On the west coast of the Highlands, opposite the northern end of the Isle of Skye, a sea loch cuts its way deep into the hills, narrows, and then opens out again to create a place of scenic beauty unparalled in Britain - a place where water, mountain and forest are blended to perfection. The sea loch is Loch Torridon and the land that surrounds it to either side is magnificent, a land of old, vertiginous mountains standing proud of an ancient landcape largely untouched by the hand of Man. Welcome to Torridon.

There are few roads in the area and the few pockets of habitation are mostly found along the coast, excepting only Kinlochewe and the railway halts along Glen Carron. There are no towns - the largest settlements are Gairloch and Shieldaig and these are but villages. Two of the roads are recent - the Lochcarron to Shieldaig road is still known as the "new" road, having been blazed only a century ago, while the Applecross coast road is post-war, having been constructed by the army. Between the two, the Bealach na Ba - pass of the cattle - climbs crazily up to the high ridge of the Applecross peninsula just south of Beinn Bhan and in doing so reaches an elevation of over 2000 feet, the highest public road in Britain.

It's the mountains, though, that are the true stars of Torridon. Pride of place goes to the three magnificent hills standing north of Upper Loch Torridon - Liathach, Beinn Eighe and Beinn Alligin. These three together are the most strikingly beautiful hills in Britain. They are formed of ancient sandstone, three hundred million years old, laid down in characteristic rough bedding planes that gives these hills and their satellites such an awesome appearance. Beinn Eighe and Liathach are in turn capped with a layer of quartzite that serves to give them an other-worldly appearance, strikingly jagged and multicoloured hills that, in certain lights, actually appear to glow. Liathach and Beinn Eighe are unusually steep and rough and are difficult territory for the hillwalker, and Liathach's summit ridge is so rent with jagged and exposed pinnacles that it is reckoned to be the most difficult terrain on the UK mainland. Only the Black Cuillin of Skye are more challenging.

The Torridon trio are just the headline acts in a whole bill of splendid mountains. A shy group of Munros lays between Glen Carron and Glen Torridon, dominated by Beinn Liath Mhor and Sgorr Ruadh, and the whole area is characterised by a host of fascinating "lesser" hills - Beinn Dearg, Beinn an Eoin and Baosbheinn to the north of the Torridon trio, for instance, or Beinn Damh, Beinn na h-Eaglaise and Sgurr Dubh on the south side of Glen Torridon. The area also contains a number of beautiful lakes - apart from Loch Torridon itself special mention must be made of Loch Maree with its mulltitude of islands and its forest surrounds, and the lovely duo of Lochs Clair and Coulin, which form beautiful foregrounds to the might of Beinn Eighe. For those who prefer not to climb there are plenty of magnificent valley and corrie walks in the area - the circumnavigation of Liathach is a must, as is a visit to Coire Mhic Fearchair in the west side of Beinn Eighe, reckoned to be Scotland's finest corrie, and the low level route from Achnashellach to Loch Clair. Frankly, venture into any valley between the Torridon hills and you will find yourself in a world of unsurpassed, lonely and often savage beauty.

Gallery Index

Beinn Alligin, June 1991
(photos by Graham Jackson)

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This page last updated 16th April 2005