431 Shieldaig to Annat, Loch Torridon

[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.

01 bench at Shieldaig, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

02 looking back at Shieldaig, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

03 War Memorial and Ben Shieldaig, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

04 scratching sheep, leaving Shieldaig, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

05 Ob Mheallaidh, road to Torridon, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

06 still waters of Ob Mheallaidh, road to Torridon, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

After Ob Mheallaidh comes the more open bay of Camas a’ Chlarsair. The road rises and falls and curves, and every view is beautiful.

07 beautiful road to Torridon from Shieldaig, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

08 salmon farm, road from Shieldaig to Torridon, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

09 Sgurr na Bana Mhoraire, i think, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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!

River Balgy, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

11 path to Annat sign, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

12 view over Upper Loch Torridon, path to Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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?

13 burned out house, path to Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

14 mountain, from path to Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

A flash of orange catches my eye. A deer? It’s strangely motionless. Oh… it’s a metal cut-out of a deer.

15 metal deer, path to Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

16 felled trees, path to Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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?

17 lines across Ob Gorm Beag, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

[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.

18 removing rhododendron sign, path to Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

19 path by water, on the way to Annat, Loch Torridon, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

[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.

20 more lines across the water, Ob Gorm Mor, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

21 tree-lined walk to Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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…

22 walkers on path to Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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!

23 Torridon across the Loch, Ruth on the path to Annat, Scotland

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.

24 more walkers on path to Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

Annat is drawing closer. Look at the light on the slopes above the village. So beautiful.

25 Annat across the loch, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

26 Torridon across the loch, from path to Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

27 woodland on path to Annat, Ruth walking around Loch Torridon, Scotland

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.

28 beautiful colours of Loch Torridon, from path to Annat, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

Here’s another burst of colour – a stack of kayaks piled on a trailer.

29 kayaks or canoes, shore of Loch Torridon, Ruth Hiking to Annat, Scotland

I’m getting closer to the hotel. The track leads purposefully inland.

30 heading towards hotel, Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

I cross over a bridge, and leave the wild countryside behind. Now I’m walking through the manicured gardens of a hotel…

31 bridge over river at Annat hotel, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

… 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.

32 hotel pub at Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

Onwards. I rejoin the road.

33 back on main road at Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

34 The Beast parked at Annat, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

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.

35 Torridon from the Annat road, Ruth hiking around the coast of Scotland

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


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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23 Responses to 431 Shieldaig to Annat, Loch Torridon

  1. Eunice says:

    A lovely walk and the views over Loch Torridon are gorgeous 🙂 I could never understand why some people insist on getting rid of rhododendrons just because they aren’t a native species – I love them, they provide some lovely splashes of colour in late springtime.

    • I rather like them too, Eunice, and agree they add such wonderful colour to the scenery. I guess it’s just a matter of keeping them under control.

      • 5000milewalk says:

        I don’t really understand it either. It’s like the grey squirrels which many people hate because they’re not red. “Native species” is a constantly changing thing anyway, isn’t it? Land is under constant flux, over centuries, and millennia.
        Who has the right to say that the plants and animals at some arbitrary point of time are native, and everything else must go?… and of course humans aren’t a native species here either!

  2. tonyhunt2016 says:

    A lovely section. Why clear rhododendron? https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/why-have-we-removed-the-rhododendron-
    We came across an area of EU-funded rhododendron clearance on Ardnamurchan. The funded work had been duly carried out, then it was just a case of the local landowner keeping on top of regrowth. Typically, nothing was done and the rhodies were back :-s

  3. Jayne says:

    The metal deer? Sadly I think it was someone’s idea of target practice . . .
    If there is a God, and if such being took a holiday, this is where he would go. Truly one of my favourite places on the planet 😉

  4. jcombe says:

    Yes this is a really good section, that path through the woodland is lovely. The hotel was closed when I walked through the grounds (August 2020) not sure if for good or Covid related (I didn’t go up to the door to check). It did look nice.

