Varis Holiday House
With views to Skye and the Glen Elg peninsula over Loch Alsh, Varis makes a superb base for exploring Skye and Lochalsh. The Skye Bridge, iconic Eilean Donan Castle and delightful village of Plockton are all within 5 miles.
The house is very well equipped with touches of luxury. Sleeping 6, there are super-king double beds and over-sized bed linen. With the owners providing lots of information on the fantastic local produce, especially seafood, the kitchen has everything you need – and there is information on some great local restaurants. Care has also been taken to make ample provision for outdoor enthusiasts with generous drying spaces and secure storage for bikes, boats, etc.
Owner, Debra Storr, shares her highlights of the area.
Skye and Lochalsh
The Local Area
Skye itself is a world class destination but the Lochalsh peninsula has a charm of its own. Much of the land towards Skye forms part of the NTS-owned Balmacara Estate. The woodland walks on north shore of Loch Alsh are delightful at any time of the year – and can provide welcome shelter on windy days.
Interestingly crofting is still growing in Lochalsh with the NTS forming new 8 new crofts in 2000 and working with the crofters to maintain the traditional patterns of farming, much to the benefit of the local environment. Highland Cattle roam free, especially around the crofting township of Duirinish. The cattle are used to people and pose happily for photographs – just be careful never to get between a cow and her calf as they are protective mothers.
On the Water
The area is a big draw for kayakers. Islands and fjord-like lochs ensure that there is almost always calm water for less experienced paddlers but thrill seekers can enjoy being carried through the Glen Elg narrows at up to 12km/hour – without putting a paddle in the water. There is a variety of trips for paddlers from the shores of Lochalsh: through the narrows to the Sandaig islands where Gavin Maxwell wrote Ring of Bright Water, along Loch Alsh to Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Sheil and Loch Long, under the Skye Bridge to all the islands off the Lochalsh peninsula and even across to the Crowlin Islands and Applecross. And there are innumerable trips from other start points.
It is no accident that there is a concentration of sea kayak guides and trainers in the area offering everything from taster sessions to serious training for expert paddlers.
On the Land
There are routes to about 30 Munros within a 30 minute drive – and plenty more attractive walks for the less committed, including a network of livestock and traffic free walks direct from the house, ideal for dog owners. Many of these paths are also suitable for mountain bikes.
One of our favourite walks is to the Plockton Coral Beach. After a delightful walk on a well made path through woodland and a short steep section of path with a scramble over rocks, you reach this beach made from calcified seaweed, mearl. The beach forms part of a sheltered bay which is ideal for pottering about so bring a picnic and be ready to investigate rock pools and paddle – if not swim. Or enjoy a romantic sunset stroll.
Beth’s Café in Balmacara Square serves lovely cakes and lighter lunches and the Plockton Inn, Plockton Hotel, Plockton Shores and Dornie Inn restaurants all serve super local food at modest prices. Just over the bridge, the Taste of India restaurant and takeaway is excellent and Hector’s Bothy in Kyle has long opening hours and will always provide good options for all tastes.
Over the winter, look out for various local craft fairs and visitors are welcome to the local ceilidhs.
The area is renowned for the quality of its traditional music, with Plockton High School being a national centre. Most of the ceilidhs are pretty informal affairs, operating on bring-your-own-bottle and with admission making a contribution to local organisations’ funds. Just be ready join in the dancing and laughing. The West Highland Free Press usually carries adverts for these events or look out for roadside signs.
Use the telescopes, binoculars and information provided at Varis to look at the stars. This isn’t a formal Dark Sky Area but on clear nights, you do get good views. Fleece blankets are provided for sky watchers on cooler nights.
Eilean Donan Castle stays open all year and is perhaps best visited in quieter periods – it can be very busy in the peak summer months. Just imagine yourself living there on a stormy January night!
The gardens, castle ruins and children’s playground of Armadale Castle at the south of Sleat are open during daylight hours, free of charge in the winter.
The Glen Elg circuit is a great day out with something for everyone.
Do take a trip with the local wildlife tour operators (boat or bus). They have great local knowledge and a knack of getting close to wildlife.
In May each year, the last sea going paddle steamer in the world, PS Waverley visits and a trip on her is a delight – nostalgia to a more gracious age and the best scenery in the world.
All images courtesy of Gordon Milne, co-owner ©.