In unpredictable conditions, Vivienne Crow chooses a lochside route
THE STORM RAGED all through the night and through most of the next day too. I’d slept in my camper-van at the foot of Beinn Alligin, hoping the upland gales that had been pummelling Torridon for several days would soon abate; instead, they lowered to sea level and intensified.
On this grim morning, the mountains at the head of Upper Loch Torridon were nothing more than dark, amorphous masses, slashed by lines of silver as newly-formed burns came rushing down from their summits. The drama of it all was spell-binding. Passing beneath Liathach and Beinn Eighe as I later drove up Glen Torridon, it was hard to keep my eyes on the road. There was no colour in the landscape – just shades of brown – but, nonetheless, it was enthralling.
The first patch of blue appeared in the sky mid-afternoon, and I had my walking boots on before you could say: “That’s enough to make a sailor a pair of trousers!” Too late to head into the hills, I followed a vehicle track alongside Loch Clair and then walked the northern shore of Loch Coulin. As I passed around the remote, eastern end of the loch, I could hear the roar of red deer stags on the slopes above. In my rush to get out, I’d stupidly left my binoculars in the camper-van, but, carefully scanning the hillside, I could see a large male with what appeared to be a small group of females.
A few solitary, smaller males were standing apart from the group, and occasionally, the big stag would give chase, asserting his control of the harem.
Approaching a large house, understatedly called the ‘Farmhouse’, I could see a clear track going off to the left. This eventually climbs to the Coulin Pass – the old drove road and coffin route linking Glen Carron with Glen Torridon. I’m always fascinated – and tempted – by ancient hill tracks, but I resisted on this occasion. Turning right, I followed the rough track towards the trees surrounding Coulin Lodge.
At a particularly narrow section of the loch, I spotted what lookedlike tiny ‘waves’ on the surface of the water. I squinted at the strange phenomenon. Getting closer to the water’s edge, my ‘waves’ looked more like little silver-coloured flashes; what I was witnessing was a mass migration of hundreds of fish – possibly salmon, possibly rare Arctic char – making their way upstream to their spawning grounds.
As I came back round on to the Loch Clair track, Glen Torridon had undergone a dramatic transformation since that morning. Those ‘shades of brown’ revealed themselves to be shades of bronze and green and even silver, and Beinn Eighe had taken on an unusual late afternoon glow. The lower slopes were that orange colour I’ve come to associate with people wearing cheap fake tans, while its quartzite screes had gone a surprising shade of pink. What a difference a few hours make.
- From A896, take surfaced track heading SSW on to Coulin Estate.
- It crosses the A’ Ghairbhe and then runs alongside Loch Clair. At S end of loch, leave vehicle track by going through gate on bend.
- After following track beside short section of river, keep R at fork – along path beside Loch Coulin.
- Nearing the house at Torran-cuilinn, bear R on to track reached at a wooden bridge. After house, ignore bridge straight ahead; follow path as it swings right to cross larger bridge over River Coulin.
- At next building, bear R along track.
- After estate buildings near Coulin Lodge, the surfaced track crosses river linking the two lochs and swings L. Retrace steps alongside Loch Clair and back to road.