Two Weeks of North-Western Heaven (again)
by jupe1407 » Sun Oct 23, 2016 12:35 pm
Corbetts included on this walk: Meall a' Ghiubhais
Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Bidein Clann Raonaild
Date walked: 25/09/20166 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
After a month (at least) of cursory glances at the office calendar and wondering why the 25th September didn't seem to be getting close enough, finally the day came. Typically the last working week beforehand was absolute chaos, however this helped it go by quickly and after a few preparations, and mild amusement at the Krypton Factor-esque procedure of fitting a Halfords cycle carrier to Anne's car we hit the road.
We've somewhat become creatures of habit in our journeys to the north-west and now make a point of stopping at a fab wee cafe in Roy Bridge, Darwin's Rest for soup and a cuppie. It was nice to relax in the knowledge that we had two weeks in our favourite part of the world ahead of us. Some find the drive to Skye fairly arduous. I love it. There's something quite soothing once you've passed the Commando memorial, driving past the enormous Loch Lochy, heading by Invergarry and up to the now rather obscured Glen Garry viewpoint, before the road sweeps down to Glen Shiel and eventually out to Kyle of Lochalsh.
The weather hadn't been great over the preceding few days, and driving through Kintail we noticed quite a few waterfalls where none usually exist A quick stop at Kyle for supplies then over the bridge and the last few miles to our accommodation, the excellent Meadle Cottages a few miles beyond the Carbost turn off. The weather in Skye had been even worse, with the Sligachan campsite washed out and the River at the old bridge a foaming torrent.
We had quite an uneventful Sunday, just a quick drive up the coast. I took the mountain bike a quick 11 mile blast round some back roads and got utterly soaked by a rainstorm. Still, at least there was a rainbow
Just before my soaking on the bike
After drying off and annihilating a pizza, we decided to head to Talisker Bay as sunset looked a decent prospect and it'd be the only evening where the tide would be reasonably far our for photos. We followed the single track road out for a few miles, parked up and walked the mile or two down to the beach.
What a place.
It's a sensational location just to look around, with the rough and rocky shoreline, a sea stack to the southern end, a waterfall to the north and to top it all off, there's the bulk of Preshal Mor behind.
Over towards the waterfall and Rubha Cruinn
I had a wander down towards the sea stack and set up beside a massive boulder, waiting for the sun to drop. Luck was on my side as the light was almost perfect and lit up the rocks around me in a lovely glow.
Sunset on Talisker Bay
Having got the shot I'd hoped for I leaned back on the giant rock and watched the sun slowly set behind Rum, something I won't forget in a hurry.
The next couple of days were a bit uneventful, the weather closed in and Skye was battered by gale force winds and horizontal rain in spells. We spent a couple of days re-acquainting ourselves with Portree's Coffee shops, had a brief wander about Carbost and it was quite frustrating for a while. On the plus side it gave me time to read the magnificent "Cairngorm John" cover to cover and also finish Nan Shepherd's "The Living Mountain". The weather didn't improve until Thursday afternoon, and given a chance to get out for a bit I took the bike for a cycle around some forest trails beyond Meadle. It was good exercise and nice to be in the fresh air again.
View to Roineval before tanking around forest trails on the MTB
Friday was our last full day and we were extremely fortunate with the weather. We decided to get down to Sligachan for some photos as it was flat calm and there were a couple of spots I wanted to shoot the northern Cuillin from.
Loch nan Eilean
Small pool beside the Dunvegan junction
Underneath the Old Sligachan Bridge
As the morning wore on, it started getting pretty busy and I got an appreciation at first hand of why some locals get hacked off with tourists. At least three folk stopped and abandoned their cars just beyond the Dunvegan junction to jump out and take photos, with one lady almost causing an accident with an understandably furious delivery driver. She then started shouting at him There's a car park literally 100 yards away Not wanting to either get caught in a maelstrom is incompetent tourist driving, or indeed the approaching rain cloud, we headed to Portree for yet more coffee and hot chocolate.
The weather held up into the evening, so it'd have been criminal not to visit Neist Point. I'd never been and have seen dozens of amazing photos of it, but nothing prepares for the "in the flesh" view of it. The drive is an interesting one in itself as the single track roads have you convinced you're heading up a drive into someone's house at times. We got there eventually and were pleasantly surprised to find it wasn't too busy (it's often chaotic in summer). We had a wander up to the clifftop and the view truly is breath-taking. I almost forgot to actually set up the camera
We sat and waited for the sun to drop, taking it all in. A few other people joined us, all of them clearly delighted to be in such a stunning place. Eventually the light was ideal and a took quite a few photos.
