350. Torridon to Shieldaig

August 2020

Having filled the gap I’d left back in 2019 between Torridon and Lower Diabaig it was time to continue heading south along the coast. For this trip I was staying in Kyle of Lochalsh so had an early breakfast and drove to Torridon, which took about 90 minutes and I parked in the same place as last time.

I was doing the walk north to south today because I was hoping to use a bus back from Shieldaig at the end of the walk and for some bizarre reason according to the timetable the bus runs only from Shieldaig to Torridon but not the other way around. There is only a single departure listed at 13:35 so I need to walk fairly quickly to make it.

torridon_bus1

torridon_bus2

This strikes me as very odd I mean even if the bus depot is in Torridon surely it must leave again the next morning? So I am a little dubious about this bus as I was not able to get hold of the company and so I also contacted Traveline who assured me that if it was on their website it would certainly be running.

I walked a short distance along the road at Torridon to the shop and opposite this was a footpath sign “Shore Path to Countryside Centre 1.8km”. Well the countryside centre in question was near the junction with the road to Torridon and the A896 so I was hoping I’d be able to follow this alongside the shore and then the River Torridon to pick up the A896 a little further south than the country side centre.

Upper Loch Torridon from Torridon

Torridon

I headed down on this path to the shore beside Upper Loch Torridon. The shore here is mostly marsh with some areas of rock and shingle closer to the shore.

Upper Loch Torridon from Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon from Torridon

I head down to the shore where the path seems to sort of fizzle out so I followed the beach for a while only to later spot a good path on the grass just above the beach. I guess that is where I was supposed to be going and I must have missed the start of it.

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

I soon came to a surfaced track and I tired to follow a path that I thought ran along the shore but it turns out it lead to a bird hide.

Upper Loch Torridon

Beyond that there seemed to be a narrow path onward along the shore but it soon ended at a fence that was too high to easily climb. That was frustrating so I retraced my steps to the track and followed that. This went past a building that said it was a Deer Museum which sound intriguing, but it was closed and I didn’t really have time to spare anyway. This track emerged by the visitor centre by the A896.

Torridon visitor centre (closed)

This is a National Trust for Scotland visitor centre but it was closed due to Covid (like everything else, it seems).

From here my onwards route was unfortunately on the A896, which lacks a pavement. I soon reach the bridge over the river Torridon. It is quite pretty but with no sign of anything that looks like a path on the north side I am glad I didn’t persist with trying to get here closer to the coast.

The River Torridon

I was now entering the hamlet of Annat. This seemed to consist of a burial ground and about a dozen houses though it did did offer the brief luxury of a pavement.

Annat burial ground

Upper Loch Torridon near Annat

Upper Loch Torridon near Annat

Annat

At the end of the village the pavement ends but in compensation the road runs right along the coast now so I get a wonderful view over Upper Loch Torridon.

Upper Loch Torridon near Annat

Upper Loch Torridon near Annat

Upper Loch Torridon near Annat

Upper Loch Torridon near Annat

I am soon approaching the Torridon Hotel and there is a “walks” symbol on the map here which is encouraging. A road sign encourages me to turn right along it’s drive to the Torridon Activities centre and another, attached to the fence tells me “Loch Torridon Walks”.

Torridon Hotel

Torridon Hotel

From the hotel the map suggests there is a track west that runs closer to the coast than the A-road for a couple of miles which I am hoping I can follow. I followed the track through to the car park.

River near Annat

The hotel is “Closed due to Covid” (that makes a change) and there seems little sign of activity at the outdoor centre but there are cars in the car park and a sign indicating the path I want to follow is indeed a path.

The Torridon Hotel (closed)

In fact to start with there was a walk signed as “To the Loch and Boat House (circular walk)” so so I turned right and followed this.

Torridon walk

This was a lovely walk and a few others were also following the path. It soon took me right down to the shore where there was a tiny island (Eilean Chasgaig) with a few trees on the top of it, it’s really beautiful.

Upper Loch Torridon near Annat

Upper Loch Torridon near Annat

Upper Loch Torridon near Annat

Upper Loch Torridon near Annat

The weather was improving and this path along the shore was lovely. Soon I reached the boat house (I think it is now a holiday cottage) and at the end of the shore I found the onwards path, signed to Shieldaig, which was encouraging.

