Date: 8th July, 2016
Day 11 Destination: Spent the day travelling from Aberlour in Northeast Scotland to the village of Torridon in Northwest Scotland. Decided to head for Torridon on super-short notice (woke up & decided to go to Torridon) but I was really excited as I’d read some great things about NW Scotland.
Day 11 Travel Map
Costs: £5.80 (bus to Elgin) + £11 (WH Smith meals) + £8 (lunch at Strathcarron) + £4 (bus to Torridon) + £23 (hostel) = £51.80
Money saved: £27.30 (Spirit of Scotland pass covered train travel from Elgin to Strathcarron)
- NW Scotland is a must-visit: Just taking the bus ride into Torridon from Strathcarron was such a great experience. Winding & hilly roads surrounded by dramatic mountains with the coast popping occasionally on the west. We’ve not done the NC 500 route & can only imagine the whole thing to be as beautiful (or more) as the segment I saw. Also, it’s one of those place that look much better in real life. My pics do not do Torridon justice but this phone video I took doesn’t do badly.
- Take your wellies when going to Torridon: In Scotland, if you see a map that has a trail drawn on it, you can generally traverse it with just shoes on. But most Torridonian trails have you either crossing streams or boggy areas. So pack your wellies before heading out to walk in this area (or relive my wet feet nightmare).
- Impossible to see Scotland fully or conveniently by public transport: Turns out you can request to get into Torridon by bus but you cannot come back the same way. You must reach Shieldag somehow (8 km away) on your own. This was a bigger WTF moment than the 2x a week bus I saw the previous day. I’d rather not have learnt this lesson but there you go. I’ll describe my ordeal a few posts later.
- Mix in hostels in a long camping trip: I’d pre-read up on 2 things when I made the spot decision to go to Torridon. First the village did not have a paid & managed campsite like the ones I’d been using but instead had a free one. Second, midges could be pretty horrific. So I called SYHA at equally short notice & they somehow had one bed available. A real bed feels amazing after days of living in a tent. Similarly rice & curry seems like a Michelin star meal after days of meal deals.
This was almost another full day of public transport travel to get to a different part of Scotland except that this was planned (unlike Day 7 & Day 9). I’d been looking constantly at Torridon weather forecasts and this was one of the few times 1 dry day was forecast (with heavy rain on all other days). Decided to risk it & it surely paid off. Woke up nice & early to take the first bus out of Aberlour to the nearest railhead of Elgin.
As a rail lover, I was excited for the day’s travel plan as I was going to take the Kyle of Lochalsh line for the 3rd time in three years. I’ve sung this lines’ praises before but this time I got to get off at an intermediate stop (Strathcarron). The two hours I had to kill just flew by because it was just so pretty. Got a great family shot of sheep and let my railfanning get a bit out of hand. 😊 🚄
Ate lunch at the Strathcarron hotel and got my electronic goods charged. It was good to have network coverage here because I guessed (correctly) that I won’t have any coverage for the next 3 days. Here is where Google Maps & the internet told me that I’ll be able to get in to Torridon but not back (confirmed that with the driver on boarding my bus 😞 ).
Here is also where I first saw “Charlie”, an old gentleman enjoying a whisky at the bar. He got on the same bus as me along with a couple of locals & banter ensued. As it’s one of only three buses that run in a day, it stops if locals want to buy some grocery. Charlie wanted to buy milk, “broon”(brown) milk & porage oats. When he went into the store, I confirmed that brown milk indeed means whisky 😂 Charlie emerged out of the store with everything but the porage oats, oh well. Some memories will stick in my head from this trip, this is one of them.
After dropping everyone else off early, the bus suddenly entered into some dramatic landscapes. First, the bus stopped briefly so that the driver could show me some deer just chilling out. One of the stags had an impressive multi-point antlers. Then the bus passed the Applecross road which is famous for being a hair-raising & rewarding ride (didn’t go as no public transport without pre-booking, don’t ask). I am learning how to drive so I can take that road by next summer.
The bus continued through some jaw-dropping scenery before dropping me off at the Torridon Youth Hostel by 2:15 PM (a touch over 7 hours since I left). The driver also helpfully told me a path to take so I don’t have to walk on the road. As the bus was entering Torridon, I was at a loss of words. It’s essentially a tiny village with a battleship shaped mountain having vertical faces just behind it. Additionally, there were low clouds at the top of the mountain so you can’t even tell where the mountain ends. Magical! Here are some pics taken that day as I walked near the village.
Decided to round off my day by doing a trail walk based on a map I saw. It followed the path of a stream and led up to a waterfall. Unfortunately, the heavy rain in the last few days washed away the trail only a few metres in which was sad as I’d already braved some bog. So settled for the second best thing to do, sat next to a stream in peace, take pictures & even a video. Ended the day with a pretty good Indian curry meal!