Sunday, June 26, 2011

North-West Highland Hovercraft Cruise 2011

The North West Highland Cruise will take place from Saturday 23rd July until Saturday 29th July.  This is a great opportunity to use your hovercraft in some of the UK’s most spectacular and beautiful scenery.  The North West coast of the Highlands has a wide diversity of landscapes and wildlife to explore. 

The regular wildlife we encounter includes seals, dolphins, and numerous species of birds.  The landscape varies from mountainous cliffs, rocky shores to golden sandy beaches.  This is not an organised event, but rather a get together of like-minded individuals pursuing their hobby of hovercraft cruising. 

There is no entrance fee and anyone with a cruising hovercraft is welcome whether it is just for a day or for the whole two weeks.  For your own safety, it is a good idea to make sure that your hovercraft is capable of operating in tidal waters and is in a seaworthy state.  Please adhere to the Hoverclub’s code of conduct to avoid unnecessary disturbance for local people and wildlife.  Remember that other people have to continue to live and work in this area after you have gone home.  Hopefully this cruise will become an annual one, so please use common sense when operating your hovercraft so this can be an enjoyable cruise for all concerned, and help it continue for future years.

There will be a voluntary curfew of using your hovercraft near to shore in Lochcarron before 09:00 or after 21:00.  The curfew is as mentioned is voluntary, but please remember that there are young children and elderly people living in the area that may be asleep in bed.  

Legal Stuff

As mentioned above this is not an organised event and is a group of like minded individuals getting together to pursue their hobby of hovercraft cruising.  I am not an event organiser or have any commercial interest in this cruise.  People attending the cruise are solely responsible for their own actions and conduct.  I am not financially liable for any damage, losses, or costs incurred by you or any of your passengers.  I am merely making lists of possible places to stay, launch sites and cruise destinations, as I already live in this area. 

I do not endorse any business or accommodation listed as they are only added to the lists to make it easier for any people wishing to attend the cruise find somewhere to stay and stock up with provisions if they need to do so.  Where you stay, what you do and where you go is entirely your own decision and at your own discretion.

Cruise Location

The main launch site will be in Lochcarron IV54 - which is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty.  There are several free public places where it is possible to launch hovercraft from.  Below you will see them marked on the map.  There is a height restriction of 2 metres in Murray Square.  This is the most suitable launch site as there is a car park large enough for several vehicles & trailers.  This is a Highland Council maintained area and I am hoping to have access to the key for the height restriction barrier for most days of the event.  Once a month the car park is used by a mobile cinema, which would probably render the car park out of bounds for our use that day.  At the time of writing I do not know if any of the cruise dates will clash with the cinema.
There are two other possible public launch sites in Lochcarron, but neither as good as the Murray Square location.  There is a narrow dirt track leading down to the beach alongside Lochcarron golf course.  I have used this to launch from but it is quite awkward to reverse the trailer down, the beach is strewn with large rocks and the water can be a few hundred metres away if the tide is out.  I have used this site but I would suggest not taking a two wheeled drive vehicle down the track as the ground can get very soft. 

There is a concrete public slipway opposite the Lochcarron hotel.  The slipway is pretty straight, but only approximately 4 metres wide, with a drop of several feet either side.  The slipway is also tide dependant.  I would suggest the safest way if you feel you must launch from this slipway, is off a trailer as if launching a boat or unload the craft in the parking area and walk it down, as there is usually a breeze blowing across the slipway.

How to get here

Lochcarron is situated on the North West coast of Scotland.  For those of you with Sat Nav, post code is IV54 8XQ.

If travelling from the south, then personally I would use the A9 route rather than the A87, as it is a much better road for towing a trailer.  It is approximately 50 miles longer than the A87, but usually the quickest route.  The A87 is a more scenic route, so the choice is yours.