Upper Loch Torridon near Annat

Path to Shieldaig

What followed was a lovely route along a car wide track (probably a forestry track) through pine woodland. Whilst not directly on the shore it was close and there were regular views down to the shore, which was nice.

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

Path above Upper Loch Torridon

As I headed further west the views got better and better as the path gained height and I got views over Loch Torridon.

Path above Upper Loch Torridon

After a while it descended back down to the loch shore. It was a lovely walk around the back of Port an Aird Mhoir.

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

At the end of this bay there was what looked to be another path off to the right around the little headland of Aird Mhoir. I’d have liked to follow this but I had a deadline to meet, namely the bus. So I stuck with the main path around the back of Ob Gorm Beag.

Upper Loch Torridon

The path then climbed back into the hills where I passed a metal sculpture of a deer and had lovely views of the loch.

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

This soon came to the hamlet of Badan Mhugaidh. Some of the houses were in use, others abandoned.

Badan Mhugaidh

I followed the track down to the road, the A896. Sadly although the path suggested it went to Shieldaig it didn’t, it ended at the road.

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

It was still another 2 1/2 miles to Shieldaig. The road soon crossed River Balgy. The map also marked there were stepping stones.

The River Balgy near Shieldaig

There were, just the inland side of the bridge, but with the water rushing over the top of them I decided sticking to the road bridge would be a much better idea!

The River Balgy near Shieldaig

The road had much more traffic than I was expecting, it had really picked up since this morning. In places however there was a verge and with a lane each way there was usually space to avoid me getting in the way of the traffic.

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

The road climbed around the headland and into the bay of Ob Mheallaidh. This is almost a complete circle, with only a small opening to the loch and backed by trees, it is a beautiful place.

Ob Mheallaidh

Ob Mheallaidh

The road now had once last climb away from the shore and down to the village of Shieldaig. (In case of confusion there is another village called Shieldaig about 25 miles further north if you are thinking the name sounds familiar).

Loch Sheildaig

Loch Sheildaig

Loch Sheildaig

The A896 bypasses the village which is on a minor “loop” off the main road. I have arrived in time for the bus but the next challenge is to find the bus stop. The bus timetable tells me the bus departs from “Shieldaig, outside telephone kiosk on A896”. So I presume the bus sticks to the A896 and stops at the road at one (or perhaps both) ends of the road through the village. Well there isn’t a telephone kiosk at this northern end, so I assume it must be at the other end of the road through the village.

I head through the village. It’s a pretty spot and it’s busier than I expected (I suspect the fact foreign holidays are somewhat difficult in 2020 means many more people are taking holidays domestically and this combined with the fact hotels have only recently re-opened means it’s probably far busier than usual). Most of the houses are along the road on the shore but only on the landward side, so they get lovely views over Loch Shieldaig. The village has a hotel and a shop too.

Shieldaig

Loch Sheildaig

Shieldaig

Loch Sheildaig

When I’m near the end of the village I pass a telephone box (which is shown on the map) and just after this is a bus stop, which even has a shelter. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a timetable displayed. Well that’s confusing. The bus timetable is quite clear the bus stops on the A896 which this isn’t! So rather than risk waiting here I continue to the junction with the A896 assuming there will be a phone box. Well there isn’t a telephone kiosk here or any sign of a bus stop! I am now 15 minutes before the bus is due so I decide to wait here at the junction. The bus is coming from Strathcarron so it must come from my right and I can get it from here whether it stays on the main road or diverts down through the village.

Unfortunately you have to wear horrible face masks on public transport now so I burrow around in my rucksack for one and some change. I put it on and stand beside the road waiting for the bus. The time it is due to arrive comes and goes. I stand here for another 15 minutes after it is due with no sign of any bus, whether a full size bus or just a mini bus. I try to call the company but there is no answer.

I had my doubts about this bus and it seems my doubts were well founded, as I don’t think it’s coming. Of course Covid has hugely impacted public transport with the public told to work at home if possible and also avoid public transport if possible, the number of passengers travelling has plummeted though I’m almost certain this bus must be subsidised so shouldn’t be so badly impacted. I give it another 5 minutes but then must face reality. I’ve spent 40 minutes standing here and it’s clear the bus isn’t coming.

