GAIRLOCH spreads itself around the northeastern corner of the wide sheltered bay of Loch Gairloch. During the summer, Gairloch thrives as a low-key holiday resort with several tempting sandy beaches and some excellent coastal walks within easy reach. The main supermarket and tourist office are in Achtercairn, right by the Gairloch Heritage Museum (March– Sept daily 10am–5pm; Oct Mon– Sat 10am–1.30pm); £3), which has eclectic, appealing displays covering geology, archeology, fishing and farming that range from a mock-up of a croft house to an early knitting machine.
The area's main attraction is its beautiful coastline, easily explored on a wildlife-spotting cruise: several operators, including Gairloch Marine Life Centre & Cruises (Easter– Oct; Tel:01445/712636; Web: www.porpoise-gairloch.co.uk ; from £10), run informative and enjoyable boat trips across the bay in search of dolphins, seals and even the odd whale.
There's a good choice of accommodation around Gairloch: opposite the post office, the Mountain Lodge (Tel:01445/712316; March– Nov; Price: 41-50) has rooms, and you can get good coffee and fresh scones at the laid-back Mountain Café next door, with views over the bay. There are also some very good B&Bs in the section of the village known as Strath, including Miss Mackenzie's Duisary (Tel:01445/712252, Web: www.duisary.freeserve.co.uk ; April– Oct; Price: 41-50) or Stratford House (Tel:01445/712183, Web: www.stratfordhouse.btinternet.co.uk ; Price: 41-50) on Mihol Road.
For food, head for the pier, where the Old Inn (Web: www.theoldinn.co.uk ) offers moderately priced seafood on its bar menu and a very good range of Scottish real ales. There's also good-value lunch and evening fare at the Harbour Lights Café. For snacks, try the Mountain Lodge or the bistro-style Café Blueprint across the road – where you'll also find the chip shop.