It was our first time exploring the Torridon region – for some reason we foolishly bypassed it when we were in the area 7 years ago and we were amazed that we missed such a stunning spot. It was raining when we arrived but sunshine was predicted for tomorrow so we set our alarms nice and early for our hike up the legendary Liathach, considered to be one of the finest mountain hikes in the UK.
We opted to park at the end of the hike and walk along the road to the start, I figured those 3km were better done while we had fresh legs. From there it was a steep old climb of about 800m in just 2km. It was a bit of a cloudy start but we had high hopes of it clearing. We already had a great view down to the valley where a river meandered like a wiggly snake. A couple of lads started at the same time as us but seemed pretty fast so we let them go ahead and they stopped for a chat. They were clearly Munro baggers, a Munro is any mountain in Scotland over 3000ft and many people try to summit all 282 of them. We’re not Munro baggers, so when one of the guys started listing the summits they’ve been up and asking what Munros we’ve done we explained that we didn’t mind what elevation the mountain was, we’re just trying to hike the ones with the best views and fun ridge lines.
There were a few minor scrambling sections before we arrived on a ridge and got a view over the other side. It was mostly cloud but it was moving fast, clearing periodically until a new wave of fog drifted in. The sun was battling with the clouds but it was strong enough to create a rare brocken spectre rainbow. It’s an almost 360° rainbow and the person viewing it will see their shadow cast in a cloud in the centre of the rainbow. Woweeeee!!! It was amazing and we were whooping and cheering loudly.
They’re fairly rare but I’ve actually been lucky to see a couple before, my first was while skydiving in Australia, and the second atop a mountain in Norway. But I was still enjoying the sight like I’d never seen one before. From this ridge the trail headed left but there was the option to detour to a summit which we decided to do so we could get a good view to the Beinn Eighe mountains. The clouds really started easing as we reached the summit, they were blowing through the valley and mountains were suddenly appearing all around us. There were little lochs scattered around the valley floor and pyramid shaped mountains rising up. It was so beautiful! As the clouds drifted in and out we were treated to another Brocken spectre this one was even brighter!
We had a long day ahead of us so after enjoying the view with a cup of coffee we headed back to the ridge and continued the main hike. The bulky mountain we stood on was now mostly cloud free and the sun was shining! We climbed uphill towards the highest mountain of the day, Spidean a’ Choire Leith at 1055m. There weren’t many people on the hike but the five that were sat atop the summit, soaking in the view. The mountain ahead of use was an impressive hulk of steep rock with patches of grass clinging on to the steep edges. Clouds were drifting past us, the sun was piercing down and we found ourselves comparing the mountain to Machu Picchu. It was too cold and windy to stop so we headed down the rocky slopes to the biggest challenge of the day, the Am Fasarinen pinnacles.
It’s always hard to judge how dangerous a hike is by the description, they have to make sure people who aren’t used to mountain hiking are aware of what their getting themselves into. A lot of the descriptions we’ve read for the Scottish ridge hikes have sounded a lot worse than they’ve been. The good thing about Liathach is there’s a bypass route you can take if you don’t want to scramble over the pinnacles this route however is narrow and exposed so it’s a little tricky both ways. There were a couple of people about to tackle the first pinnacle, after they’d geared up with helmets and ropes!! Geez, talk about making us feel unprepared. This was known as being the most dangerous part of the route though so we headed up wearily. I didn’t like the look of the drop off so we stayed below the rocks to the left for the first pinnacle. The next two weren’t half as scary so we had fun scrambling over them and the road leading through the valley was visible 1000 meters below us.
The ridge line ahead of us was spectacular, in fact the whole route was and we were kind of shocked to witness such dramatic scenery in the UK. We plowed up the next section pretty quickly and soon enough we were standing atop the final summit. We could finally relax now, knowing the weather wasn’t going to turn on us during a dangerous section of the hike so we took some time to admire the magnificent ridge we’d just hiked across. Considering Liathach is said to be one of the most exposed ridge hikes in the UK we were amazed at how unnerved we were. We didn’t get vertigo or feel exposed, except for the one rocky mound we navigated around.
We had to descend almost 1000m in 2.8km so it was a pretty steep route. Boy did we feel smug that we hiked along the road to begin with and Helga was there, waiting for us at the finish line. What a day! We were a bit sweaty from the hike so we jumped in a river nearby but the midges soon swarmed us so we had to make a quick escape back to Helga.
The next day was a rainy mess but even still we managed to do an 8km valley walk between the heavy showers and then we relaxed and baked some cakes, ready for another day up the mountains tomorrow.
This time we were hiking up Beinn Alligin, at 986m it’s name translates to ‘jewelled hill’ and it’s said to be one of Scotland’s top mountain hikes. The trail condition proved how popular the route was, it was a well built stone path with big slabs for steps. It was due to be a really good weather day and with a slightly humid air we donned shorts for the hike. Sadly cloud hung around the mountains and blocked the sun so it wasn’t looking too promising. We passed an interesting bowl in the mountain that looked like a huge section had been scooped out.
A couple of hikers walked down and we commented on how they must’ve had a really early start. They had – and they’d even waited up on the summit for an hour to see if the cloud would clear but it didn’t. Instead of continuing with the hike all along the ridge they decided to give up and head back down, which was strange because they’d already hiked the hardest part. The first summit offered a clearing in the cloud for a split second and then we were in a total whiteout again.
After a cup of hot coffee we left the summit and had a rocky descent before we went back uphill to the main summit of Beinn Alligin. It was a steep hike but nothing technical and soon enough we were at the top with the most incredible view. Mountains were lined up in front of us like a row of dominos and we had a great view across to the Liathach ridge that we’d hiked a couple days before. It really was a stunning area, with wide valleys dotted with deep blue lochs and pointy peaks as far as the eye could see.
We had a steep accent before the really fun part of the hike started. Like most of these rocky ridges in Scotland we had some pinnacles to navigate. These ones were known as the horns but we didn’t find the route particularly exposed so we felt very safe scrambling over them and before we knew it we were on the trail back down to the valley. The path followed a river which dropped down in a series of waterfalls and we found a calm section for a brief swim.
The weather had been strange all day, juggling with heavy cloud and pure sunshine. So as we finished the hike the sky totally cleared and we were treated to some fabulous views around Torridon. We found a lovely spot to camp right beside the sea with a mountain view and there was even a bench up the hill which we took a cup of tea and cake up to. Even though the trail to the bench was only about 20m long we both found a couple of minuscule ticks on our feet.
Torridon is quite famous for its deer, there’s a hunting estate and also a deer enclosure run by the national trust of Scotland. One thing we really want to see in Scotland is the rut where the stags fight for the female deer. Seeing as tomorrow was predicted to be very rainy we made the impromptu decision to do another hike today. It was only going to be about 4km, walking via the deer park and the green areas around the village in search of deer around dusk. It was a pretty little walk, via a pebbly beach and eventually to the fenced off area housing the deer. They were quite far away so I didn’t manage to get any decent photos, it also doesn’t feel quite right photographing animals behind a cage.
We did spot a small group of wild deer not too far away so it was worth the stroll. Plus we discovered the bushes around the village were full of blackberries so we ended up picking a nice big bag of them, ready to be sprinkled on our morning porridge. After our evening stroll we headed back to our sea-view apartment (Aka Helga our campervan) and made some dinner after a long day.