Loch Maree Post Road
Start location: A832 by Srondubh, Poolewe (NG 862 814)
End location: 800m northeast of A832 (NH 039 624)
Geographical area: Ross and Cromarty
Path Type: Rural Path, Drove Road
Path distance: 29.5km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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This is a classic and historic walking route of the Highlands, traversing the length of one of the most beautiful of Scottish lochs. It is, however, not to be undertaken lightly, for not only is it long, but the going in places is very rough and there are no hostelries on the way. As of September 2019, we have also received a report that the Bianasdail Bridge (NH011656) is missing a number of slats and several are rotten, so do take care here as there is quite a drop below.
Kinlochewe is the starting point for expeditions into the Letterewe and Fisherfield wilderness from the south. There is a car park 1km east of the village at Incheril. The route to Poolewe goes northwest along the path on the north side of the Kinlochewe River to reach the head of Loch Maree and continues along the loch. In places it climbs about 100m above the shore and goes by Furnace to Letterewe.
From Letterewe follow the path which climbs north beside the Allt Folais and crosses this stream in about 1km to go along the path parallel with Loch Maree for a further 1.5km until the watershed is reached at about map ref 941 735 where the path swings north. Continue north by this path which goes over the col and down Srathan Buidhe to the low ground at the foot of the pass. There, turn northwest round the base of Beinn Airidh Charr and go past Loch an Doire Chrionaich and down the Allt na Creige, along a path which has been improved, to reach Kernsary. From there a path runs northwest beside Loch Kernsary to reach Srondubh and Poolewe.
If you're inspired to try this route and would like a general idea of what to expect, we suggest reading Charles Coull's blog about running the Post Road from Incheril (by Kinlochewe) to Poolewe in 2013 - we're told the paths were fabulous especially after Letterewe.
OS Landranger 19 (Gairloch)
Poolewe used to be an important harbour, and this was the old route to Poolewe from the south, linking with the Coulin Pass from Loch Carron, as shown on General Roy's map of 1755 and Arrowsmith's map of 1807. It was used as a drove road; the hotel in Kinlochewe being formerly a drovers' inn. Bord, a hamlet that existed before the village of Kinlochewe came into being, was the site of the old change house.
It is also the way used in the 1800s and possibly earlier by postrunners travelling from Dingwall to Poolewe. The 1921 book A Hundred Years in the Highlands by Osgood Mackenzie of Inverewe records the mid-nineteenth century journeying of Iain Mor am Posda (Big John the Post / John Mackenzie) from Poolewe to Dingwall and back. Latterly, his journey was shortened somewhat by the need to head "only" as far east as Achnasheen - he was the last post-runner and he is said to have emigrated to Australia once replaced by the mail coach. It is important to note that the postie's route kept closer to the shore of Loch Maree than today's route - instead of heading north up the Allt Folais from Letterewe as described above, he headed northwest traversing the now impassable Creag Tharbh (Bull Rock). The story of an earlier Loch Maree post-runner Donald Mackenzie (Donald Charles), the father of the above-mentioned John, featured as part of the BBC geneology programme Who Do You Think You Are? in August 2015, so keep an eye out for repeat showings. Those who walk any of this route today will gain a very high respect for the postmen of over two centuries ago.
The early Scottish traveller and mapmaker Timothy Pont is said by various sources to have used at least parts of this route in the 1590s - the section from Poolewe to Kernsary (although he then veered north and east to Dundonnell), and also a viewpoint above Letterewe.
The woods that once lined this side of Loch Maree were cut down to fire furnaces for iron ore smelting, traces of this industry can still be seen at the lochside. The ruined house at Innisabhaird (place of the bard), northwest of Kernsary, is said to have been the home of Am Bard Sasunnach (the English Bard), a descendant of one of the English workers that came to the area in the 1600s to work the iron foundries.