Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Tour of Torridon and Assynt.

Saturday April 6th;

 After my climbing trip to Torridon in late February I went back with Margaret to share with her the unrivaled beauty of the area. Once again I took the sleeper train to Inverness and we set off on Saturday morning in our hire car for the west. The weather forecast for the three days available to us wasn't great but we were delighted to find ourselves enjoying bright sunshine and views of snow capped mountains. I had feared that Margaret might not get to experience the majesty of the scenery but at least today it seemed would be good so she could see for herself what I had been waxing lyrical about for the past five weeks. As we reached Achnasheen I was reminded of my mis-adventure, geographically speaking, and here we got our first views to Liathach and Bienn Eighe. After stopping to take some photos at Loch a Chroisg we continued to Kinlochewe and turned onto the single track road to Torridon. Here we stopped at Loch Clair and enjoyed the famous views towards Liathach from here. Time slipped past and we decided that Margaret would visit Inverewe Gardens on Sunday morning instead of this afternoon as originally planned and we explored the area at our leisure for the rest of the afternoon.

View from Achnasheen


We arrived in Poolewe about five in the afternoon and once we were settled in our B&B I took advantage of the proximity of a ready made run and did a circuit of Loch Kernsary before dinner. This was a joy as the first half was along an estate road where I soon entered the wild spectacular landscape with views back along Loch Maree towards Beinn Eighe and Beinn Airigh Charr. Then you suddenly arrive at the lake and the return is along a delightful trail that wends and winds its way along the lake shore back to the village. So after an hours worth of trail running heaven I was ready for dinner which was a tasty fish and chips in the local hotel. The forecast for the next day wasn't good but at least we had had a great day today and we would take whatever tomorrow would bring in our stride.

Sunday April 7th;

We awoke to a winter landscape of snow this morning. Cloud was hovering at only 200mtrs or so and it was snowing steadily and there were already several centimeters resting on the ground. It didn't look good for either of our planned activities today. There didn't seem much point in Margaret visiting Inverewe Gardens or in m,e trying to do a long trail run through the snow. By the time we went down for breakfast the snow had stopped and an imperceptible lightening of the sky was in evidence. As we lingered before we had to leave there arrived a little thaw and the snow retreated slowly up from sea level and conditions looked like they were on the up so we were all set and Margaret headed for the gardens and I readied myself for my run. I was now regretting eating a prodigious breakfast but I set off at lets just say a gentle pace. The plan was to head along the estate road from the evening before and when I reached the point of the trail along the lake I could extend my route all the way to the road end about five kilometers further on and retrace my steps and them follow the trail along Loch Kernsary. This I did and it was a treat. What a great feeling it was to be running through such a beautiful landscape with not a care in the world and where all I had for company were deer and what was perhaps an eagle soaring over the hill to my right. I arrived back at the car after two and a quarter hours tired but very happy.
Looking across Loch Maree towards Torridon

Loch Kernsary

We had a nice sweet treat in a little cafe in the village and then headed north. By now the day was lovely with big patches of blue sky and only a chill breeze to remind you of the snow of early morning. We were both delighted with our respective mornings and we were looking forward to the new scenery and landscapes that were ahead. First up was Dundonnell which sits at the head of Little Loch Broom and is towered over by the iconic An Teallach which unfortunately kept a blanket of cloud on its summits. Still there was much to please the eye and once we passed the village we climbed and crossed the vast expanse of bleak wilderness to its south before we arriver over the more verdant valley that reaches out from Loch broom. Soon we were in Ullapool and we had a little wander around here before we set off north again towards Assynt. It wasn't long before I had to stop the car and look in wonder at some of the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen. A succession of stunning vistas which framed some of the most iconic mountains in Scotland made for frequent interruptions but each delay was so worth it. Stac Pollaidh was like something captured from Lord of the Rings. It could have been Mordor itself. As if that wasn't enough next came Suilvan, followed by Quinag and many more. I was hooked and could only agree with all the great things I had heard about this wild and wonderful part of Scotland. We now had to turn our attention to finding somewhere to stay and after calling at a couple of places that were full we found a lovely B&B in the interestingly named Scourie which nestles at the head of its own little bay and here we enjoyed a lovely sunset after  I had my first dinner of Haggis Neeps and Tatties.
Stac Pollaidh

Towards Ullapool


Typical scenery


A couple of the locals

Monday 8th;

Once again blue skies were the order of the day and we emerged to a sunny and decidedly chilly morning. I went for a run after breakfast and the plan was to cross the rough ground from the village to the little cove of Tarbet and then return via the road. There was supposed to be a track across the wild ground but as is my wont I couldn't find it and I had to try and make my way through bog and heather and rock outcrops. It was unrunable so I found myself having to walk a lot of the time and I was relieved to be able to join the road before the village and run back to the car. We set off north for a short while before we turned finally in a southerly direction and began our return to Inverness. I suppose that today Ben Stack was the star of the show and proved yet again that a mountain doesn't have to reach Munroe status to be either impressive or beautiful. We drove at our leisure along big impressive lakes from which mountains reached skyward. As we went further south the landscape became less wild and eventually agriculture and I suppose what you could call civilization became the norm. We stopped awhile in the charming and pretty town of Tain and then returned into Inverness and enjoyed a nice dinner and had a little stroll around this nice little city. Soon the time arrived for us to catch the south and we begun the long journey home. Once again Scotland had delivered and I can only recommend that you visit its extraordinary northwest region. I look forward to returning and continuing to explore.
Sunset over Scourie Bay

Ben Stack

Towards Foinaven

Ben Stack

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