First Coast to Third Coast?!

On a visit to Gairloch recently we purchased a booklet which we have been meaning to buy for some time, there is a collection of these booklets all covering the local area detailing the history, the people and the landscape.

We purchased 2 booklets, the first being ‘Looking at Laide and the area upwards towards Mellon Udrigle and along to Gruinard’  and the second being ‘Around Aultbea from Drumchork to Slaggan’. IMG_6689During a rainy evenings perusal we discovered a little about the history of First Coast, Second Coast and Third Coast which we were completely unaware that a Third Coast had even existed.

So today being a beautiful March day, we headed out of Laide towards the 3 coasts to see for ourselves what we had read about in the booklet.

Just 10 minutes into the walk & we were easily distracted by the local seals sunning themselves

IMG_6568After 15 minutes admiring them lounging on the rocks itching a little scratch here and there it was time to get going.

The photo below shows First Coast with Second Coast on the brow of the hill. Is that all there is i hear you say!!

IMG_6587IMG_6682IMG_6596Well details from the 1841 Census describe First Coast as having 14 households and 77 inhabitants, Second Coast having 23 households and 100 inhabitants and Third coast having 5 households and 29 inhabitants. It’s hard to imagine how busy the area must have been nearly 200 years ago but there are a few reminders here and there, the odd ruined blackhouse with stone walls surrounding several of these ruins.

IMG_6591IMG_6598Reaching the bend in the road at the end of Second Coast we took the grassy path to the left just before the river

IMG_6601IMG_6603IMG_6602Third Coast is recorded as having a mill on both the first and second OS Maps, according to the 1841 Census the mill was in operation and from 1846 – 1901 the mill was operated by the Forbes family.  In J.H.Dixon’s book published in 1886 – Gairloch and Guide to Loch Maree – Dixon mentions the burn that ‘joins the sea in the bay below the village, sometimes called Mill Bay, because of the mill which formerly stood at the foot of the burn’, suggesting that the mill was no longer in use but the 1901 Census records a Kenneth Forbes as being the miller.

Halfway down the footpath the mill emergesIMG_6607Now all that remains are the ruined stone walls of the main building being the mill and a kiln room on the side.

On reaching the end of the track it took just a couple of minutes of scanning the river to realise it was pretty deep in places so there was nothing for it but to get the boots off & treat the toes to a little spa treatment.IMG_6610You may want to avert your eyes!

IMG_6613Once through the icy shock of the water we spotted a rock on the edge of the stream which was fashioning the brightest green toupee



The sheltered little bay where the now derelict mill stands is a wonderful  spot overlooking Gruinard Bay, it’s the perfect place to stroll on a sunny day and imagine a busy hamlet of people bringing their crops to be ground and the miller housed under a thatch roof sweating over his millstones.

IMG_6620The millstones still remain but unfortunately they are no longer in position The corroded water wheel is still attached on the outside with the Lade being visible beneath.





IMG_6642After spending some time wandering around the mill and admiring the view over the bay we climbed to slightly higher ground to see the view over towards Gruinard beach. Thankfully we had our binoculars with us as what we thought were horses turned out to be a small group of feral goats that had discovered a lush patch of grass.

IMG_6646Heading back towards the road we waded through the bracken and stumbled across Third Coast hidden beneath the heather, moss and mouse tunnels. Nature had very much taken hold of the smallest of the three settlements.


IMG_6654Returning to the road it was time for a detour, we hopped over the heather to stick our noses into a very small doorway that we have seen many times tucked into the hillside from the road

IMG_6667It turns out this was once the place where dynamite was stored at the time road building was taking place in the area.


A great little walk full of history just down the road from the b&b. We’ll certainly make this walk to a lovely a little bay a regular occurrence.

For anyone interested in purchasing the great booklets about Wester Ross they are available from The Gale Centre, Gairloch and The Heritage Museum also in Gairloch.




  1. Dear John and Louise,
    whenever I find the time to surf the net to indulge in the memories of our stays in Scotland I try to keep up with your blog.
    I love following you exploring your vicinity and its history from far away. Such beautiful places!!
    All the more impressive for us as we long for such untouched landscapes as in Wester Ross living in an area where people have been altering their surroundings according to the needs of industrialisation over the last centuries…..and now are (successfully – one has to admit) trying to renaturate soft coal opencast mining into a lake district…
    Your photos are really beautiful and the writing is entertaining and amusing!
    I would have loved to see a four-legged friend in your photos, though… but all in its proper time…
    Why were the settlements called first/ second/ third Coast, by the way?? Do you know?
    Our best regards from Leipzig, Germany
    Uta, Walerian and Hanni

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Uta, Walerian & Hanni,
      We hope that you are all keeping well.
      Thank you for your lovely comments regarding our blog. We really enjoy blogging about areas of interest that are not too far away from the B&B and that offer a wee glimpse of the varied history and scenery of the area. Some of the sites we visit are sometimes tinged with an element of sadness, especially when we visit the remains of some of the old ruined settlements in Wester Ross.
      From what we can gather it doesn’t appear wholly clear how first/second & third coast came by their names. In fact just to muddy the waters & from what we have read there also appears to be some conflict surrounding the Gaelic names given for these settlements.
      I’m sure that one day we will have another four legged companion who will lead the way on one of our walks & who will steal the show on one of our blogs. We miss having a dog around the house they are wonderful companions. It would be great to see you both and the lovely Hannie again.
      We hope that you have a great year ahead of you.
      With our best wishes
      John & Louise.


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