A mere 90 minutes away from Inverness, the drive to Torridon is almost an attraction in itself. Turning off the A9 just north of the mighty Kessock Bridge, the sights of civilisation gradually ebb away as you pass signs declaring that this is the ‘last petrol station before Ullapool’, some 50 miles up the road. Continuing west the landscape begins to open up, the road traversing vast emptiness accompanied only by the single-track railway line. It’s around Achnasheen that the appetiser of what’s to come shows itself; the peaks of Beinn Eighe and Liathach begin to loom on the horizon, the iconic peaks that flank Glen Torridon look relatively tame from this distance, less so when stood at the foot of them! A few miles shy of Kinlochewe marks the first spot for a stop; Glen Docherty.
Hurtling over the hill from Loch a’Croisaig, the land to your left begins to fall away into a deeply incised river and to the right it seems to get steeper and steeper. A low drystone wall is the only insurance from the deep gully, no high-tech barriers here. Nervousness then transforms into wonder as the road begins to descend by way of an elegantly twisting and undulating road that almost looks like it was built to be a painting.
There’s a small carpark just over the brow of the hill which makes for a much more relaxed viewing experience rather than from a moving car. Looking beyond the sinuous road, past the small village of Kinlochewe, one’s gaze turns to Loch Maree and the southern edge of the Fisherfield Forest, one of the remotest areas in Scotland, around 250km2 of vast emptiness only punctuated by munros, lochs and deer; this is the real Highlands.
Passing through Kinlochewe which has a petrol station and small but well stocked shop carrying essentials including camping consumables and maps of the area, the road narrows further, now on the final approach to Torridon.
The single-track road that runs the length of the glen is an absolute treat for a sporty car with a wide variation in terrain, from tight and twisty sections to wide open stretches with excellent visibility that run along the floor of the valley. Care should be taken along the entire length as there are plenty of blind corners and deer often bolt across the road, particularly in the dusk light; you should also allow faster vehicles behind to overtake using the plentiful passing places otherwise things can rapidly end up in gridlock, especially in the height of summer.
The village of Torridon itself is very small, offering only a shop however there are some stunning accommodation options available. For unbridled luxury, head to The Torridon. A former hunting lodge sat on the shores of Loch Torridon, offering some of the finest hospitality in the UK, let alone Scotland. Regularly ranked among the top hotels in the country, it offers 18 uniquely decorated rooms which blend Scottish heritage with Victorian features and a splash of flamboyance for a truly memorable stay. It’s not all about grandeur and excess though, as the resort aims to be as sustainable as possible with an on site biomass generator and kitchen garden which provides produce for their triple AA Rosette winning 1887 restaurant.
If you’re looking for something that affords a little more freedom and space, then The Net Storemight be just the ticket. Sitting on the site of a former fisherman’s net store (hence the name), this purpose built holiday home sleeps 4 in stunning Scandi Scot style. Open plan kitchen and living spaces allow guests to enjoy the stunning views over to Skye and the Hebrides beyond.
The Applecross or Bealach Na Ba in Gaelic is a fearsome piece of tarmac that climbs over 600m above sea level, connecting the little village of Applecross to the rest of civilisation. Heading south from Shieldaig, the road snakes through the ancient Beinn Shieldaig rainforest, home to species of rare lichen and fungi.
Continuing south, the vast mass of Beinn Bahn reveals itself with an intricate patchwork of corries and gullies gives an indication as to what is to come. Before the mighty climb of the Bealach Na Ba begins, be sure to stop off at the Bealach Café which is on the junction at the foot of the climb. Offering up excellent, homecooked scran with beautiful views over the landscape. It also has a little art gallery exhibiting a range of work by local artists. Fully fuelled for the adventure to come, jump back in the car and begin the climb up to the summit of the pass; this is another single track road that is very narrow in places with large drops to the side so use the passing places wisely!
Rounding the corner and entering the vast valley, the road is visible high above snaking through switchbacks, climbing relentlessly as the vegetation turns increasingly alpine, becoming more and more adept at fending off the freezing temperatures and howling winds. There’s a large layby just after the final hairpin which is a great place to get out and admire the view, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous then head due south from the road and go cross country a little to see the valley from a different angle. Be careful however, as the ground is rough and large drops are only visible until it’s almost too late. It’s easy to wile away an hour or two just wandering around and exploring, but once your legs are weary, it’s time to continue on the road to Applecross, descending the 600m back to sea level. Still very isolated even by today’s standards, in the early 20th century it was only accessible by boat, Applecross is a very picturesque village on the shores on shores of the Inner Sound. On a clear day, the views over the Raasay and Skye are unparalleled, as are the fish and chips from the now very popular Applecross Inn.
Dining options in the village aren’t just limited to the Inn, the Walled Garden a few miles down the road offers up food cooked with the produce of the garden in an idyllic setting and local meat/fish and is a little bubble of lushness in amongst the rugged landscape. Refuelled once again, it’s time to hit the road and head back towards Torridon via the coastal road which takes in more stunning views.
One spot in particular gives stunning views back towards Torridon with the mountains looming on the horizon; just beyond Fearnmore as you round the corner and head back towards Torridon.
Start the day with a trip to the Torridon Stores for some breakfast, another small but very well stocked little shop that has a wide array of cakes and sandwiches; you can’t go far wrong with their sausage sandwich and remember to get a slice of their homemade cake to take away, you’ll want it for what’s coming next. Head back up the glen towards Kinlochewe keeping your eyes peeled for Callum the deer, a friendly stag that spends most of his days in a car park at the foot of Liathach waiting for passers-by to share some of their lunch with him.
Once at Kinlochewe, turn right towards Gairloch, a route that takes you along the shores of Loch Maree. Often described as Scotland’s finest loch, it was formerly a centre for ironworking with over 7 hectares of oak woodland being cut down for charcoal but due to its remoteness, there is now little industry on the shores of the loch but remains of smelters and forges remain can be found on the northern shores.
Containing over 60 small islands, Loch Maree is a haven for wildlife and folklore, with remains of a chape on one of the islands. The loch is not the main attraction here however, as to the south west lies the mighty and complex mountain range of Beinn Eighe. The first designated national nature reserve in the country, Beinn Eighe is home to the UK’s only signposted mountain trail which ascends to around 550m with sweeping views over the massif to the west and the Fisherfield Forest to the North East.
It’s not a particularly difficult walk, but be prepared for some rough terrain and rapidly changing weather; it’s not uncommon to start this walk in a t-shirt and need a warm coat by the time you’ve reach the top. The trail begins by climbing gently through the largest area of ancient Caledonian pinewood remaining in the region, but then the trail climbs relentlessly across rocky terrain which requires care to traverse safely.
The goal of the trail is now nearly within touching distance, the path flattens considerably and allows you to take in the surroundings of this high mountain environment. Conservation Cairn marks the highest point of the trail and is a great excuse to enjoy that slice of cake from the Torridon Store! The route back to the start is via a tamer path that descends via a burn and provides great views across to Slioch.
‘Ever since my first trip up to Scotland in 2016, I’ve been enamored with rugged landscape and have returned many times since. I’m now a professional photographer and work with clients across Scotland including distilleries, hotels and heritage clothing brands. The Highlands are a particular favorite and where I’ve spent the most time exploring but there’s so much to discover, it draws me back everytime with fresh eyes and a thirst for adventure.’