A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 31 August 2009


Early next morning I quickly break camp and leave Applecross village. All night long there'd been gusting wind and squalls of rain. But I'd felt snug and secure in my sleeping bag. I love it when I hear the elements rage outside my tent. Inside I feel warm and safe. And always at peace - despite the proximity of a storm. It's a kind of thrilling peace.

I watch a flock of greylag geese feeding in the shallows of Applecross Bay, then drive north along the peninsula's narrow, twisting coastal road. This must be of the great roads of Scotland. To the west are dramatic views of the islands of Raasay and Rona across the Inner Sound. To the east lies the wild, treeless hinterland of Applecross Forest (there are lots of these 'forests' marked on the map - Kinlochewe Forest, Letterewe Forest, Fisherfield Forest - though the trees disappeared thousands of years ago). At the tip of the peninsula the road turns the corner and now heads south-east, winding back and forth, up and down, above the southern shore of Loch Torridon.

Torridon! Such a special, magnificent place. Here's my 1st proper view of its stunning mountainscape. (The promontory in the centre of the pic divides Loch Shieldaig from Upper Loch Torridon. The striking, craggy mountain on the left is iconic Liathach - at 3456 ft the highest peak in the Torridon range. Its ascent and ridge traverse is a challenging expedition, even in good weather. From the road its near-vertical terraces look practically unclimbable.)

Torridon has some of the oldest rocks in Europe. Some are a staggering 3000 million years old, a time span difficult to get your head round. Most of the rock you see however is Torridonian Sandstone - laid down a mere 750 million years ago, and capped by white quartzite, which gives some of the hills a light grey appearance (Liathach means 'The Grey One'). As in the Himalayas and the Pyrenees, the land hereabouts is on the up - it's risen 70 m since the last Ice Age.

Like so many parts of Scotland much of the ground is denuded of trees. But there's a long-term scheme afoot to allow natural regeneration of native woodland. Where this isn't possible, saplings are being brought in and replanted. So the landscape's undergoing an exciting period of slow transformation at present (though I suppose all landscapes are always changing and evolving). Eventually the deer fences - erected to protect the young trees - will be taken down, and mixed, open woodland of birch and pine, willow and alder, holly and oak will once again enhance the shorelines, stream banks and lower contours of Torridon. And of course the biodiversity of the whole area will be increased. But back to the route...

A single-track road leads up a bleak, damp Glen Torridon to Kinlochewe. It skirts the huge, complex massif of Beinn Eighe, then hugs the edge of Loch Maree as far as Gairloch, where I camp the night...

1 comment:

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I know exactly what you mean by a thrilling peace! I feel the same when the wind is howling outside and the rain beating on the windows, while I'm reading and eating hot toast.