History & Heritage
Local history is well documented at the Gairloch Heritage Museum. This has an abundance of local information, photographs, recordings of past residents and much more and is well worth a visit. The clan system has been in operation in this area for centuries and a comprehensive guide available from the online shop is Clans and Tartans a pocket-sized book full of information. The history of language in the Highlands is a chequered one, with Gaelic all but banned for many years, but now Gaelic is undergoing a massive revival, being taught in the local schools, and featuring in all areas of the arts. A Gaelic Phrasebook makes interesting reading, as does the Scots-English Dictionary recently produced.
There are archaeological sites in several areas, with a marked archaeological trail at Sand River, near Big Sand, 3 miles from Gairloch. A booklet entitled Sands River Trail is available which gives a detailed description of this site, which includes remains of many generations of settlers in this area.
A Pictish stone can be seen in Poolewe burial ground, and there is evidence of iron workings from the early eighteenth century along the banks of the River Ewe. More recently, Inverewe House, home of the Mackenzie family who established Inverewe Garden, can be seen within in the Garden. Their other family home, Flowerdale House, can be viewed from the pathway passing in front of it on the Flowerdale Walk. Remains of many blackhouses litter the area, and one, at least, still retains its heather thatch.
There is speculation that a ring of stones, which appear in Loch Tollaidh at low water, levels may be the site of an ancient crannog, an enclosure built over the water on stilts with a removable gangway in case of attack.
An excellent book which details much of the recent history of Gairloch and the surrounding area is Gairloch and Loch Maree by J. H. Dixon, available from our online shop, or directly from the Tourist Information Centre in Gairloch or GALE office in Poolewe. Much probably remains to be uncovered about the ancient past of this area but it is certain that there have been communities living around the shores of Loch Gairloch and Loch Ewe for a very long time.
Inverewe Garden, Poolewe
The star tourist attraction of the area is Inverewe Garden at Poolewe, with a visitor centre and restaurant. Now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, the garden was first established in the 1860s by the laird, Osgood Mackenzie. It is home to hundreds of exotic species of plants from around the world, all thriving in the warm, humid climate of the west coast.
Before you visit it is well worth gettting the Inverewe guide book which is full of information about the garden including maps to help you plan your route.
Unfortunately it is not just the plants that thrive in the warm, humid climate. The midges love it, with Inverewe Garden being one of their favourite haunts! The best advice is to go armed with a good midge repellant and hood.