If you decide to take the A9 route or other routes mentioned below, then the following maybe of help:

From Perth take the A9 to Inverness, when entering Inverness continue forward over the Kessock bridge.  Continue for another seven miles to Tore roundabout.  At Tore R/A take second exit A835 (signposted Dingwall, Ullapool).  Continue along the A835 until the Maryborough R/A then the take second exit A835 Ullapool.  Continue forward for approximately 13 miles and you enter a village called Garve.  When leaving Garve village you continue forward for approximately half a mile and bear left at Gorston, signposted A832 Gairloch, and Lochcarron.  Continue forward to Achnasheen.  At roundabout take first exit signposted A890 Lochcarron and Kyle of Lochalsh.  Continue forward on this road for 18 miles until the junction of the A890 and the A896.  Take the A896 signposted Lochcarron.  This is straight on so do not turn at the junction.

From the East head for Inverness, then take the A9 North over the Kessock bridge towards Dingwall and Ullapool.  Now follow the same directions as if travelling from the south.

From the North take the A9 south to Tore roundabout.  At Tore R/A take the fourth exit signposted A835 Dingwall and Ullapool.  Follow directions as per travelling from the South.

North from Ullapool follow the A835 south to Gorston.  At Gorston turn right, signposted A832 Gairloch and Lochcarron.  Now follow directions as per travelling from the South.


For accommodation in this area check out my website where a list can be found of various types of accommodation, from campsites to hotels.  I am not endorsing any of the properties or businesses on my website but have compiled a list of them to make it easier for people wishing to attend the North West Highland Cruise find somewhere to stay.  I would advice that you book accommodation in advance as it can get quite busy in this area at this time of year with tourists. 

Food, fuel, & general supplies

Lochcarron has several places for eating out; these range from either of the hotels, riverside café, and Juliennes bistro.  There are other hotels that serve food in Plockton which is a 7 mile hovercraft trip from Lochcarron or 22 miles by road.  There are also other restaurants in Strathcarron & Achintee - approx 4 miles drive from Lochcarron. 

There are two shops in Lochcarron.  The Spar is in the centre of the village and is open seven days a week.  This shop holds a wide range of groceries and stock they also have a hardware department upstairs.  They also sell petrol & diesel, which is on the opposite side of the road to the shop.  This is not self-service for fuel - pull in to the pump area and blow your horn.

The local post office can be found within the spar shop.

The other shop can be found at Lochcarron garage.  The garage is open six days a week, (closed on Sundays).  The garage also holds a wide range of groceries and stock.  They offer vehicle repairs and recovery.  The garage also sells auto gas, petrol and diesel, and also stock calor gas bottles.

None of the above is obtainable without money.  There is a branch of the Bank of Scotland at the bottom of the village opposite the shinty pitch near the Murray Square launch site.  They are only open three days a week - Monday, Thursday & Friday.  They also have a cash machine in the wall available 24/7.  Cash can also be withdrawn via bankcards from the post office in the spar shop, just ask at the counter.

Other places besides the two in Lochcarron for refuelling your hovercraft are in Kyle of Lochalsh.  You would need to moor in the harbour and walk approximately ¼ a mile to Morar garage, on the main road running through Kyle.  Another fuel station can be found at Broadford on the Isle of Skye.  The best advice I can give is make sure you have enough fuel before setting out on the cruise each day.


For your own and crews safety below are some safety tips.  These are in no way exhaustive and may not be relevant in/to every situation you encounter.  It is up to you (hovercraft captain/pilot/crew) to decide what is right or safe for you, your crew and craft in any situation you encounter

The weather is very changeable in this part of the world and can be calm and sunny one minute then be wet and windy ten minutes later.

Some common sense safety tips that maybe worth considering:
Ensure your craft is capable of operating in tidal waters, is well maintained and in a seaworthy state.
If conditions do become beyond your hovercraft or your own capabilities, I personally would seek shelter on the nearest beach or harbour, but it is at discretion what you do.
If going out on your hovercraft alone the common sense approach would be to tell someone where you intend going and the time you expect to return.
It is usually a good idea to wear a life jacket while operating a hovercraft on the water.
If you have one it is a good idea to carry either a portable and or fixed VHF radio.
It is probably a good idea to have a spare set of dry clothes on board, as hypothermia can set in very quickly when wearing wet clothes.
Other basics which are good to carry are a bottle of drinking water, smoke flares, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, and tow rope.

Map of intended cruise area

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