How to get to Unst Chalet, Sutherland, Scotland

How to get to us

There are good air and rail links to Inverness and a regular public transport service is available to Lochinver. For those travelling by car, the drive from Inverness to Inverkirkaig takes around 2 hours depending on traffic. Take the A9 to Tore, then the A835 to Ullapool. Head North on the A835 to Ledmore Junction, then take the A837 to Lochinver, which is known locally as 'The wee mad road'. Take the main road through Lochinver towards the harbour / fishing boat jetties and take the turning on the left (at the Bank) signposted to Inverkirkaig (in the Gaelic: Inbhir Chircaig ). Carry on this road past Badnaban and Strathan until you come to Inverkirkaig. As you drop down the hill and approach the bay, there is a gateway on the right with a sign for 'Valhalla' on the wooden fence. Turn right here, over the cattle grid and 'Unst' is the first chalet you come to on the right. The name is painted on a stone by the chalet steps. Enjoy your stay !!

Detailed routes from the South are described in the chapters below.

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Preamble

We have driven by car and ridden by motorbike all of the routes described below. We have travelled these routes at various times both by day and by night. Sometimes we have travelled directly to Inverkirkaig and at others, we have gone 'walkabout' on the way, stopping over at some of the places described below and making the 'getting there' part of our holiday.

We have travelled these roads, which pass through some of the most impressive and majestic landscapes to be found anywhere in the UK at all times of the year from January to December, in sun, rain, snow and ice and have enjoyed each and every trip. By treating each one as an adventure, and by allowing a day or so at each end of our holiday, has meant there was never any pressure to get there, believing that sometimes, just sometimes, "It is better to travel than arrive" and when we finally arrive, we are already relaxed and ready to start a holiday.

These are the routes we have come to know and love however they are not the only ones and there are many alternatives. There are so many roads that lead to the North of England that they are not described here.

East Coast Routes

A1

Take the A1 to Newcastle-on-Tyne. From Newcastle, stay on the A1 all the way to Edinburgh. Some great, unspoiled places to stop off in Northumberland such as Holy Island (Lindisfarne), Budle Bay (nature reserve) & Bamburgh (Grace Darling museum & Queen Bebbas’ Castle). Stop at the Safeway store near the Berwick roundabout which has a good cafe and petrol station before the run up to Edinburgh.

Alternative Routes to Edinburgh:

A68 / A696 /A697
Head up the A1 past Newcastle-on-Tyne and take either the A68, the A697, or if you want an overnight stay, take the A696 to Otterburn. A good overnight stopping point is at the Redesdale Arms Hotel ( http://www.redesdale-hotel.co.uk ) near Otterburn, which is also known as the 'First & Last' as it is the last in England or the first when coming from Scotland.

Take the A 697, which leaves the A1 just after Morpeth. The road passes through some beautiful countryside steeped in British history. Through Longhorsely, Longframlington, Powburn and Wooler, where shortly after leaving the town, you pass Flodden Field, the famous battlesite, on the right. Well worth a visit as it is only a short 3 miles diversion off the A 697. Up to Coldstream (that of the guards) where you cross the border, there are many places of interest to visit. The A 697 joins the A68 (not far from Lauder) here at Oxton.

The A696 also joins up with the A68 at Elishaw, just past Otterburn. Along the A68 from Elishaw, through the Redesdale forest, past the Catcleugh Reservoir and up to Carter Bar is a good drive especially if the weather is clear as the road and scenery are great. After Carter Bar, the run to Lauder is excellent along good roads with scenery to match. There is a Castle at Lauder which has an excellent camping & caravan site and there are also various B & B's in the town.

Edinburgh and Further North

A68 / A720 / A90 /A9
Continuing along the A68, head up and over the Dun Law and down Soutra Hill to Pathhead, then drop down the A68 into Bonnyrigg and join the A720 Edinburgh by-pass. Along the by-pass, over the Forth road Bridge, then North on the A90 until near Perth, the road forks and the A9 takes you to Inverness.

At this point in the journey if you fancy a pitstop, instead of taking the A9, a worthwhile short detour is to continue along the A90 towards Dundee where not far from the Kilspindie turn off, there is a cafe on the right called 'The Horn' which has a caravan place next to it so you can see the vans, flags etc a mile off. Know this: The Horn cafe makes the best bacon rolls in Scotland.

