LOCH TORRIDON (90 mins each way)
A world away from the dreary carbuncle on the landscape that is Inverness, lies Torridon. This to me is the best day’s driving tour to be had from the Highland capital, way better than Glen Affric. In fact, it’s one of my top drives in Scotland or, in fact, anywhere in the world.
It’s all about the landscape and in my opinion, if you haven’t included Torridon in your plans to see the best of the Highlands, then you are missing a trick. Loch Torridon is probably our finest loch and it’s mountains are as dramatic as those on Skye.Of course, it’s much better to have at least one overnight here, but…. one day in Torridon is better than none at all!
Directions – take the A9 north out of Inverness, over the Kessock Bridge, then the A835 to Ullapool at Tore Roundabout.Beyond Garve, take the A832 to Achnasheen/Kyle of Lochalsh, then turn right at Achnasheen to continue on the A832 to Kinlochewe/Gairloch. At Kinclochewe, take the A896 to Torridon.
The scenery takes off once Loch Garve is reached.The twisting section round the loch is soon over and a good, fast road sweeps along Loch a Chuillin to the tiny hamlet of Achnasheen.
Then past beautiful Loch a’Chroisg on a great near empty road, before reaching the famous Kinlochewe Viewpoint, poster girl so to speak for the North Coast 500 route.In our recent visit in mid-winter, the view to Loch Maree was all shadows and sunshine.
Without stops, from Inverness it’s just over an hour to Kinlochewe, another tiny village with a shop and decent cafe, the Whistle Stop. Now it just all gets better and better on the 10 mile single track stretch of road down Glen Torridon. It’s a magnificent, wild glen of solitary behemoth mountains…some of our most iconic and loved by hillwalkers and photographers.
Twenty mins later (plus any time spent taking endless photos) and the little village of Torridon comes into view, with its nice traditional cottages and Jo’s Cafe. There is little else here apart from immense scenery – a small Deer Museum and Visitor Centre (the area is partly owned by the National Trust.).A luxury 5 star hotel ‘The Torridon’ which is worth a visit for tea or coffee in posh but welcoming surroundings and in a tremendous location.
If this is as far as you want to go, see BEST WALKS IN TORRIDON which suggests short, easy strolls to hiking up the big peaks.
A shorter option than carrying on to Applecross is to continue driving to the tiny , picturesque village of Diabaig (signposted) which is a FABULOUS drive.It’s only 9 miles but it is single track and could take – without stops, one way – 25 mins.There’s a new stunning view round every corner and along every mile.In season, there is a cafe/bistro in Diabaig, Gille Brighde.
THE BEALACH NA BA AND APPLECROSS(additional hour)
From Torridon village, a further 1 hours drive will take you to Applecross via this world famous mountain pass, ranked as one of the world’s Top 10 drives – the Bealach na Ba, or Pass of the Cattle. This leads spectacularly to tiny Applecross and one of my favourite Highland pubs, the Applecross Inn.Perfect for lunch.
But it will take longer than an hour of course – the scenery is a jaw drop round every corner of the road. If you think it’s been good so far, there’s even more in store!
After leaving Torridon/Annat village, at the top of the hill, look out for two pull offs beside the fast main road to Shieldaig, which give wonderful views over to the Torridon giants of Beinn Alligin and Liathach.Skye is visible to the far west.
After Shieldaig, the road becomes single track with passing places, slowing everything down.
The start of the Bealach road is signposted and it can seem intimidating, but it’s perfectly safe, well barriered and an all round great experience. It’s only about a 15 -20 min drive up to the summit ( when quiet.) In mid November, our last trip up there, the skies were clear and we had great views from the top of the Pass over to the Isle of Skye, almost its full eastern coast, sitting grand and fine on the horizon. Beyond, is the almost unreal outline of Rum’s ancient mountains. The summit is a difficult place to leave in half decent weather!
After enjoying the summit views , it’s an easy 15 mins down, down the winding single track road to the peace and beauty of Applecross. We got cosy seats beside the roaring fire on our last visit and as ever spent ages trying to decide what to have from the really excellent menu.Monkfish and chips then home made ice cream, did for us both.
For more on Applecross: APPLECROSS
APPLECROSS /LOCH TORRIDON COASTAL DRIVE (90 mins back to Torridon minimum)
It’s around 2 hours back to Inverness via Lochcarron, the fastest route but not so scenic.But if energy and time allow, I would HIGHLY recommend continuing round the coast back to Torridon, one of Scotland’s most magnificent drives.Yes, I know, ANOTHER one but honestly, it’s true. This whole area is Road Trip Heaven.
This 30 mile section is mostly single track to Shieldaig and VERY winding round Loch Torridon. It will take around 90 mins minimum, more with photo stops.
Sand Beach, a few miles from Applecross, is lovely with good parking and worth a stroll.
The road heads inland temporarily, with the first view of the Torridon range….
From Torridon it’s 90 mins back to Inverness.
Total times – Inverness to Torridon – 90 mins; Torridon to Applecross 60 mins; Applecross to Torridon via the coastal route 90 mins.
These are non-stop driving times, no factoring in photo stops, walks, lunch, cafe stops etc. So what is on paper a 4 hour drive could easily take more than twice that – at least.