Paradise in a rainstorm

For those who make the journey to wet, wind-swept Wester Ross the rewards lie in a feast for the eye matched only by the promise of the menus. By Andrew Marr

There is a trick that Wester Ross plays. Just as you are driving back up and east across Scotland, leaving the long sea-lochs and weaving through the mountains, you take a last look back and see an explosion of colour.

The water turns emerald and purple-blue, there are detonations of yellow and scarlet on the hillsides, and small white houses with luridly painted, corrugated-iron roofs appear from the shadows. All of this is a trick, a surprise, because until you were just about to leave - it was raining.

Other parts of Britain may face hosepipe bans and parched river beds as a result of global climate change, but Wester Ross, like most of the rest of the Western Scottish Highlands, will be forever damp. While London sweltered its way through the Easter break, we were squelching in welly boots, bent double in waterproofs, through raw wind and horizontal rain.

And it was wonderful. Wester Ross is not for sun-worshippers or easily bored urban Channel-hoppers. Its awesome mountains and extraordinary vistas, which make all those Victorian engravers and School-of-Landseer painters look like photo-realists, are well protected from the rest of Britain - by distance, most obviously, but also by climate. In winter, the days are short. The wind rarely dies. Colour sinks and disappears. Summers can produce sudden hot spells, but also bring the midges. Spring and autumn are the best times, but they are not ... well, predictably good.

And all this is a blessing, if well disguised in sheets of rain: many years ago I remember hearing from a German tourist on a fine Wester Ross beach, with sun beating down on the flour-white sand, that once people at home heard about it, this Scottish coast would be ''covered with hotels, like Spain''.

They were never built: too rainy for mass tourism. So those people who do come, taking the train and bus, or flying to Inverness and driving, rent cottages or stay in bed-and-breakfast places.

Once, not so long ago, Highland guest houses tended to be pretty poor: nylon sheets, fried eggs and beans for breakfast, a pervasive smell of cigarettes in the lounge. Today, though, there is a little flowering of genuinely good small hotels and guest houses. This is important: you need warm and comforting rooms, and excellent food, to recover from a cold day on the hills, or from fishing. We found, in a corner of Wester Ross we know well, a croft house offering sumptuous breakfasts - local kippers, duck eggs, griddle scones - roaring open fires, and excellent dinners, including venison, trout, wonderful Scottish cheeses and a boggling sequence of puddings.

It was a good Scottish welcome, though Mairi and Roger Beeson are typical of many modern Highlanders: they met in a London advertising agency and moved north only recently. Their Obinan Croft (''the last house by the shore'') is near Mellon Udrigle beach and looks out at a vast sweep of sea, the Summer Isles and the Sutherland mountains. We left after four nights, well blown about and rain-washed, but also seriously distended. For those prepared to take a short flight from London, and fed up with France, it's worth looking north.

Roger and Mairi Beeson can be contacted at Obinan Croft, Laide, Achnasheen, Wester Ross 1V22 2NU (01445731548).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor