Day out: Plockton, Highland

While away summer days amid tropical palms and clinking sailboats at Plockton in the Wester Ross region of north-west Scotland

Fishing village, sea and mountains

Turquoise waters lap gently at the shores of secluded white coral beaches. Palm trees sway gently in the breeze under azure skies. A Caribbean daydream comes easily to mind on a lazy summer’s day spent in the ‘Jewel of the Highlands’. 

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This charming fishing village, sheltered from the prevailing westerlies by the protective arm of Carn an Duine, looks out over the wildlife-rich waters of Loch Carron to a landscape dominated by the towering Applecross Mountains. 

Coastal fishing village
Plockton’s sheltered position and relatively mild climate allow its iconic New Zealand cabbage palm trees to flourish/Credit: Alamy

History of Plockton

The pretty little whitewashed cottages of Plockton (Am Ploc in Gaelic) give little clue that this village was planned in 1801, on behalf of local landowner Sir Hugh Innes, to exploit the extensive herring shoals. Engineer Thomas Telford even had a hand in designing some of the cottages, which housed crofters displaced by the Highland clearances.

By 1850 the fishing trade was thriving and Plockton schooners were busy shuttling to the Clyde with barrels packed tightly with herring preserved in sea salt. As herring declined, Plockton fishermen landed white fish, but over the 20th century the industry waned.  

Things to do in Plockton

Some small boats still operate, landing crab, langoustine and white fish, but today Loch Carron is more famous for its annual two-week summer yachting regatta. The most popular boat in Plockton is the Sula Mhor, operated by the friendly crew of Calum’s Seal Trips. Daily excursions around Loch Carron offer sightings of grey seals and maybe even a golden or sea eagle.

Seals on rocks
Grey seals can be seen on boat tours from Plockton/Credit: Getty

The local fishing trade gained a brief reprieve in 1898 when the railway reached Kyle of Lochalsh, giving access to more markets. The railway survived both the decline in fish stocks and Beeching’s cuts, and today offers a handy request stop service along the shores of Loch Carron. That clickety-clack of the train can deliver you to the charming halt at Duncraig for a shoreline amble through flowering gorse back to Plockton. Or journey a little further to Kyle of Lochalsh for a more adventurous return via Balmacara Square, over the hills that separate Plockton from Loch Alsh.

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The fishing heritage lives on in local menus; try fish and chips from the tiny wooden cabin, cullen skink from the Plockton Hotel or seafood from the excellent Plockton Inn. This atmospheric pub is a great place to sample the local folk scene and a wee dram or two.