Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
10th and 11th April 2010
A weekend spent amongst the ancient sandstone peaks of Torridon.
It must be said that Torridon is one of my favourite places to visit in Scotland. It seems to possess its own special atmosphere, an almost primordial feeling that exudes from this ancient landscape. Steep sided mountains of rugged sandstone towers stand high above the surrounding almost barren landscape in a scene from Scotland’s very own “wild west”. We arrived in Torridon to be greeted by clear blue skies and pleasantly warm sunshine. Leaving the parking space we crossed the single track road to head down the estate track toward Coulin Lodge. This took us down the length of Loch Clair offering fine views of Liathach down the Glen and across the water to our hill for the day Sgurr Dubh.
Sgurr Dubh and Liathach across Loch Clair
The wooden bridge that fords the burn that links Loch Clair and Loch Coulin took us into the shade of the Coulin forest.
Beinn Eighe across Loch Clair
After passing the last of a small group of buildings a grassy path started the gentle climb up through the trees. The path followed the course of Allt na Luib crossing by a small wooden bridge at what would have made a good picnic spot with some nice rock pools to revive any aching feet. As we left the tree cover the full warmth of the day could be felt, it must have been approaching the forecast 20’C, unseasonably hot. Fortunately as we gained the col above Coire an Leth-uillt there was a little bit of a cooling breeze. We had reached the low point on the broad ridge that connects Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine to the south with Sgurr Dubh toward the north.
Sgurr Dubh from Coire an Leth-uillt
Over to the west the serrated ridge of Liathach came into view followed a little later by the more rounded ridgeline of Beinn Eighe.
We weaved our way through numerous rocky outcrops and around a multitude of small lochans over mainly dry but boulder strewn ground. Each pool of water that we passed seemed to contain an army of frogs diving for cover as we approached. Enzo was making the most of this watery heaven splashing his way across the hillside. Patches of snow also gained his attention and he seemed to enjoy taking cooling mouthfuls of the white stuff. I think he also saw himself as a bit of a commando crawling forward with his back legs trailing behind. Passing the last and probably the largest of the lochans we took a short but steeper heathery slope to gain a small rocky corrie.
Lochan below Sgurr Dubh
After refilling our water bottles it was a short excursion around the left hand side of the corrie to gain the rocky summit. More distant views of the whitewashed peaks of Glen Affric now joined those of the surrounding Torridon hills. Immediately below to the north west lay the waters of loch Clair while beyond were the hills of the Fannich range.
Stephan, Nathalie and Enzo on top of Sgurr Dubh
After enjoying the sun, views and lunch it was time to retrace our steps and head down.
Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine
After weaving our way back through the maze of lochans we soon gained the top of the stalkers path that would lead us back down to the Coulin forest.
Meall an Leathaid Mhòir above the Coulin Forest
The last section along the Loch was on harder surfaces and warmed the feet even further so it was with some relief that boots were removed back at the parking area. After getting showered and cleaned up in Torridon we headed out to Shieldaig to use the camping area above the village. The field was empty when we arrived but a group of three guys up from the west country appeared shortly after. Nathalie and Stephan put their tents up while I made a start on the cooking. A lovely sunset accompanied our simple meal of pilaf vegetable and tuna after which we headed down the local pub. It was a pleasant finale to the day as we spent the remainder of the evening over a couple of pints of Black Coullin. Returning to camp we bedded down, I had brought my tent but was keen to try the sleeping arrangements afforded by my "brand new" second hand van!
Loch Shieldaig Sunset
The new day broke clear and bright, Loch Shieldaig showed hardly a ripple on its surface, it was going to be another warm day. After packing we left camp to head back down Loch Torridon continuing around to the car park next to the bridge over Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil. A fine path leads through the pines and along the river past a number of waterfalls and cascades.
Beinn Alligin and Beinn Dearg
A footbridge allows crossing of the river further up before the path begins its gradual rise up hill before meeting another bridge over Allt a Bhealaich. It had been a steady climb so far but the way steepened as we approached Na Rathanan, the horns of Alligin. There was some easy scrambling to be had as we made our way through some large sandstone blocks.
Beinn Dearg from Na Rathanan
Enzo coped well with the rocky stairway and apart from one or two points were he required a bit of help he just needed some encouragement from Nathalie to see him on his way. There are three rocky “horns” that make up the ridge line of Na Rathanan and we soon realised that Enzo was not going to be able to negotiate the downward section from the first.
Beinn Alligin (Tom na Gruagaich & Sgurr Mor)
Fortunately there is a good path that bypasses the horns on the southside so we retraced or steps and used this instead. This took us around to the col between Na Rathanan and Sgurr Mor, it also had the benefit of crossing some small rivulets and pools that allowed Enzo a drink and a wallow in the cool water.
Sgurr Mor and Na Rathanan
Part of the ridge leading to Beinn Alligin’s highest point was still lined with snow but our pathway kept us away from it on an inside line.
The Horns of Alligin (Na Rathanan)
We lunched at the top and took in the fine panorama, only spoiled slightly by a smoky haze to the north created by some heather burning.
Enzo, Nathalie, Stephan & Paul
A steep but steady decent took us past the Eag Dubh or black cleft, an extremely dramatic gully that threatens to split the mountain in two.
Tom na Gruagaich from Sgurr Mor
After passing over a minor top the grassy ground gave way to the rocky ascent of Tom na Gruagaich. After another break we reluctantly gathered our things and began the long descent down through Coir nan Laogh. A short glissade over soggy snow started us on our way and the newly constructed pathway greatly helped our progress over the rock lined corrie floor. Steep sandstone terraced walls to the west shaded us from the lowering sun until we emerged on the moor below.
Beinn Alligin from the bottom of Coire nan Laogh
Path work was still in progress but this boggier section is navigable with far more ease than before. After another trip to the showers in Torridon we were refreshed and just about ready for the long drive back, although we all wished we could have spent a few more days amongst the magical hills of Torridon.
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