This was a short up and back walk and my last for 2019. I had done another shortish walk around Gairloch in the morning. This had taken a bit longer than I expected (but was also much better than I had expected) and so it was around 1:30pm when I set off on the drive from Gairloch to Torridon. This was also the last day of a 5-day trip and I had to drive back to Inverness airport in order to return the hire car I was using and to catch my flight home at 20:15. So I was working to a deadline.
A few days earlier I had done the hard walk from Red Point to Lower Diabaig. I had another partly circular and partly up and back walk planned for a full day from Lower Diabaig to Torridon. I knew I didn’t have time to do that now but thought I’d knock a few miles off it (because I heard it would be hard) by walking some of the road section at the eastern end. I could then walk as far as time allowed and then head back, leaving the rest for next time.
The drive around from Gairloch to Torridon took almost 1 hour – longer than I had expected. This is because the road is very indirect. First you must follow the A832 long the south shores of Loch Maree to Kinlochewe then the A896 to Torridon.
This latter road is typical of what seems to pass for an A-road in northern Scotland but would be a country lane elsewhere – all single-track with passing places and in places the road was so pot-holed and broken up it was more like a dirt track! It was also quite busy partly with walkers to the various mountains along the route and partly the NC500 brigade which meant I had to stop quite often to let other traffic pass. Still despite the tricky driving it was absolutely stunning and it was only the fact I wanted to get walking that stopped me from stopping every mile or so to take photographs!
Anyway soon enough I turned off the A896 onto the minor road to Torridon (in practice there was little difference in the standard of roads) and parked in the small parking area at the north of the village past the school marked on the map.
The school has since closed (I think about 2012) but is still on the latest maps – it seems to me that the Ordnance Survey don’t very often update many of their Scottish maps, they simply re-print what was published before with a new cover!
Torridon is in a stunningly beautiful location. The few houses are dotted along the single road, in front of which is the the shores of Upper Loch Torridon whilst behind the almost sheer cliffs leading up to the mountains. It really is exceptionally pretty.
The walk was easy. After parking I simply headed along the road due west, which hugs the south shore of the loch.
The beach marked on the map is mostly shingle and mud rather than the sand suggested, it’s not really a good beach for bathing.
The road was fairly flat initially and with very little traffic, mainly because it is a dead-end which serves only a couple of small and isolated communities.
I passed a memorial stone on the right whilst to my left could gaze over the loch as the ever changing cloud and sun lit up different parts of the hills.
After about 1 mile the road forks off the right, heading a bit uphill. Here a track was marked on the map but I was not sure if public access was permitted or if it was a private drive. So I was relieved when I reached it to find that there was a sign showing “Path Inveralligin 3km” signed and also another sign indicating that whilst the track ahead on the shore was private, the public was welcome to walk, cycle or ride a horse along it. It was signed as part of the Torridon Estate and I was glad to see access was permitted.
The road was little in different in character from the public road, other than some speed bumps. It passed right along the shore which soon had a nice area of pine woodland to my right.
I continued passing an isolated white cottage (now a holiday let I believe) and then the boat house a short distance beyond it. I’m not sure that the jetty here is used much now, it looked in poor condition.
At the boat house the track stopped being tarmac and was now a pot-holed track with a 10mph speed limit (which to be honest, seemed rather optimistic!). I decided to end here.
There is a car park marked on the map on the public road just north of here which the map suggests has a path that I can use to get back to the shore. Next time I plan to park here and take a circular walk to complete the connection to Lower Diabaig.
I had already booked my first trip for 2020 and I was hopeful that by cutting the distance of the first walk of that trip by doing this short walk, it would not prove to demanding when I came back next time. As my trip was planned for May 2020, several months away I took a photo of me pointing at the map to remind myself where I had got to for next time.
It would turn out this was a good plan as it was to be nearly a year before I was able to come back, but I didn’t know that at the time.
For now it was time to head back to my car in Torridon and then drive on to Inverness Airport. I returned the same way.
