Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Day 22 - Scotland West Coast - Torridon - Outdoor heaven

I stayed at The Torridon Inn, which is grouped with the more luxurious The Torridon, a very-high-end manor house with commensurate prices.

The Inn, though, is nice and low key, with functional, clean rooms, and the service and food are great – it was the AA Pub of the Year for 2008. The scenery is the star, though. It overlooks Loch Torridon, and across the water is the small hamlet of the same name. And everything is dwarfed by the mountain of Liathach, at over 1000 metres...which isn’t any higher than other mountains around here, except the highest point isn’t more than a few hundred metres from the loch’s water level. The gradient is impressive.

Loch Torridon...The Torridon Inn and Hotel gaze across this body of water...click image to enlarge.

Torridon’s Chris Wilson woke me up at 4am in the morning, and took my kayaking on the loch. No wind, orange sunrise, still water, looming mountains across the loch...it was worth the early rise. Soon the wind picked up though, and clouds drifted over. The weather can change very quickly, Chris explained. There is no protection between Torridon and the Atlantic. And the wind funnels through the mountains...it’s the start of the wild north of Scotland, which culminates at Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point on mainland Britain.

Scotland seems to pride itself on adventure activities, and it’s a good call. Compared to the English coast, and parts of the Welsh coast, Scotland’s lochs and hills are practically unexplored. And the sheep and cows can’t get onto the steep slopes (most of the time) – something which will please true wilderness lovers. No matter how much I loved Wales, for instance, there always seemed to be a dry-stone wall half way up the mountain, or a farm field where there should have been indigenous flora.

In Scotland, there’s a bigger sense of the wild. And it makes mountain-biking, kayaking, walking and climbing that much more special. Just knowing that you can set off for a whole day on your mountain bike, and not see anyone else, is a powerful currency in the UK, where 50 million people inhabit England to the south. In Scotland, there are only 5 million people for a country that’s almost as big.

The Torridon is one of the few accommodation spots that offer the whole gamut of activities. And it makes things a bit easier if you don’t have your own gear, or if you’re new to the area, and want an introduction from someone who knows what they’re doing. Prices are a bit high for the usual things like walking, but for things like kayaking, you are kitted out with everything, including waterproof gear.

For a comprehensive guide to the adventure activities in this beautiful land, check out Visit Scotland's adventure website.

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