Am Baile/Gairloch Museum
Today, Loch Maree is known for its peaceful beauty so it may come as a surprise to learn that from 1883 till 1911 the steamship SS Mabel sailed the loch, both providing leisure cruises and acting as a vital link for the Gairloch area, connecting coaches at each end of the loch for visitors arriving by rail at Achnasheen.
The SS Mabel sailed from the Clyde up to Poolewe in 1883, however the venture does not seem to have been that well planned. How do you transport a 45-foot steamship over a mile of land from the coast to the loch? Not very easily. It seems that although they managed to get the ship ashore, pulled by horse at Poolewe, she then became stuck fast in the middle of the road. She stayed there for the next three weeks- a hole had to be made in the dyke to allow the mail coach to pass. It is said that the captain, Roderick Macintyre, slept onboard each night. The ship seemed to be destined to become a permanent feature.
Eventually, with the use of sleepers, she was moved. Once on the loch the ship made use of three piers, one at each end of the loch and one at Loch Maree Hotel. Guests staying at Gairloch Hotel also had the option of a day cruise, lunching at Kinlochewe or Achnasheen before returning to Gairloch.
The SS Mabel seems to have come to rather a sorry end, rotting away on the shores of the loch after 1911. Perhaps the advent of war helped cease her sailing. One can't help but think how popular such visitor trips would be today.
As contributed by Anne MacRae, resident of Torridon
More information on visiting the area can be found here.