View towards Strath
|Ross, Skye and Lochaber|
Gairloch is a village and parish on the shores of Loch Gairloch in Ross-shire. A popular tourist destination in the summer months, Gairloch has a golf course, a small museum, several hotels, a community centre, a leisure centre with sports facilities, a local radio station, beaches and nearby mountains.
The parish of Gairloch extends over a much wider area, including the villages of Poolewe and Kinlochewe, and has a population of 950. The nearest railway station is located at Achnasheen. The nearest mainland airport is in Inverness.
Gairloch is a loosely defined area of settlement along the shores of Loch Gairloch, but primarily comprises three main clusters of shops, houses and amenities: the Harbour area (including Charlestown on the south side of the harbour), Achtercairn and Strath. If approaching from the south (via Kinlochewe), Charlestown and the harbour are met first. Achtercairn is centred on the road junction with the coastal road that leads west to Strath and on towards Melvaig. The main A832 road heads steeply up Achtercairn Brae leading out of the village to the north and on to Poolewe.
The coastal climate is affected by the Gulf Stream, bringing relatively warm waters in summer. These warm waters are ideal for jellyfish which can swarm the local waters.
Beyond Gairloch to the west a number of small settlements can be found: Big Sand, North Erradale, and Melvaig. Beyond Melvaig the road narrows to a twisting, undulating track (which is passable with a car) and ends at the Rua Reidh Lighthouse.
The lands around Gairloch have been mostly in the ownership of the Mackenzies of Gairloch since the 15th century, when they were acquired by Hector Roy Mackenzie (died 1528), with a family house in the sheltered Glen of Flowerdale. The Mackenzies were clan leaders in the traditional sense and were known for their attachment to their tenants. During the 19th century, Sir Hector Mackenzie and his sons Sir Francis and Dr John Mackenzie refused to evict a single tenant during the clearances, despite the estate running at a loss. As a result, evicted Highlanders from other communities came to live in the area and has caused Gairloch to maintain a thriving community even today. The Mackenzies were also keen gardeners. The glen has a microclimate and vegetation that are home to a diverse range of natural life. Dr John Mackenzie states in his memoir Pigeonholes of Memory, that his father was able to grow fruiting peaches outdoors. Osgood Mackenzie created the famous Inverewe Garden in nearby Poolewe. There is a walk up the Flowerdale burn, going past the Mackenzie house, Tigh Digh, to an impressive waterfall at the head of the glen. With the aid of public grants, new and refurbished footpaths have been established which allow residents and visitors to enjoy the wooded areas.
Gairloch and nearby Badachro have a strong history of creel shellfish fishing as well as small scale trawl fishing. The number of active boats is in decline, however, and Gairloch has seen both of its shellfish processing businesses fall by the wayside over the last 10 years. There are still a few dedicated fishermen who work regularly for their living, but many have moved on; some have diversified into catering for tourism and visitor activities.
Boat fishing and marine wildlife trips can be arranged at the harbour, and there are many hill lochs in the area with trout fishing available. Trips are also available with a working creel boat based in Badachro on the south side of the Gairloch (the "overside").
Shops and Post Offices are to be found in Strath and in Pier Road at the harbour. Public services such as police station, leisure centre, schools, library and health centre, as well as a small supermarket and a garden centre, are in the central Achtercairn area. There is a tourist information office, and a filling station (not open Sundays or public holidays). Internet café facilities are available at several locations in the area.
Two campsites take tents, caravans and motor homes – one in Strath (Gairloch Holiday Park) and one to the west on Little Sand Farm (Sands Caravan & Camping). A youth hostel, situated approximately half-way from Strath to Sand, has superb views across the bay towards Skye.
The Gairloch golf course is short and involves a lot of crossing and shared fairways. It has a dramatic setting by the beach and a very welcoming club house. The eighth hole is particularly dramatic and challenging.
A Pictish stone with a distinctive carving of a salmon was found in Gairloch in 1880. This is one of the westernmost sites where such a discovery has been made. The stone is now on display in the Gairloch Heritage Museum.
The site of a 1945 plane crash at the Fairy Lochs near Gairloch is now a designated war grave. The crash site, close to the village of Badachro, has been preserved as a memorial to the USAAF servicemen who lost their lives in the accident.
An online photographic tour is available.
Gairloch is the final resting place of the renowned Gaelic bard Uilleam Ros or William Ross (1762–1791), known as 'the Gairloch bard'. Ross was born in Broadford on Skye and traveled extensively throughout the Western Isles, becoming known for his knowledge of different varieties of Gaelic. He composed several famous romantic poems attempting to win the affection of Marion Ross of Stornoway, who apparently never responded to his attentions. Perhaps the most famous of these is 'Feasgar Luain'. Ross settled in the Gairloch area and became a schoolmaster, and died at the age of 28 in Badachro. It is popularly believed that he died of a broken heart.
Two Lochs Radio
Gairloch is home to the Britain's smallest local radio station, Two Lochs Radio (website), which is a community-run station serving the central part of Wester Ross. It can also be listened to on the Internet.
- General Register Office for Scotland : Census 2001 : Usual Resident Population : Gairloch Civil Parish Retrieved 2009-11-18
- Gairloch Heritage Museum, http://www.gairlochheritagemuseum.org
- Òrain nan Rosaich, A Collection of Gaelic songs from Ross-shire. Inverness, Highland Council publications 2005