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Wilderness Walking - Applecross and Torridon

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Wilderness Walking - Applecross and Torridon


North West Highlands

This is the region north of Kintail and begins with Torridon and Applecross.

Torridon is one of Scotland’s most spectacular regions. Its mountains are made from Torridonian sandstone, some of the oldest rocks in the world. Its shapely peaks rise steeply from the deep glens and coastline, and offer superb walking on their narrow ridges. The red sandstone and white sparkling quartzite replace the grey schist of Kintail to produce a totally different landscape with dramatic effect.

The glens contain majestic Scots Pines and are rich in wildlife including pine marten and wildcat. Towering high above are 3000 foot high vertical ridges set amidst a bare and extensively glaciated landscape. It has a primeval feel to it. Boulders, mounds of moraine and scratch marks on the surface of the rocks all testify to the power of the ice.

The area has special mountains, and one of these, Ben Eighe, was designated Britain’s first National Nature Reserve. Over 50 years later the important work of environmental management continues. Good tracks allow the walker to discover some of the area’s many treasures, including the triple buttresses of Coire Mhic Fhearcair, tucked away on the northern side of Ben Eighe.

The spectacular mountain scenery is separated by sea-lochs which cut deep into the landscape. This is fortunate for sea-kayakers, who enjoy wonderful views of these bold mountains as they kayak through these sea-lochs, such as Upper Loch Torridon, Loch Shieldaig and Loch Kishorn, which bound the peaceful haven of the Applecross Peninsula.

As we move north of Torridon, we enter Wester Ross, a wild region with beautiful Loch Maree at its heart. The mountains of the Flowerdale Forest are steep sided peaks that rise aruptly from the moors which surround them. In the glens and the lower flanks of the mountains are beautiful forests while the coastal location of many walks in this area brings further variation to the scenery of Wester Ross.

North of Wester Ross, we come to Ullapool, Coigach and Assynt. Ullapool is an attractive fishing village, nestled on the shores of Loch Broom. With some good restaurants serving excellent local produce, it is a pleasant place to be based for a few days.

Just north of Ullapool lie the peaks of Coigach, which include some gems such as Stac Pollaidh, Cul Mor and Cul Beag. Slightly further north, and separated by the wilderness of Inverpolly, lie the iconic mountains of Assynt - Suilven, Quinaig and Canisp to name but a few.

Our holidays in the North West Highlands include:

North West Highlands - continued

We climb some of these summits on our trip which explores Cape Wrath and the North West Highlands. Looking across the wilderness of lochs and mountains, however, it is easy to understand why our canoeing and hiking expedition in this area can be such a fantastic trip. It is definitely the way to travel in this area! To see the iconic sugar loaf peak of Suilven glow in the setting sun from the entrance of your tent is a scene that will stay in the memory for a lifetime.

This incredibly special area has recently been awarded UNESCO endorsed European Geopark status in recognition of its outstanding geology and landscape. Within the new Geopark are two National Nature Reserves, 54 Geological Conservation Review sites, geological sites of Special Scientific Importance, Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation. There are also a significant number of historical and archaeological sites, including scheduled monuments and listed buildings.

Looking out to sea from Assynt and Coigach, a scattering of small islands captures the eye. These are the Summer Isles, a wonderful location for sea-kayaking. Only Tanera Mor, the largest island, is inhabited but this once was a bustling fishing port. Nowadays, our sea-kayaking groups are most likely to meet seals from the resident colony and perhaps dolphins or whales if we're lucky. The islands have beautiful rock scenery with deep caves to paddle into, arches to kayak under and white sand beaches to land on. If you enjoy sea-kayaking, you will love exploring the Summer Isles!

Moving up the coastline, we pass Handa Island and then reach the mystical Sandwood Bay. Handa Island is a nature reserve which is home to almost 200,000 seabirds. The sheer cliffs and sea-stacks, the dazzling sight of so many birds and the remote and beautiful setting combine to create a memorable walk.

Sandwood Bay is owned and managed by the John Muir Trust. Few places can match it for coastal grandeur, remoteness and purity. Reaching the beach after a 7km hike is a special moment for many people. The land itself, along with the surrounding estate, is under crofting tenure and is home to around 100 people.

Finally, we move to the very North-West tip of Scotland. Cape Wrath is marked by a lighthouse, built by the Stevenson family in 1828. It is isolated by the Parph, an area of wild moorland known for its herds of red deer. Following the north coastline eastwards from the lighthouse, we reach the Clo Mor - the highest cliffs in the UK with sheer drops of up to 900 feet. Part of Cape Wrath is used as a bombing target range by the MoD. Access is occasionally restricted during exercises.