[This walk took place on the 7th August 2020]
I cycle through Annat, and leave my Monster Bike on a grass bank beside the road, hidden by a bank of ferns.
There’s Torridon, just across the water, sitting under the steep slopes of the mountains. Not far away, but I must walk around the top of the loch to reach it.
I follow the road into Annat. “Beware. Sheep,” says a sign. I look around for marauding sheep, but there aren’t any in sight, just a jumble of sheep pens nearby.
Annat is one of those nothing places, consisting of a series of spread-out cottages along the road. This is the centre: a red telephone box, a village notice board, and a post box.
I love seeing traditional red phone boxes. Many phone boxes in rural areas have been converted into kiosks for defibrillators, into informal mini-libraries, and even into bus stop shelters. The door of this one is lined with moss but, when I open it and lift the receiver, the phone is still working.
Torridon is the next village. When the tide is low, it looks like you could take a shortcut across the bay. Tempting… but the water is high this morning, and I’m not going to try it.
I haven’t seen any sheep yet, but here are some Highland cows. They’re enjoying the lush grass in these meadows.
Past Annat, I round a corner and come across some roadworks. I cycled past here earlier on my horrible Monster of a bike, and was very glad that this is a flat road.
Why am I not using my lovely new electric Scooty bike? Well, just as Covid travel restrictions were lifted, my poor old campervan failed his MOT! He is sulking back in Manchester, awaiting spare parts for repairs. My Scooty bike is heavy and, although I can get it into the van, I can’t get it into the car – even when folded up and with its battery removed.
So, that’s why I’m back on my non-electric horrible Monster bike instead.
(A few months ago, I had been tempted to sell the Monster, because I hate the damn thing. I retrospect, it was lucky I kept it.)
Just past the roadworks, and I turn down the road that leads to Torridon. Almost immediately, I leave the road and turn left into a little lane. This is an alternative walking route (a Core Path) which passes through National Trust land and takes me closer to the water.
At the bottom of the lane is a collection of cottages. “Deer Museum” says a sign. Ooh, what on earth can you put in a deer museum?!
All over the place in the UK there are little museums for all sorts of unlikely collections. I remember the witchcraft museum in Boscastle, Cornwall. That sounded interesting – although I never did get time to go and look around it. But a deer museum? Anyway, it’s closed.
I’ve reached the shore of a loch, and a signpost points me in the direction of the footpath.
It’s good to be walking along a proper footpath, and it looks well used. A sign has been attached to a fence post – a recent addition – and it warns us all to stay safe.
Further along, there is another sign and a hand sanitiser. I dutifully sanitise my hands because I’m going to touch the gate, and I have already met a few other walkers.
Covid has changed our lives in so many ways. I wonder when we’ll ever feel truly relaxed about being in the company of strangers, or carefree about touching surfaces that have been touched by others?
A few hundred yards further along, and here is another gate… and another hand sanitiser.
In a field nearby, a white horse watches me carefully – just checking that I’m doing the right thing and keeping myself and others safe.
I’ve nearly reached Torridon, where I’ve parked my car in the parking area beside the road.
My path joins a track, which leads towards an intriguing outcrop of land, a place called Am-ploc on my map. I double back down the track to explore it..
… but don’t get very far, as my way is barred by a gate and an unfriendly “private” sign.
Still, the view down the loch is very beautiful. My heart lifts. It is so good to be back in Scotland again. The air is cool, with only a gentle breeze to ruffle the water, which gleams the palest of blues in the soft light of late summer.
I drive back to Annat to collect The Monster Bike, and then back through Torridon. After leaving Torridon, the road narrows and hugs the shore, before twisting upwards through a series of hairpin bends. I park in a carpark above Torridon House, heave the Monster out the boot, hurtle off down the twisting bends – with my hands tugging frantically at both sets of brakes – and make it safely down to Torridon.
(Planning today’s walk was a real exercise in logistics. I tried to make sure all the cycling sections were either on the flat, or downhill!)
The parking area in Torridon has filled up. It seems to be a popular stopping place for people driving the North Coast 500 route. I chain The Monster up beside some dustbins…
…and settle on a piece of rock to eat my lunch. Then it’s time to start my afternoon’s walk, and I head out of Torridon along the road.
The sky has darkened and rain is forecast.
I stop to look at an engraved stone by the roadside, expecting it to be a memorial stone for a dead person but it is, in fact, a stone commemorating the 100 pallbearers who carried the body of a man called Duncan Darroch to his burial site. Interesting.
The road stays close to the shore, and it’s a shame the view over the loch is spoiled by the dull light. There’s the Torridon Hotel across the water. I walked through the grounds last time I was up in Scotland.
I reach the spot where the main road leaves the shore and begins its twisting route up the hillside. But I’m going to stay close to the loch, and follow the private road through the Torridon Estate. The light is really dull now. I use the flash on my camera to take a photo of the signpost.
This private road forms part of a Core Path that should join up with the road again at a place called Inveralligin. Luckily, they seem to welcome walkers.