Only one car had passed me on the way but on the way back it was 5, not sure why it was busier.
One went along the private drive I had been following, I suspect the people that were hiring the holiday cottage.
Once back at my car at Torridon I drove onto Inverness Airport. It took a little over 90 minutes. I stopped at the nearby Tesco to re-fill the car so as to avoid being charged the excessive prices the hire car company charge for fuel if you do not return the car full. I noted this was closing for refurbishment next week which would have been inconvenient for me if I was a week later!
I then continued to the airport and returned the hire car. No problems were identified, so my deposit was returned in full. I was surprised to find that in the 5 days I had hired it, I had covered 724 miles! I was glad that the rental agreement was for unlimited miles and there was not an excess charge. I guess that was one of the issues with staying in Ullapool, so far north of the bits of coast I had got to (but it was all I could get booked). At least next time I had already booked to stay in Kyle of Lochalsh so that wouldn’t happen next year.
I then headed into the airport terminal, got through security with no problems and then got dinner in the bar at the airside part of the airport. As I was just finishing, the aircraft arrived an hour before departure (which was 20:15). On previous trips I have travelled out and back from London Luton Airport with EasyJet. However the flight I normally take home (20:55) is always late when I have used it. Usually between 30 minutes an an hour, but sometimes more. This means I don’t get home until gone midnight, and occasionally it has been gone 1am, not ideal when I need to be at work the next day!
So this time I booked to travel out from London Luton on EasyJet and back to London Heathrow on British Airways, it was actually cheaper too, for some reason the EasyJet flight was much more expensive than usual. The British Airways flight is scheduled to depart at 20:15 and I have a shorter journey home from Heathrow (I had travelled to Luton by train and bus so I didn’t need to get back there to get my own car).
I didn’t know it at the time, but this was to be the last time I would travel from or to Inverness Airport on my coast walk (well, at least for the mainland, maybe I will use it again if I come back to walk the coast of the many islands in future). When the Government shut down the country because of Covid 19 most flights to or from the airport ceased. By the time we were permitted to travel back to Scotland most of the airlines were running such a restricted schedule it didn’t save me any time to fly and had become much more expensive (and I was also reluctant to book with Easyjet again after the hassle they put me through trying to block me getting a refund). So in 2020 I ended up driving all the way and also for the trips I did in 2021. By this point I was far enough south that Glasgow rather than Inverness airport will be more convenient in future (and has a much better service).
The arrival of the plane an hour before departure was a good sign. Meanwhile the EasyJet flight had come up “DELAYED” on the screens – so no change there then and I could feel a bit smug that for once I wasn’t stuck waiting for it! (I later saw it left an hour late, as usual). Sure enough we were boarded and left a few minutes ahead of schedule. It was an uneventful flight and we arrived at London Heathrow 15 minutes early at 21:25, rather than 21:40 as scheduled. I was hoping I might be able to make the National Express coach back to my local station that departed at 21:45 rather than the next (and last) one at 22:30.
However the pilot initially announced they were just waiting for the airbirdge to be attached so we could get off. Then he later came and said that had been done but somehow we’d arrived at a gate that could only handle International Arrivals (and hence would take us to the passport checks), but this was a domestic flight. So instead, stairs would now be placed at the back of the plane and we’d be taken by bus to the domestic arrivals instead! Not ideal and by the time this was done and I got into the public arrivals part of the terminal it was exactly 21:45. I stepped outside to see the coach I wanted just passing. However I was in luck – it was just arriving rather than departing so I was able to catch it. This meant I arrived at home well before 11pm, which I was pleased about it. It had been a good trip.
There is no public transport west of Torridon to avoid a there and back walk. There is a limited bus service to Torridon visitor centre (beside the A896) at the junction with the road to Torridon and Lower Diabaig. This is Westerbus route 705. This is a school bus and so only runs on school days and runs between Shieldaig and Gairloch with a departure in the morning to Gairloch and a bus back in mid to late afternoon.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.