions, a range of shops and eateries, and is also the ferry port to the Outer Hebrides.