Sweat drips down my back and into my eyes, stinging and blurring my vision. Who knew that it could be this hot in Scotland? I’m in Loch Torridon, an hour-and-a-bit’s drive northwest across the Scottish Highlands from Inverness.
Craning my head back I look up, but the peak of Beinn Damph does not seem to be getting any closer. Turning around – a good excuse to stop for a few minutes – the valley spreads out below me. A faint grey-brown line wiggling across the green expanse marks the path I have just stomped up. Far below, the blue waters of Loch Torridon sparkle in the sunshine. I turn and head into the saddle between Beinn Damph and the neighbouring peak of Maol Chean Dearg. The last of the trees are far below us, and above us only sky.
The path ahead disappears into a muddy gully, still wet from yesterday’s rain. Soon my fellow adventurer, Lily, and I, are pulling on tussocks of grass as we struggle up the last hundred metres to the ridge between the peaks. Suddenly the walking gets easier and the wind picks up, snatching at my hat. We pull on our jackets as we crest the ridge. The ground ahead drops away in a very steep slope, almost a cliff, which falls in a clean curve to the waters of Loch Damph far below us. It is 800 metres down to the loch and the air is so clear we can see right to the other end of the water and on into the line of hills marching into the distance, like blue and deep purple cut-outs.
The wind is so strong it makes our eyes water but it fills us with energy, whipping away the heat and sweat. And making us want to dance in the grass on this saddle of land between two peaks. Looking up at the peaks and then at our watches, we decide to forego the last 50 metres of the climb and simply enjoy the views as we wander along the ridge. Looking back towards Loch Torridon, the hotel is not visible but the houses of the village of Torridon look like tiny white squares along the shore of the loch, with the barren peaks of Beinn Alligin, Beinn Dearg and Lithatch looming above the village, cutting a jagged line across the sky. Looking south, the wind buffets our faces and we find a spot sheltered from the wind’s full blast by a large grey boulder, where we can sit to sip some tea and munch on some hard-earned chocolate.
Just visible past the end of Loch Damph we can see Loch Kishorn, where we had spent the morning kayaking. Originally we had planned on paddling right in front of the castle-like Torridon Hotel, but a strong northwest wind whipped the loch into a frothy stretch of white-capped waves that crashed onto the beach. There were a couple of novice paddlers joining Lily and I on this morning’s paddle, so Chris Wilson, the Torridon Hotel’s resident guide and outdoor guru, decided it would be better and far calmer to drive over to paddle Loch Kishorn instead. This is one of the beauties of the Torridon Hotel – no matter what the weather, it always possible to do most activities. Rain can stop rock climbing but not mountain biking or paddling or hiking.
After breakfast, Chris drove us over to Loch Kishorn. The short kayaks we were using were not sea kayaks or river boats but a mixture of the two. For paddling on Loch Kishorn they were perfect boats, very stable and easy to manoeuvre, so they were good for the beginners in our group. Chris taught the basic strokes to the novices and soon we were paddling the calm waters of the loch, the kayaks spread out over the water like brightly-coloured boiled sweets scattered on a glassy surface. Laughter echoed across the water – suddenly punctuated by a shout.
‘Look, a seal!’ rang out a voice.
‘There’s another one! Right by my kayak!’ another voice chimed in, drawing my attention to a couple of kayaks just offshore from a small, tree-covered island. Two sleek black heads were bobbing in the water about 10 metres from them. Then, with a flick of their tails they were gone, leaving a dark swirl of water – only to pop up again further away. After about ten minutes of this game of seal hide-and-seek they disappeared and did not come back. Our group chattered away about seals as we paddled past some beautiful rock formations of twisted granite.
Back at the van we loaded up the kayaks and drove back to the hotel for a well-deserved lunch. It was over lunch that our plans to climb up to Beinn Damph formed.
After a full day’s activities of kayaking and then hiking in the afternoon, we had worked up an appetite for dinner. Soft adventure here is equal parts adventure and luxury, and tonight we have dinner reservations for 7:30.
Still damp from the shower, we are ushered into the dining room. The chink of silver on china and murmured conversations replace the sound
of wind in our ears. Later, as I relax in the large bath, after a delicious dinner, I look out through the window at the moonlight running in a silver strip across Loch Torridon. I reflect that, after the entire summer spent researching for the Soft Adventures In Britain guidebook and checking out hotels and centres the length and breadth of the country, the Torridon Hotel offers the best soft adventure experience in Britain.
What should we do tomorrow? Rock climbing, mountain biking, more hiking, or maybe we should try scrambling up one of the big peaks across the loch? Oh well, we will worry about
Several carriers fly to Inverness Airport fom London Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton, and Glasgow. From Inverness to Torrington takes 1hr 15 mins by road.
Jonathon stayed at the Loch Torridon Hotel
In-house activities offered by the Loch Torridon Hotel range from climbing, kayaking, walking, and bike hire to archery, navigation and gorge scrambling. No experience is needed.
Families can be catered for. For kayaking and walking children must be over 10, while for clay pigeon shooting they must be over 16.