Sunset on Neist Point
The single track roads are even more interesting in the dark However we made it back and got our stuff ready to leave for Torridon in the morning. The weather was again excellent on Saturday as we reluctantly left Meadle, heading back to Kyle and taking the Lochcarron road. We stopped at the bottom of the Bealach na Ba road for a while. The vista here is incredible and you feel completely miniscule in comparison to the landscape with great rock walls rearing out of the ground to terrific heights and the single track road the only tangible evidence of man's intrusion.
The Bealach na Ba road winding it's way past the foot of Sgurr a'Chaorachain
Coire nan Arr
We stopped for a wee while at the top as this was the first time in three visits to Bealach na Ba that the weather hadn't been atrocious. It was quite stunning. The 1st October and here we were basking in the sunshine at 2000+ feet, looking across to Skye.
Finally, a view from Bealach na Ba!
Another tradition for us now after the Bealach na Ba drive is to stop at the excellent Applecross Inn for lunch. I say "lunch", but even soup and a sandwich will leave you feeling like you've had a three course meal. It really is wonderful there, and usually busy. No wonder
The next stretch of road is wonderful as it follows the peninsula round, dropping to Sheildaig then down by the shores of Upper Loch Torridon, through the dramatic Glen Torridon and finally into Kinlochewe, but not before taking in the jaw-dropping sights of Liathac and Beinn Eighe. For the second year running we stayed at the Anancaun Cottages, a lovely spot, which has views to both Beinn Eighe and Slioch.
By the time we'd got unpacked and reacquainted ourselves with the superb hot beverages and scones at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Anne was pretty tired, so headed out for sunset on my own, stopping first for a view of Loch Clair.
Golden light on Loch Clair
I continued on to the viewpoint high above Upper Loch Torridon which looks across to Beinn Alligin, Beinn Dearg and Liathac. There's a nice set of slabs about 50m down from the fence. After some boggy faffing about I found a nice spot just as the sun was dropping.
Sunset on the Torridon giants
After heading back for some food, we heard there was a decent forecast for the northern lights and with crystal clear skies later on, we headed out. However the lights were a no-show, but the milky way was pretty visible. Here it is towering over Glen Torridon.
Milky Way & Liathac
Pretty tired after a lot of driving we slept well and woke to a glorious morning. Anne decided on a day of leisure, I'd fancied trying to Mountain bike up into Gleann na Muice from Incheril. It's an easy route for the first 3 miles, however there is a lot of work going on just now for a hydro scheme, and the branch into Gleann na Muice is pretty muddy, which made for slow progress on the bike. However, I eventually climbed up to the end of the track as marked on the map and got some nice views of Slioch and a couple of the Fisherfields.
Slioch, "The Spear"
Not a bad view on the cycle back
I got back before lunchtime having had a thoroughly enjoyable wee run, and also got a good idea of a start point for the Fisherfields next year The weather was glorious and we spent the rest of the day sunbathing
The next couple of days were dry, but overcast and were pretty lazy ones, save for a walk up Bidein Clann Raonaild, a wee sub-2K. I had half an idea based on the map that the view should be decent from it and indeed it was, and is certainly a future venue for a sunrise/sunset shot. However this was just a wee jaunt to get out and although breezy at the summit, it was a fine outing. We parked at the large metal gate, then simply followed the vehicle track to the summit. It's a couple of miles and less than 300m ascent. The summit has a comms tower and buildings, but a walk further on commands fine views down Glen Torridon and across Slioch and the Fisherfields.
View down Glen Torridon
Anne taking some photos
Torridon's own Cairnwell summit
The weather again improved and we met up with Sick Kid (Allison) and her husband Craig, for what was initially intended to be a walk up Beinn Eighe's mountain trail, but ended up with Craig and I heading to the summit of the Corbett Meall a'Ghiubais. This is a lovely walk (even if you don't do the corbett) and is waymarked with loads of cairns. It starts from the main road car park, up through the forest and onto the lunar landscape of the plateau at around 500m. I can highly recommend it. The views of Slioch and Loch Maree are spectacular and once you emerge onto the high point, there are terrific views across to Beinn Eighe and the other Torridon mountains.
