13 October 2022
Explore the southern Highlands with Lonely Planet's guide to the Torridon Hills.
Enjoy a day off the beaten track with a visit to the Torridon Hills, in this extract from Lonely Planet's new travel book Offbeat.
The Torridon Hills: The stuff of dreams for munro-baggers and middle-of-nowhere lovers
No one is calling the 500-mile North Coast 500 road undiscovered – but it sure still seems quiet compared with Scotland’s Southern Highlands. And the
Torridon region, centred on the charming loch-side Torridon village, is far enough off the tourist loop to draw only a select band of travellers. You only really wind up here if you have a deep-seated passion for the outdoors - not in a climb-Ben-Nevis-for-the-bragging-rights kind of way, but more because of a long-term infatuation with mountains (or munros, as they’re known in these parts) at their most aesthetic, where raw coastlines and wild serrated headlands shelve into silent inlets.
Torridon village, with its whitewashed cottages mirrored in the bruise-coloured waters of Upper Loch Torridon, is only the beginning of the adventure. Beyond are the Torridon Hills, looming close enough that it feels they’re threatening to shunt the place into the sea. This is where hill walkers, climbers, wildlife-watchers and middle- of-nowhere-lovers start to believe they have passed into paradise. The beauty is that it’s all very real.
GO IF YOU LIKE...
- Scottish Highlands
- cute coastal villages
- magical middle-of-nowhere restaurants
- wilderness hiking
Why go to the Torridon Hills?
The Torridon Hills possess special qualities that make many of Scotland’s outdoor adventurers wax lyrical about them, over and above all other mountains. Comprised of some of Britain’s oldest sandstone, a sort so spectacularly showcased throughout this range that it is known as Torridonian Sandstone, the rock here has ruptured into particularly postcard-perfect peaks. Crested with dramatically broken pinnacles and riven by deep gullies that give their sides the look of piped icing, they are some of Scotland’s most handsome summits.
There are three Munros (Scottish summits over 914m/3000ft) for the Munro-baggers. Mountaineers can tackle glorious climbs, such as the tantalising triple buttress of Beinn Eighe’s Coire Mhic Fhearchair. Hikers have myriad mountain and coastal traverses, with ancient woods and lonely glens in between. And hunkering beneath all this is Torridon village, so unassumingly lovely that you could end up prolonging your stay to enjoy its cute coastal restaurants, seaweedy shores, deer, waterbirds and sea otters.
- Take care on the area’s single-track roads. Use passing places to let oncoming traffic or faster vehicles behind you pass by.
- Treat the mountains with respect: these are among Scotland’s wildest uplands. Notify your accommodation where you intend to explore and bring everything you need with you (full tank of petrol, full kit for whatever outdoor activity you are up here for) – otherwise it’s a 1.5-hour trip into Inverness for supplies.
- Accommodation in Torridon is limited: book ahead.
- Those here for a multiday outdoors adventure can shelter in wilderness refuges called bothies if necessary.
From Glasgow, home to Scotland’s main international airport, Torridon lies roughly 350km (217 miles) north, which is a 4.5hr to 6hr drive, depending on if you go the pretty way via Inverness or the absolutely stunning way via Fort William. The nearest train station to Torridon is Achnasheen, 5hr from Glasgow and 32km (20 miles) from Torridon; buses run from the station to the village.
WHEN TO GO
The driest part of the year in a notoriously soggy part of the world is peak time to hit Torridon and hike up its mountains. Outside this period, many facilities close.
AMAZING CROWD-FREE EXPERIENCES
- Cosy up for a pre- or post-hike bite of fabled carrot cake at the Torridon Café, huddling right under the peaks or eat at the Torridon Hotel, a turreted Victorian mansion with a roaring log fire and loch views.
- Climb Beinn Alligin, one of Scotland’s most beautiful mountains, offering humbling views of the Torridon Range and the loch- bedaubed wilderness below.
- Try hardcore rock-climbing in Beinn Eighe’s westernmost flanks, at the triple buttress of Coire Mhic Fhearchair.
- Explore the rarely traipsed coastline of Loch Torridon on coast paths between Inveralligin and Red Point.
- Have a wildlife-watching field day, spotting sea otters and pine martens by Loch Torridon, roe deer in the woods and red deer and golden eagles in the mountains.
- Scale the mountain road to Lower Diabaig for an unforgettable meal at Gille Brighde among a smattering of whitewashed seaside cottages, where local seafood is crafted into flavour-packed dishes.
Discover 100 exciting alternative travel experiences where tourists are few and far between. Explore a secret mountainous kingdom in Africa, an underwater museum in Australia, a medieval fairytale town in Europe - and learn how your visit can benefit local communities when you go beyond classic bucket list places with this inspiring travel guide.
Hardback, 324 pages. ISBN: 9781838694302; Get your copy here.
Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet © 2022