    I ended up having to walk Torridon to Shieldaig AND BACK in the same day! This is because there is supposed to be a bus from Shieldaig to Torridon, route 702 (maybe this link will work, maybe not … https://www.travelinescotland.com/lts/#/timetables?timetableId=HIAO702&direction=OUTBOUND&queryDate=1601933550000&queryTime=1601847150579)

    However if you check the timetable there is only one bus per day, departing at Shieldaig at 13:35 so I’d walked quickly to make it to Shieldaig. Oddly however the bus only seems to run in one direction, once per day which doesn’t seem very useful (I mean surely the bus must come back, otherwise Torridon would be full of buses!). It was listed as departing from Shieldaig “o/s telephone kiosk on A896”. Unfortunately there wasn’t a telephone kiosk on the A896 at either end of the road to Shieldaig. There *was* a telephone kiosk in the village … and it even had a marked bus stop and shelter outside – but it wasn’t on the A896! So given the bus was coming from Strathcarron I thought I’d wait at the junction at the south end of the village. Then I could catch it whether it came into the village or stuck to the A896. Unfortunately the bus never arrived (I waited until 20 minutes after it was due). So I had no choice but to walk back again. But at least it is a traffic free route for much of the way and it was such a nice day for weather I didn’t mind doing it again. Still annoying about the bus though!

    • Oh dear, that was a long walk Jon. The buses in Scotland are definitely quirky, and don’t seem to read their own timetables! Also, I think Covid is being used as an excuse to withdraw funding on a number of routes. The timing of that bus seems very odd. Often if there is only one bus a day, you find it coincides with the school run.

  5. You worry about progress but what you have achieved to date is phenonemal and lots of experience gained for some more remote sections to come. I am wondering how far you actually got last summer. I have several memories of tough days in the Torridon area from various visits, but no so much on your route

    • I have managed to some coastal walking this summer, Conrad, but only one measly week! Needless to say, I didn’t cover many miles, particularly as the Beast failed its MOT and I was stuck with using the car, which means I couldn’t use the electric Scooty bike because it is too heavy for me to lift into the boot of the car, and so I was stuck with doing all the pedal power myself! It’s not been an easy year… 😀

    • Brian and Jane Thomas says:

      ” what you have achieved to date is phenomenal” I could not agree more..

  6. Chris Elliott says:

    Hi Ruth – I would love to know where you’ve reached. Have you walked the Postie Trail yet? I can’y wait to hear how you got on. Sadly when I walked in the Torridon area the weather was fowl and I couldn’t see anything. But I have stayed in Shieldaig several times and I know how beautiful the surroundings can be. I’ve just returned from two weeks golfing at Golspie. Sadly the only walking I did was walking Brora Sands twice in order to do some photography. My week long photographic course in October has been cancelled due to the recent change in the Covid rules. All I have to look forward to is another two weeks of golf next May. There is a chance I might be buying a holiday cottage in Sutherland in the mean time. Maybe I could buy you dinner sometime if I end up buying in Sutherland and you are in the area. All the best Chris

    • I have one more walk from 2019 to write up, Chris, and then I’ll be posting about this year’s walks. Sadly, my progress with my write ups is even slower than my actual walking progress 😄 Sorry to hear about the cancelled course. I had a couple of winter holidays booked, but they are both cancelled too. Such a difficult time to make plans. Hope you find a lovely holiday cottage in Sutherland and, yes, would love to meet up sometime.

  7. Karen White says:

    Such a wonderful walk with those beautiful and peaceful views. I love the mountains, and Ben Shieldaig too, even if it considered a hill!
    Sorry that it’s been a hard year for you, I think it’s the same for many of us. I had my week in Cornwall cancelled and though I’ve rebooked for next year there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to go. I’ve been walking every day, but mainly tramping round the roads in the village – to the end of September I’ve done 802 miles. Other than that I’ve been staying at home. I’m glad you have got a little bit of walking in this summer.

    • Hi Karen. Yes, a strange and difficult year for all of us. I’m grateful that lockdown wasn’t too lonely for me, because my youngest daughter and her boyfriend had moved into my house, but I did feel trapped by the travel restrictions. Well done for doing 802 miles! You’ll reach 1000 by the end of the year!

  8. Oh those distractions….how they do eat up time 😉 I always set myself a goal of x # of miles to walk, but what with attractions and distractions….I usually fall short…never mind, tomorrow is another day. Fab photos, looks absolutely gorgeous

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