Lochinver to Skye via Torridon

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Glen Torridon

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For more photos:https://flic.kr/s/aHskeLbgEJ

http://www.stacfada.co.uk

Leaving Stoer and Assynt

Woke to rain, gales and a grey, dull light. Skye and Chris’s mum Rena’s cosy wee house was our objective, a 4 hour drive at best, IF we took the fastest route from Stac Fada, our B&B.  My very kind husband brought us tea in bed, a tradition at home and on holidays. We always bring a travel kettle with us but you tend to get supplied with the necessary to make tea in your room in Scotland.Can’t imagine starting the day without that.Pondered what to do given the weather and decided to play it by ear.Skye was the final destination, whatever else we planned.

Howard served us a fabulous breakfast at 8am – muesli and yoghurt, fruit juice, the full cooked breakfast, toast and honey and jams, gallons of tea.Wow – good job we don’t eat this every day we’d be like the side of houses.Great experience though and makes the £40 per night each incredible value.

He worked as a jobbing gardener throughout Assynt (100 clients!) since they’d arrived from Yorkshire 20 years ago but recent poor summers were getting them down a bit. Nice people, as B&B owners generally are.They were amazed we’d seen dolphins having never seen them but I was surprised by this as Stoer Point Lighthouse just up the road is a renowned spot for cetacean watching.

Said our goodbyes and headed off in the car and decided to take the winding coastal road through Inverkirkaig rather than the main A835 – that was our 4 hour drive time knackered already.The mountains were out – again – far too windy, worse than before if anything.I remembered the couple we talked to in the Cae Wrath queue who told us their plans to hillwalk too , had been completely scuppered and they’d been in the area for three weeks.Highly unusual pattern of very windy and wet weather in May/early June.Even for Scotland.( In August, it was reported that there had been only 11 calm days from April to end of July in 2015. It also went on to become one of our wettest, coldest summers in 60 years.So much for global b****y warming).

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It really was a pretty miserable, wet day but Assynt still managed to look gorgeous.Those emerald green headlands, and fresh greens of the birchwoods, the sea whipped into white horses.The pinkish, bluish rocks and rich moorland, the lochans. Mountains cut off mid-height by swirling mist but starting to clear a little.Beautiful whitewashed or stone houses.Nothing depressing about it at all despite the gloomy skies.

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Stopped for a coffee at delightful Achins bookshop around 10am, scene of many a cycle stop when my two boys were young.We used to holiday in Inverkirkaig and a delightful 2 weeks it was too.Fishing, digging for bait, the beach, kites,  cycling, some hill walks,golf in Ullapool and Durness (cracker of a course in the latter) , nice lunches.Happy memories.

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Achins is up for sale, but of course the chap who runs it with his family is now well past retirement age and wanting a rest.He’s a bit of a character – used to be quite grumpy but seems to have mellowed.We browsed the shop with its excellent range of books, walking guides, mountaineering books, specialist stuff, landscape info – lots of Scottish titles but a fair selection of literary classics too.Then into the cafe for a latte and home made cake ( not that I needed it, pure greed).

Carried on towards Loch Sionascaig, a beautiful spot. Despite the rain and winds which were so strong I could hardly get the car door open, we stopped so many times on that tortuous road (it’s known locally as the ‘wee mad road’ because it drives the locals mental at times) that our timescale was totally shot to pieces.

Yet it wasn’t at its best – not by a long way.

Finally – 2 hours after stopping at Achins – we rejoined the A835 beyond ethereal Loch Lurgainn and only 15 mins from Ullapool.

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I admit I was just about ‘greetin’ by now, I could feel the tears building. But we’re going Skye, you love Skye was Chris’s slightly alarmed observation as he saw his wife about to dissolve. I do love Skye but I wished we’d planned more time up here.For Lochinver, for exploring Achmelvich, checking out Achnahaird beach – getting up some of the hills, as we’d planned.It was all over too soon.Far too soon.

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It’s a pretty fast road the A835, nice enough. We didn’t want to do the coast road round to Gairloch, not today plus I think the best bits are Gruinard Bay (wonderful) and Loch Maree. Some of the rest of it is scenic but not wow.

Driving along the road to Achnasheen, a desolate but beautiful drive beside Loch Luichart, we knew that the Kinlochewe/Torridon turn – off was coming up. The fast route to Skye was to keep straight on to Kyle of Lochalsh BUT  the pull of that drive through Glen Torridon was just too strong.Too magnificent.Too, too good to miss, even on a lousy weather day.

SO a sharp right turn and we were cruising the empty, fast road alongside lonely Loch a’ Chroisg, a beautiful loch and towards the Torridon mountains.

My spirits soared. Literally. I am in love with Torridon. We both are.It is easily in the top 3 most stunningly beautiful areas of Scotland, of anywhere.Happy, happy, happy.

Kinlochewe looked deserted as always then we took the left turn onto the 10 mile single track through Glen Torridon, the landscape changing almost immediately as Beinn Eighe reared sentinel – like over the moorland.

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The great surprise was, as each minute passed, the light and clarity were changing and suddenly, the sun was making an appearance and the sky turned from gloomy grey to blue with scudding white clouds.The wind would knock you over but it had whipped the worst of the weather over the tops and we were treated to the glen looking magnificent in bright sunshine. It always does , no matter the conditions and it takes our breath away every time.

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Glen Torridon

We stopped and started at all the usual pull in points,  my very patient husband manoeuvring the car to let me get some shelter for taking a few photos. (The same photos I had in their hundreds from previous trips).

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Glen Torridon

Oh what a brilliant, brilliant decision to take the longer route.

Jo’s lovely Cafe in the village beckoned – wine and cheese scones and excellent cakes – but that was pushing it.We had North Skye to reach and it was already 2.30pm.We had phoned ahead and my Mum -in -Law expected us around 6pm plus we had to pick up food to cook for dinner that night.

So a quick breenge round the fast road above Loch Torridon to Shieldaig, amazed at the change in the day now and then we headed inland along the lovely A896 below Beinn Shieldaig’s pinewood covered slopes, to rejoin the A890 near Lochcarron. We would be returning to the area after Skye so I wasn’t too sad to leave. But it was looking good and a bonus to see it in such sunny conditions given the horrible start a few hours ago. It’s so true the saying in Scotland – if you don’t like the weather, hang on a minute.

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By 4.15pm or so we were over the the Skye Bridge, the most spectacular route to the island with Loch Alsh opening up an dotted with islands and ringed by mountains and rocky coast.Beautiful.

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Got up to the excellent Co-op in Portree and picked up chicken and Greek yoghurt and some spices to make a curry, quick and easy and tasty.

9 hours it had taken us instead of 4 but we’d detoured and dallied between Stoer and north Skye, no regrets.

It was lovely as ever to see Rena and be in her lovely home for 3 nights, with its views of the loch towards the back end of The Storr. Gaelic radio was blaring in the background, her constant companion and very much her preferred language.Big hugs all round and the sun was well over the yard arm now so we popped the cork on some sparkling wine, poured Rena some of her favourite sherry and drank to a restful few days on Eilean a Cheo – the Misty Isle.Good to be (semi) home.

 

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