I meet another walker coming back towards me (I passed him earlier just outside Torridon when I was on my bike). He has his head down and is walking quickly, because he has seen what is sneaking up behind me – a storm!
The rain starts pelting down. I stop to stow my camera away but, by the time I’ve fastened the waterproof cover of my rucksack, it eases off. I pull my camera out again.
There are cottages ahead.
The track leaves the shore of the loch, and I walk through the grounds of Torridon House estate, surrounded by lovely tall trees. I’ve speeded up, because I know there is more rain coming.
Can’t resist stopping to take a photograph of this rusty old roller. And then realise…
… it makes a good place to perch the camera for a self-portrait.
I come to a triangular crossroads, where a Narnia-like lamp post holds a variety of signs. It would be nice to explore the estate, but the sky is very dark, and I continue straight on towards Inveralligin.
The track passes over a bridge. Rain starts tumbling down again, but I manage to snap a quick shot of the structure. Not the most elegant of bridges, but I like the old ironwork.
Through the trees, I catch a glimpse of a large house. Is that Torridon House? I sneak a few photographs.
The rain eases. My track leads past some lakes, with water green and murky, where kayaks and canoes are pulled up on the grass.
I like the thought of water sports, but unless the water is crystal clear, and nice and warm… well, I’d rather stay on solid ground, thank you.
Onwards, down the track.
I reach the end of the track where an old building – possibly an old chapel – has been converted into a modern residence. Here the track comes to an end.
I had been worried that there would be no path forward at this point, despite the route being designated a ‘Core Path’. So, I’m very relieved to see there is a very definite trail continuing on and running above the edge of the loch.
I come to a viewpoint where someone has placed a memorial bench (dedicated to Ken Leigh, by his wife) and find another hand-sanitiser station.
Deciding to take advantage of the bench, I sit down, and pull out my drinking bottle and some snacks. Oh, wait, I must have bought this snack bar in anticipation of my trip last year – the trip that was cancelled due to Lyme Disease.
Look at the sell-by date! But, I’m hungry, and it’s the only food I’ve got left in my box today. What should I do?
I eat it, of course. Tastes fine.
A couple of walkers come along the path. They’re the first people I’ve seen since entering the Torridon estate, and they seem to hesitate for a moment as if wanting to stop, before walking past. I guess Covid makes it difficult to get close enough to a stranger for a chat.
It begins to rain again, so I hurriedly pack up and continue onwards. I’m approaching a place called Rechullin. The other walkers are well ahead of me by now.
At Rechullin, the path becomes a track, which becomes a road, and so from now on it’s easy walking along tarmac. I reach Inveralligin, where there are a number of cottages along the shore, as well as an old jetty.
Inveralligin is a pretty place, but the light is really dull and my photographs don’t really do it justice. Luckily, the rain has eased off again.
This rustic kiosk claims to be selling fruit and veg, herbs and flowers. Self service. You are invited to “weigh, pay and takeaway”. It would be nice to have some fresh fruit for my walk tomorrow but, when I go to have a look inside the boxes, there’s nothing there.
I reach a point at which I could head off to the left and follow a Core Path that cuts closer to the loch. I should then rejoin the road system at a place called Alligin-Shuas.
But the path looks muddy and uninviting. Oh dear.
As I stand there dithering, it begins to spot with rain again. I make a decision. I’ve still got a few miles of walking to do, and I’m tired, and more rain is forecast for the rest of the day. Best to stick to the road.
So, begin a weary trudge uphill in the drizzle.
I meet the main road at a T junction (“main road” being a relative concept here!). I had planned to turn right and walk back along the road to find my car, but, I realise if I turned left and continued on my trek, I would soon reach Diabaig. It’s only 4 miles away.
Only 4 miles… that would shorten tomorrow’s long walk… but then I’d have to walk back another 4 miles, and I’m still at least a couple of miles away from my car. So, another 10 miles… No, don’t be silly Ruth.
I do walk a little way along the road to Diabeg. This is partly to shorten the route tomorrow – which I know will be a challenging day – and partly because I want to find somewhere I can safely park my car in the morning.
At a bridge over a river, the Abhainn Alligin, the road widens as it curves. I realise I can reasonably leave my car here, with plenty of room for other cars to negotiate the bend.
I turn back along the road, anticipating an easy walk back to my car. Ahead I can see the turning to Inveralligin. All I need to do is carry straight on and I’ll soon reach the carpark above Torridon House.
I’ve only gone a few hundred yards when it starts to rain again. Heavy and hard. And this time the rain doesn’t stop. With water slicing into my face, and penetrating every chink in my clothing, the next hour is one of those miserable experiences where you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Why?”
Back in my self-catering lodge, I switch the central heating on and hang my damp clothes to dry on the radiators. It’s much harder to deal with wet clothing in a campervan. So, perhaps it’s just as well that I haven’t brought The Beast with me after all.
Miles walked today = 10 miles
Total distance around coast = 4,460 miles