A9
Take the A9 from Perth, head up to Pitlochry. There is lots of accommodation / camp sites and the town is pretty lively during the summer months. Leaving Pitlochry, climb up the Pass of Killiecrankie (that of the battle) where the temperature can nose-dive a few degrees, through such places as Glen Garry (that of the bonnets), then the Pass of Drumochter which is around 1,600 metres ASL and Blair Atholl (that of the Brose). Follow the A9 up to Inverness.

West Coast Routes

A66 / M6 / M74

Get on the M6 if starting from the West side of the country. If you are starting from the East side of the country, you can take the A1 to Scotch Corner and then turn off on the A66. You leave the A1 on the slip road and there is a big roundabout on the flyover. Take the first exit as you pass the Scotch Corner Hotel and you are on the A66. Just after you turn onto this road, there is a layby on the left where you will find an excellent cafe. There are tables outside, some grass to sit on in the sun and a toilet block.

Head across the A66 until you get to the M6 then head north. Depending on how far you have come, an excellent stopping point is the Brackenrigg Inn (www.brackenrigginn.co.uk) at Ullswater which is not far off the M6. You can sit outside and because the Inn overlooks Ullswater, it means the views are spectacular. If you do decide to stay over, telephone first as it can get busy during the summer months.

M6 / M74 / M8 / A814 / A82

Head up the M6 (which changes road number to M74 at the Scottish border) and take the M74 to Glasgow. Take the M8 through the centre of Glasgow till you come to the turn-off for the Irskine toll bridge. Pass through the toll booths and over the bridge and there is a turn-off on the left (the road sign shows it as a 'Y' junction) which is the A814 to Dumbarton. Follow this road through the town and pick up the signs for the A82 to Loch Lomond. Take the A82 along Loch Lomond side where the views are spectacular, then continue up the A82 to Tarbet.

If you fancy a break at this point, you can turn left and follow the A83 for a couple of miles to Arrochar, at the head of Loch Long. As you come into Arrochar, look out for a sign for the B838 on the left. Where it joins the A814 (less than a half a mile) there is cafe at Tighness on the left. Sat outside the Cafe in the sun, the views up the Loch are superb and it is a fine stopping point. Just across the Loch you can see some piers and jetties which were once used for test firing torpedo's by the MOD. Loch Long is tidal and during the summer, if you have an hour or two to spare when you stop, you can have some good fishing spinning for Mackerel by the Jetties mentioned.

Back on the A82, the road through Crainlarich to Fort William is excellent with spectacular views. You pass through Glencoe on a good road with the mountains as a majestic and impressive backdrop. Past Ballachulish and along the side of Loch Linnhe then up to Fort William which has a Safeway store on a roundabout in the middle of town (you can't miss it). Access is simple and the store has a good cafe. You can get an all day breakfast, a range of main meals, sandwiches etc. Prices are low enough to astound the habitual users of motorway cafes. If you are so minded, stay over for a day in Fort William - loads of B & B are available in the area and there are good camp sites for overnight stays (we always enjoy Glen Nevis). During the summer you can get a day excursion on the 'Jacobite' steam train which runs from Fort William up to Mallaig. You can then take the Ferry from Mallaig to Skye or the Small Isles (Rhum, Eigg and Muck). Make sure to book well in advance as the train is very popular. Last minute cancellations are possible but you need a bit of luck on your side. As an alternative route, stay on the A82 out of Fort William which takes you along the side of Loch Lochy, through places like Fort Augustus, then Drumnadrochit, which has a pub / bistro on the RH side just as you come in. Sit outside in the sun with a coffee and watch the world go by for a while before continuing along the side of Loch Ness, where you pass through some spectacular scenery.

Feeling adventurous? Head out of Fort William on the A82 till you get to Glengarry, then turn left onto the A87 for Kyle of Lochalsh. Take the A890 out of Glengarry to Lochcarron. Take the road to Kishorn and then follow the road to Applecross. This road climbs 2,054 ft and takes you over the famous Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle) and Applecross . The road and scenery are breathtaking. Drop down into Applecross, which has a campsite with good views, then follow the coast road to Shieldaig, Gairloch, Poolewe and then on to Ullapool. This route is so beautiful, it deserves several chapters by itself.

INVERNESS & FURTHER NORTH

A9

All of the roads mentioned previously are normally very good and you can make good time to Inverness; if you intend to travel during the night, fill your tank before you leave Inverness, as from here on up, places where you can get fuel out of normal opening hours can be few and far between. As you approach Inverness, look out for the A96, signposted to Nairn. Take this road for about 1/2 mile and you will find a Tesco store / filling station where you can get food & fuel - check the opening times though. Head out of Inverness across Hessle Bridge on the A9 (signposted) towards Tore. Just over the bridge, you pass the Black Isle which is on your right. There is a signpost to the Black Isle Brewery that is well worth a visit and you can take a tour of the brewery. The brewery is set in fine surroundings and has a seat outside with grand views over open countryside on which you can soak up the sun.