In hindsight I made a mistake. I drove along the A896 to get here and will be again to get back to the hotel I’m staying at in Kyle of Lochalsh. I should have dropped off my folding bike here this morning on the way so I could cycle back if the bus didn’t come. However it’s too late for that now, it’s in the boot of my car in Torridon. I now have two choices. Try and find a taxi or walk back.

I opt for the latter.

Loch Sheildaig

It turns out this is going to be another there and back walk after all! I head back through the village. In the car park at the far end I am amused to see an old Morris Minor parked up that was offering “Eggs for Sale” with the instruction “in boot”.

Shieldaig

Shieldaig

Shieldaig

Nice to see an honesty system works here. This morning was mostly cloudy. However the weather has now improved to mostly sunny and the views on the way back are stunning.

Loch Torridon

Loch Torridon

Ob Mheallaidh

Ob Mheallaidh

Ob Mheallaidh

I don’t particularly enjoy the road section but the traffic was lighter this time and soon I’m back near the start of the path.

Upper Loch Torridon near Shieldaig

The A896

Here a couple are standing at the start of the track looking confused. They asked me if I knew the way to “the waterfall” as they were trying to use Google Maps but with no mobile signal here it wasn’t working. Fortunately I always carry a paper map should technology fail so I was able to check the map and show them that the Falls of Balgy is marked about about half a mile from here on a path beside the river to the south of the road. I showed them the way to the start of the path so I hope they found it. It was only when they went I realised it was nice someone was happy to stand next to me to see the map as well, so many people are terrified to come within 2 metres of another person still.

The River Balgy near Shieldaig

The section through the woodland seemed to take much less time on the way back and it was now clouding up again as I headed through it. I passed the still closed Torridon Hotel which looked rather nice, had it been open. From here I re-traced my outward route along the shore path this time not getting lost and it’s much easier to find coming from this direction.

Upper Loch Torridon

It was later than expected when I got back to my car and I had to drive around to Kyle of Lochalsh. When I got back the restaurant was fully booked to it’s reduced “socially distanced” capacity so I was out of luck for dinner and had to settle for a takeaway again.

Normally I’m less keen on there and back walks but I’d enjoyed doing this both ways even if it wasn’t what I had in mind when I set off. It was nice that about half the walk was off-road and with some stunning views of Loch Torridon, the mountains beyond it and later round into Loch Shieldaig. In addition the path was really lovely to walk along and other than briefly getting lost at the start there had been no other problems with my route. It was just frustrating the bus hadn’t come! (If it had I would have made a start on the coast south from Shieldaig, but now that will have to wait until tomorrow).

The bus service I attempted to use for this walk has since been cancelled as far as I can tell. The Traveline website makes no mention of it, or any services along this road. The website of the former operator (DMK Motors) makes no mention of any bus service, so I can only concluded that there is no public transport between Torridon and Shieldaig. The only bus service I can find operating to Torridon 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 though I am not certain if it is only permitted for school children to use it or if the public can too.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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4 Responses to 350. Torridon to Shieldaig

  1. 5000milewalk says:

    I’m always paranoid that public transport won’t turn up and I’ll be stranded, so nearly always park my car at the end of the walk and get transport to the start. Even then I get worried if I have to take two buses/trains to the start, in case the second one doesn’t turn up!
    If there’s only one bus a day that’s a bit hard though! (or in your case, 0 buses a day). Still, you couldn’t have chosen a prettier route to walk twice!

    • jcombe says:

      Yes that does worry me sometimes. In most parts of the coast it’s probably not going to be too much of a problem you can call a taxi, but a bus not coming in the highlands would be a bigger problem with no taxis and likely no phone signal! It was lucky in this case the bus was due in the middle of the day so it wasn’t too late when I realised it wasn’t coming and I had time to walk back.

      But yes this is an extremely pretty bit of the coast and a really lovely walk so it wasn’t a hardship to do it twice really.

  2. tonyurwin says:

    If you are going to walk there and back, I doubt you could have chosen a more beautiful walk. Look forward to it.

    • jcombe says:

      Yes indeed, the scenery is really stunning and a decent path or roads the whole way too so it was a good walk and I got to see it in better weather conditions on the way back so yes I agree it wasn’t too much of a hardship to do it twice!

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