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Selected Trips

    Fascinating Facts from the Torridon and Applecross area

    By Rupert Shanks, Chief Storyteller
    More by Rupert

    Torridon and Applecross are some of our favourite parts of Scotland here at Wilderness.

    We love the wild landscapes and bountiful wildlife viewing opportunities there. Here are some fascinating facts from the Torridon and Applecross area which our guides have been kind enough to share.



    Shieldaig is a small coastal village in Wester Ross in the North West Highlands.

    We base a number of our trips here and nearby, such as the Applecross and Torridon walking trip and our Sea Kayaking for families.

    • Shieldaig is thought to derive from the Norse ‘Sild-vik’ meaning Herring Bay, which indicates the large number of herring that used to head up into Loch Torridon.
    • The village was established in 1800 to attract families to take up fishing for a living. The Royal Navy also saw it as an opportunity to help build up a stock of trained seamen who could be called upon during the Napoleonic Wars.
    • People were attracted to the village by the offer of grants from the Admiralty to support housing and boat building, and Shieldaig flourished.
    • After Napoleon’s demise in 1815 the official support disappeared.
    • But Loch Shieldaig and the surrounding waters offered the locals a great herring resource and the village continued to prosper due to the success of its fishing fleet.
    • At present the fishing industry is limited to prawns and mussels.
    • Our accommodation Tigh an Eilean means House of the Island, as it reflects the view of Shieldaig Island from many windows, and it is pronounced “Tee an Eelan”.
    • In 1970, Shieldaig Island was bought by the National Trust.
    • It is believed that the Island was planted with Scots Pine from the Speyside area 120-130 years ago, by the then owners the Fisheries Board. They used the Pine to make poles for fishing nets.
    • The NT would like to prevent cross pollination with the nationally important Scots Pine of Glen Shieldaig, so are slowly over a time scale of 100-200 years, replacing the existing trees with local pines.
    • Shieldaig Island is a SSSI (site of special scientific interest) and has a thriving bird population, including Herons, Kestrels, Black Guillemots, Long Eared Owls and Mergansers.


    Applecross is a peninsula in Wester Ross in the North West Highlands with a coastal village of the same name.

    • The dramatic Bealach na Ba (sometimes written Bealach nam Bo) “The pass of the cattle” is the highest road pass in Scotland. It rises to 626m (2053ft) above sea level in about five miles all on single track road, creating some of the most challenging driving conditions in Scotland. The road was built in 1877 linking Applecross village to Kishorn in the East. Before then, the only way to access the peninsula was over mountainous terrain on foot or by boat, giving the peninsula an island feel.
    • The North section of the Peninsula was only accessible by boat up until 1970 when a road was constructed from Shieldaig to Kenmore and then a further 5 years later completed all the way to Applecross.
    • In 1975 the owners of the Applecross Estate set up the Applecross Trust as a Scottish conservation Charity. The Estate was later gifted to the Trust and it is now responsible for around 70,000 acres of land. They continue to work closely with the local community to maintain the unique and historic character of Applecross, its wilderness heritage and recognise its importance as an area of outstanding natural beauty.
    • Over the years they have constructed path networks, allowing visitors the opportunity to enjoy all that the peninsula has to offer.
    • In the past Applecross has featured in several television programmes including, Channel 4’s “Time Team” in 2005. They were investigating a structure thought to be an Iron Age Broch. As an offshoot from the show and heightened local interest, the Applecross Archaeological Society was formed and, from 2006-2009, a community archaeology project was undertaken to excavate the broch.

