Kintail and Torridon
Saturday was a day of dramatic weather. We drove from Aberdeen through heavy rain until eventually the sun broke through close to Inverness. The drive alongside Loch Ness and into Glen Morriston was spectacular as sunlight sparkled off a damp and dripping world the colours of autumn bright in the trees and the dark blue of the loch. As we headed west towards Kintail the skies grew increasingly dark until it looked like we were heading into night as we drew close to Loch Cluanie. Here the rain started with sheets of water crossing the glen in front of us. Above us through dark rents in the cloud we could see it was hail and snow at higher levels.
The shower passed as we approached the Claunie Inn and suddenly the scene changed to autumnal russets capped by white summits. We pulled into the Cluanie Inn where an giant smoked salmon baguette and bowl of steaming Cullen Skink provided a welcome lunch break. As we sat there enjoying tea the rain started again, heavy and unrelenting.
We followed the glen down to Loch Duich and the turn-off for Ratagan and our destination for the night, Grants at Craigellachie. Everyone else had already arrived and we seized what seemed to be a lull between showers to take the customary stroll down the loch shore. The snow tinging the tops of the Five Sisters made for a dramatic introduction to the North West Highlands for Julia, Josie, Dave and Scott.
Of course as we headed down the loch it became clear that the next shower was on its way and soon enough we were enveloped in stinging hail that was led by a bright and fast moving rainbow.
Everyone put hoods up and hats on and perservered for a little, the hail turning to a rain but eventually we had to call it quits and headed back to dry out, warm up and watch the rugby whilst enjoying pre-dinner drinks.
That evening we headed down to the restaurant where Tony and Liz treated us to the usual delicious food and wine. My starter was Loch Leven Mussels in a pastis-cream sauce. My main was Perthshire guinea hen and the dessert was a Bailey's Creme Caramel. We topped off the night with coffee and a wee dram or two from the selection of whiskies.
The next day the cloud was down almost to the loch and it was raining hard. We drove over to Lochcarron and then over the Bealach na Ba where the waterfalls were white torrents crashing down the hillside. It was very atmospheric topping out in thick mist and then a relief to get down to Applecross where a warm fire was going in the inn.
After a drink we headed on, rounding the top of the Applecross peninsula and then dropping down past Shieldaig and into Torridon where we were staying at the Torridon Inn. With the weather putting a damper on any outdoor excursions we whiled away the afternoon with beer, rugby and card games before getting changed for a pleasant pub dinner followed by a few more drams.
The next morning the weather had finally cleared and we headed for a walk down to the boathouse, following a circular trail waymarked by the hotel. The views across a serene Upper Loch Torridon to the mountains of Beinn Alligin and Liathach were sublime.
We headed up through the woods where plenty of work is being done on the trail before dropping back down to the inn.
Then everyone went their separate ways, some heading back to England and others spending a bit more time on the west coast. We needed to head back to Aberdeen but did find just enough time for a short walk through the woods by Loch Maree. The drive down to Kinlochewe through Glen Torridon was spectacular with the blue skies, now almost unblemished by clouds, a perfect contrast to the bright autumn hues of the glen floor and the bare Torridon hills.
We parked up at the well provisioned car park at the start of the Glas Leitir trails and followed the waymarkings for the Woodland Trail.
This took us steeply up through the woods of Coille na Glas Leitir with the views behind us soon opening up to reveal Slioch's ramparts across Loch Maree. The colours of the woods and the water were emphasised by the bright sun.
As the trail contoured through the woods we noticed a few alto cumulus clouds gathering in the skies above Beinn Eighe.
We dropped down as the trail wound its way besides a pleasant tumbling stream, crossing it on stepping stones and then following a series of slabs across an area of bog to eventually reach our outward route.
It had been a thoroughly pleasant hour or so wander and set us up nicely for the long drive back east to Aberdeen.