Tore is around 7 miles from Inverness on the A9 and from Tore, head out on the A835 to Ullapool (signposted). It is generally free and clear from this point on. There are a couple of good cafes if you pass through during the daytime but expect not a lot at night. It is spectacular from here through the Strathgrave and then Garbat forests. You come to the Altguish Inn on the RH side of the A835, round a left-hander, head up a slight rise and then you see Loch Glascarnoch on the right. The road is very good and Braemore comes up fairly soon and then Inverlael which is the beginning of Little Loch Broom on your left. Along the side of the Loch and through Ardcharnich then you are dropping down through the bends into Ullapool. Just as you come in, there is a garage on the right. Be careful if you are relying on this for a pitstop as they may change their closing hours from summer to winter. Winter closing for some of the garages, cafes and shops this far north can be fairly early so bear it in mind. Tank up at the garage there just to be sure - they have a good range of basics such as bread, milk, tinned food, wine etc. that will get you a simple supper.

ULLAPOOL & EVEN FURTHER NORTH

The town of Ullapool is a fine stopping point. Set on a loch, the main street is next to the harbour and there are Inns, in the true sense of the word, where you can get a drink in the bar and a good meal in the restaurant. Stop at the Ferry Boat Inn who do B & B and have a restaurant. The restaurant may close during winter months but the bar meals are very good. Also on this street is the Ceol na Marr cafe that sells real home-made food and cakes (you can go on a diet tomorrow) and they are more than happy for you to take your tray of tea and cakes and sit on the harbour wall (mind the Seagulls). The corner restaurant / fish and chip shop on the RH side of the road opposite the ferry office has a wide range of seafood from fish and chips through to Lobsters. A little further along in the corner of the lorry car park on the RH side there are public toilets that have showers. There is also aTesco store in Ullapool which closes around 20:00 hrs during the summer. There is a road parallel with the 'front street' that has banks, post office, chandlers and all manner of other stuff. You can get a Ferry from Ullapool out to various islands including Lewis which makes for an interesting diversion if you have never been there. The customer service on these ferries (Caledonian McBrayne) is very good. There is a rather nice old poem from the past about the original McBrayne company which goes:

"The earth belongs unto the Lord, and all that it contains,

Except the Western Isles, which belong unto McBraynes".

Back on the road, head North out of Ullapool on the A835. You are now on some of the best unspoilt roads in the UK. When you get to the top of the hill, the view is fantastic. You drop down into Ardmair with magnificent views of the bay of Loch Kanaird on your left.

A835 / A837

Heading along the A835 you come to Knockan and Elphin and along the side of the mountain with spectacular views out over Loch Urigill on the right and Loch Veyatie and the Cam Loch on the left. The A835 between Ullapool and Ledmore Junction is 18 miles of truly amazing hills and bends with a fantastic backdrop of mountains. At Ledmore Junction, turn left and take the A837 towards Lochinver. You pass Loch Awe and then come to Inchnadamph at the Southern end of Loch Assynt. At Inchnadamph you will see the ruins of a house and a small castle, both of which date from the 1500's. The Hotel at Inchnadamph is seasonal and has excellent views over Loch Assynt from the dining room window - the hotel appears to have originally been a shooting and fishing lodge and they have an good menu. The A837 is a tremendous road with some wonderful scenery, however the only word of caution is look out for Deer, which come down from the hills during the rutting season and can be found in abundance during the night once you leave Ullapool. There are normally no problems with the sheep who tend to be streetwise and stay out the way.

JOURNEYS END - LOCHINVER AND INVERKIRKAIG

Journeys end is in sight when you drop down the hill into Lochinver. Stay on the main road through Lochinver until the road bends round to the right and you can see the fishing boats and jetties. On the bend, there is a turning to the left signposted for Inverkirkaig (Inbhir Chircaig). Carry on along this road, through Strathan and Badnaban and after a couple of miles you will come to Inverkirkaig. As you drop down the hill and approach the bay, there is a gateway on the right with a sign for 'Valhalla' on the wooden fence. Turn right here, over the cattle grid and 'Unst' is the first chalet you come to on the right. The name is painted on a stone by the chalet steps. Enjoy your stay !!