Pano of Slioch and Loch Maree on the way up
The 500m ascent passes in no time, as you're continually enjoying the views on what is largely a very well engineered path. We found a nice spot at the high point to enjoy a piece and consider a possible ascent of the Corbett.
One of many, many cairns
First views of Meall a'Ghiuthais
After our lunch stop, we headed to the Lunar Lochs. Allison and Anne decided to head back down for a cuppie, Craig and I continued on to the Corbett.
Lunar Lochs and the new target for today
There's an intermittent path which peters out on the steeper ascent slopes. However it's simply a case of a rising traverse of roughly 250+ metres to meet the ridge. We headed to both tops as the views down Loch Maree from the NE top are tremendous.
Back down the ascent from Lunar Lochs
It's a quick and easy walk to the main summit, although the wind was absolutely wild at points, we found a sheltered spot for a quick snack and to soak in the incredible views.
Just a wonderful place to be.
The descent was pathless of course but quick, and even quicker once we reached the main path, as my pained thighs would attest in the following days However it was yet another memorable walk with Allison and Craig, with whom we walked Alligin and Slioch last year in similarly perfect weather
We revisited Loch Clair for sunset on Thursday evening. The light was a little harsh, but it was still a fantastic backdrop.
Sunset at Loch Clair
Friday was our final full day, and once again, the weather was warm and sunny. I took the bike out again and cycled to Loch Torridon and back. Annoyingly i failed to notice the wind was behind me on the way, which meant a fairly tough cycle back in a headwind Still, there are worse things to experience when you've got Liathac and Beinn Eighe for company.
A bike run with a view
We signed off a great week, indeed a great fortnight by meeting up with Ally and Craig for a couple of pints at the Kinlochewe Hotel, quite fitting in a way, as this was the venue for my first WalkHighlands meet and first trip to Torridon and pretty much why i fell in love with the place.
All that remained was the rather depressing task of packing everything up, quadruple checking that nothing was left behind and the long drive back to Forfar (with added paranoia that the bike would somehow fall off the back).
Overall, despite some mixed weather in Skye, this was a sensationally good two weeks in the north west, and I've already started counting the days until next year's
by allymacp » Sun Oct 23, 2016 2:32 pm
by tina bonar » Sun Oct 23, 2016 7:52 pm
The north west takes some beating when the weather is like that.
by jupe1407 » Sun Oct 23, 2016 10:52 pm
allymacp wrote:Cracking stuff Jupe and some beautiful photos in there too, real nice. Like to see the lessor known hills, nooks and crannies being explored too, cheers!
Thanks Ally. We were really lucky with the conditions overall. Bidein Clann Raonaild was almost an accidental find but it's got a great view for such a wee hill and an easy ascent.
tina bonar wrote:Just stunning JP
The north west takes some beating when the weather is like that.
Cheers mate. I love it up in Torridon, spent a few lunch hours pondering ways to get up there permanently
by Sick Kid » Mon Oct 24, 2016 7:01 pm
by Mantog » Mon Oct 24, 2016 8:12 pm
by Alteknacker » Mon Oct 24, 2016 8:17 pm
by jupe1407 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 12:14 am
Mantog wrote:Great report! Also interested to know what settings you used for those ace pictures of the Milky Way.
Cheers Mantog. The Milky Way was shot at 16mm-F4-25secs-ISO6400 on a Canon 6D.
Alteknacker wrote:A great read, with some truly stunning pics of my 2 favourite places: Skye and Torridon. A real pleasure to read.
Thanks Skye is awesome but Torridon edges it for me. There's something quiet and calming about the place. Also helps that it has stunning mountains as well
Sick Kid wrote:Slaver inducing photies there JP!
Thanks Ally How was your second week?
by Sarah86 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 11:44 am
by Jaxter » Tue Oct 25, 2016 5:30 pm
You take such fabulous photos too!!
by jupe1407 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 11:49 pm
Sarah86 wrote:What a beautiful set of photos as usual, particularly like the shot of Neist point, lovely colours and lighting.
Thanks Sarah It's probably my favourite from the week, it's just an amazing place and I was totally lucky to get a sunset like that on the last day of the holiday there.
Jaxter wrote:Aww wonderful, just amazing up there
You take such fabulous photos too!!
Started planning next year's holiday already
by soapy27 » Tue Nov 01, 2016 9:23 pm