    Looking North West from the bealach between Liathach and Beinn Eighe


    • The Hebridean Barns (located next to the Broch and campsite) are a unique resource. Hebridean ventilated barns of this type are to be found only in the Wester Ross parishes of Applecross, Gairloch and Loch Broom and are becoming increasingly rare. Historic Scotland has indicated that the sites may be of national significance.
    • The origins of the name of Applecross are not quite known. One thought is that it comes from “Aber Crosan” the Pictish phrase for the mouth of the Crosan River. Or the Gaelic name for the peninsula is A’Chomraich which means ‘The Sanctuary’.
    • In AD 673 St. Maelrubha came from Northern Ireland and established a monastery and surrounding Sanctuary at Applecross, second only to Iona in terms of religious importance. He died here in AD 722 and is buried in the graveyard. The Vikings destroyed the church during a raid in AD 795. The present church was built in 1817.
    • Maelrubha (the red priest) also built a small chapel on Isle Maree, one of the islands of Loch Maree. The Loch thereafter was named after the Saint.
    • In the past, Isle Maree was a place of pilgrimage for those suffering from mental illness.
    • As a treatment they were forced to sip the holy water from the well and then dipped three times in the loch every day for three weeks.
    • This apparently continued into the nineteenth century with a slight modification in treatment which involved sufferers being hauled round the island behind a rowing boat.
    • Recent archaeological digs at Sand have placed an ancient settlement there at 7,500BC (9,500 years ago), making the peninsula one of the earliest known settlements in Scotland.
    • The old ruined pier at Toscaig is a lasting reminder of the ferry service that once ran to Kyle of Lochalsh. This service operated between 1955 and 1978, and was the only route into Applecross when the road over the Bealach na Ba was closed.
    • The village has a community owned petrol station, providing a vital service to the area. The only alternative involves a 36-mile (58 km) round trip to Lochcarron. In 2010 it was the UK’s first unmanned petrol station, which uses a credit card reader to enable customers to serve themselves. As it is run by volunteers, they try to keep costs to a minimum and their fuel can sometimes be the cheapest in the area.
    • Applecross also featured in the 2009 TV show “Monty Halls Great Escape”, where the Marine Biologist left his city life behind to try his hand at being a crofter in Applecross.


    • Torridon derives from Gaelic, meaning ‘Place of transference’ with reference to the portage from the head of Loch Torridon through Glen Torridon to Loch Maree. The name applies especially to the strip of land at the head of the loch.
    • Torridonian red sandstone is the predominant rock type in this area which sits on top of Lewisian gneiss, some of the oldest rock in the World. The mountain tops are capped with quartzite which is a very pure white sandstone, giving the appearance of snow even in the height of summer. Some of the quartzite contains fossilised worm burrows, known as pipe rock.
    • Beinn Eighe was established in 1951 as the first National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Britain. It is also the largest, covering over 10,000 acres stretching from loch to mountain top.
    • Loch Maree is home to one of Scotland’s rarest birds; the Black-throated Diver. As a National Nature Reserve the area is important for the preservation of the largest remaining vestiges of ancient Scots pinewoods in the Western Highlands.

    • In the past, illicit whisky distilling and smuggling were commonplace in Alligin. A naturally camouflaged cleft in the rock known as the Smuggler’s Cave concealed any illegal activities from the attentions of the excisemen across the loch in Shieldaig.
    • The iconic mountains of Torridon are, from East to West: Beinn Eighe (1010m) Liathach (1055m) and Beinn Alligin (986m), with each mountain having two Munros to their name. They all offer magnificent mountain scenery and ridge walking. Rising straight up from sea level they have an almost intimidating nature.
    • Directly below the summit of Sgurr Mhor on Beinn Alligin is an impressive gash in the mountain which can be seen clearly from a distance. This is the Eag Dhubh na h-Eigheachd, ‘the deep gash of the wailing’. According to local legend shepherds used to hear wailing coming from the gash, but when one of them climbed down to investigate he never returned.
    • Triple Buttress of Corie Mhic Fhearchair was the sight of a plane crash in the early hours of the morning of 13th March 1951. A Lancaster bomber on a navigation exercise from RAF Kinloss flew into it at an altitude of around 900m during atrocious and freezing weather conditions. The crew of eight did not survive and due to the terrible winter weather it took days before anyone could reach the site and was months before all the bodies were recovered. It was as a result of this incident that the modern RAF Mountain Rescue Teams were formed. Plus the use of Local Keepers and Ghillies to assist in the removal of bodies initiated the start of the local Kinlochewe and Torridon Mountain Rescue Team. Debris can still be found around the base of the buttress and in one of the gullies, aptly named ‘Fuselage Gully’.

    The Triple Buttress at Coire Mhic Fhearchair in Torridon.


    • The North East shores of Loch Maree were once used for 17th Century iron smelting. Iron ore, in the form of bog iron was present in large quantities around the loch. Along with vast quantities of wood, in particular Oak, which was used to produce the very best charcoal for use in the furnaces. The small areas of forest found today are all that remain of the Oak woodland that once covered the lower slopes of the hills.
    • For those interested in demographics: There is a combined area population of c.410 with the main villages being Shieldaig, Torridon and Inveralligin. Sheildaig specifically has a population of c.85 and Applecross c.200.

    Check out Adventure Holidays in the Northwest Highlands Right Here!

    Check out our holidays in the North West Highlands

    Meet the Author: Rupert Shanks

    “After a spell in the corporate world in London Rupert decided to find a more rewarding way of life involving a closer connection to the outdoors and to his camera! Rupert produces a lot of the photography and video for Wilderness Scotland and works within the Marketing team.”

    View profileMore by Rupert

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