[This walk was completed on the 15th August 2019]
It’s a treacherous cycle ride to Shieldaig, along a surprisingly busy road. I leave my Scooty bike chained up by a gate, and set off walking… well, actually, I sit on a bench overlooking Loch Shieldaig for a while because first I need to recover from the bike ride.
It’s a beautiful morning.
I was supposed to be driving home today. But the weather forecast looks set fair for another couple of days, and I’ve decided to stay up in Scotland and make the most of it.
After a quick drink and a snack, I walk slowly along the road through Shieldaig and climb the hill on the other side. Look back down on the place. Take a last, long look at Applecross.
It’s taken me a week to get round the Applecross Peninsula. I really do need to speed up!
Beyond Shieldaig, a finger of wild land sticks out into the loch. Although the map shows a core path would take me to the very end of the finger, I’ve decided to avoid any distractions and just concentrate on getting to Torridon.
So, I follow the road up the hill, past a caravan site and a war memorial, towards the main road. Love the hill which towers above Shieldaig – Ben Shieldaig. Its concentric rock formations make it look like a giant helter skelter.
Poor old Ben Shieldaig is yet another hill in the not-quite-high-enough-to-be-a-mountain category. Only 534 metres, according to my map.
I reach the junction with the main road (A896), where a lazy sheep is slowly scratching its side along the supporting pole of a road sign.
The road swings around to the east, and I leave Loch Shieldaig behind. The next body of water I come to is Upper Loch Torridon.
What a lovely road. The views are incredible.
I wasn’t looking forward to more road-walking, but in fact this turns out to be one of the most glorious walks of the trip. What a difference the sunshine makes.
I’m walking around the edge of a bay – Ob Mheallaidh, says my map. Here, in the sheltered waters, Loch Torridon’s surface is calm and bright, reflecting blue sky and patches of fluffy clouds. In contrast to the peaceful water, the far shore is lined by imposing mountains.
After Ob Mheallaidh comes the more open bay of Camas a’ Chlarsair. The road rises and falls and curves, and every view is beautiful.
From a high point on the road, I stop to look back along the loch. A fishing boat is out, with a flock of seagulls swarming behind. Otherwise, the waters are empty. No sailing boats. No windsurfers. What a peaceful place.
The road swings inland, away from the loch, and I see more impressive scenery ahead. That’s Sgurr na Bana-Mhoraire, I think. At 687 metres, it’s definitely a mountain.
I come to the River Balgy. If I turned right along its banks, I would find the Falls of Balgy. I wonder if they are beautiful too? And look, stepping stones!
I don’t need to use the stepping stones, because there is a robust bridge – Balgy Bridge – which carries the road across the river. A plaque tells me the bridge was opened in 1963, as part of a new highway linking Shieldaig with Torridon.
Just beyond the river, I plan to turn left off the road, and follow a core path through woodland until I reach a village called Annat. Ah, here’s the beginning of the path, and its even got a signpost.
So many Core Paths turn out to be non-existent on the ground, it’s always a relief to find one that is properly waymarked and clear.
In fact, at first the path is a bit of a track, leading past private houses and holiday lets. It soon reaches the shore of the loch, where it runs above and parallel to the water.
Oh, a burned-out building. Only an old chimney stack remains. The ground is still black with ash, and I wonder if the fire was recent?
I look inland. Rough grassland is fringed with trees and, behind the trees, the ground rises steeply. I know the road runs across the slopes above, and I can hear the occasional, faint noise of traffic. Beyond the road, the peak of Ben Shieldaig is an unmissable and observing presence.
A flash of orange catches my eye. A deer? It’s strangely motionless. Oh… it’s a metal cut-out of a deer.
I wonder why it’s there? Does it have some use, or is it just a decorative piece of artwork? Seems strangely set in the middle of nowhere.
Further along the path, I walk through woodland. Some patches appear to have been logged. Such a shame to see a mess of felled branches, and there doesn’t appear to be any useful wood here.
Here is a long, narrow bay, called Ob Gorm Beag. Strung across the water, in neat lines, are three rows of buoys. They’re definitely not intended for mooring boats, so I wonder if it’s some sort of fish farm. Maybe a shellfish farm?
[Later, I look up Ob Gorm Beag on the Google translator. Gorm means blue, and Beag means little. The translator is unable to tell me what ‘Ob’ means, but I like to think Ob Gorm Beag means Little Blue Bay.]
I come across a sign which tells me that the rhododendron in the area are being eradicated. I remember the ‘logging’ area I walked through earlier, and the penny drops. Not a logging area at all, but an area cleared of rhododendron.
I’m walking close to the shore, along a track which may be prone to flooding at high tide. This bay is called Ob Gorm Mòr.
[Mòr means big in Gaelic, so I guess this is the Big Blue Bay.]
This bay, too, has rows of buoys strung across its waters. Definitely some sort of seafood farm.
I’m walking through an area of pine woodland now. Unfortunately, the sky has darkened and it is quite gloomy in the shade of the trees.
I’m hungry, and look for somewhere to perch for my lunch. But, when I sit down on a rock and open up my rucksack, the midges come flooding around my face. Oh no! What a nuisance they are. Quickly, I stuff a few snack bars into my pocket, take some swigs from my water bottle, and set off again.
Voices ahead. A couple walk past. They stride confidently, but they are both wearing shorts and I wonder how they will stay safe from midges. I guess they’re not too bad if you just keep walking…
The sun comes out again, and the track rises high above the shore. I stop to take more photos. That must be Torridon across the water. I’m nearly there!
But, when I check my map, I realise that’s not Torridon I’m looking at, but the village called Annat. My lovely Beast of a van is parked in Annat, and I am planning to drive back to Shieldaig to retrieve my bike first, and then carry on to Torridon later.
More walkers! This path is getting definitely crowded.
Annat is drawing closer. Look at the light on the slopes above the village. So beautiful.
Ah, what’s that village? A bit further round the loch, and under the slopes of a very impressive mountain. THAT must be Torridon. Oh dear, it looks very far away.
I walk past mysterious sheds, and pretty waterfalls. Then, the path leaves the shore, and curves round through woodland. How beautiful this section is, with the light falling through the trees.
A sign suggests I’m walking towards a hotel. Oh yes, I check my map, that is where this track finally ends. I think I can see buildings through the trees, but it turns out to be a trick of the light.
Back close to the loch, the light is slanting sideways and makes the colours sing. Love the golden weed on the shore, contrasting with the blue of the water. And there is another one of those islands that look as though they’re floating.
Here’s another burst of colour – a stack of kayaks piled on a trailer.
I’m getting closer to the hotel. The track leads purposefully inland.
I cross over a bridge, and leave the wild countryside behind. Now I’m walking through the manicured gardens of a hotel…
… and emerge into the car park. A couple of motorcyclists are sitting having a drink in the evening sunshine. Looks tempting… but I’m not sure if it’s a public bar or just for hotel guests.
Onwards. I rejoin the road.
That core path was a lovely diversion. Now I have to listen out for traffic, and march quickly. The day is nearly over, and I still haven’t reached Torridon.
Just outside Annat, parked in a layby, is my lovely Beast.
I sit in the safety of my front seat, and eat my belated, midge-free, picnic lunch. What a view. That’s Torridon over there. It still looks a long way away.
Actually, I’ve since decided it’s a mistake to try and divide a walk into two sections, with a car journey in the middle. Now I’m back inside my comfortable Beast… well, I decide I’ll call it a day.
Torridon can wait.
Miles walked today = 7 miles
Total distance around coast = 4,446 miles