Today, we wake up to a nice looking morning, perfect for our planned bike ride today. We treat ourselves to a cooked breakfast and don our cycling gear. As we’re busying about, the plumber turns up with a spanner to sort our our errant heating. We fell into conversation with him, and he told us the best way of getting the most out of our proposed bike ride.
We leave him to get on with it and jump on our cycles – we head along the lower road that we followed on our first evening and bounce onto the grass at the beginning of the footpath. The track is quite narrow as we skirt around the shoreline and slightly up. It’s up this tricky bit, that my bike bag on the back tries to part company with the rack and forces me to stop. We wrestle with the damned thing to get it back – its a new rack and bag, bought separately and clearly not compatible (it was only my panniers, which I left at home, which have kept it in place up to this point). So we have the tricky problem of setting off on this narrow path in the wrong gear. With a lot of grunting and a few yelps of “whoa” we get back into our rhythm and bounce along the track. It’s not far before we join a wider tarmac lane, access for the scattered cottages and it’s becoming more tree lined. We pass a deep dark pond as we start to get enclosed by a woodland, before approaching a bridge with a gushing river underneath. We are now at the back of the Torridon Estate and we enter through the low workshop buildings surrounded by logs and felled trees. It then opens out into a wide lawned area with a rather elegant house, obviously the home of the Laird, or local landowner: it was a bit of an enigma to whether it was a family home or some outdoor activity centre. It was slightly unkempt with cars parked carelessly and bits of junk left around. We followed the road out, hugging the edge of the loch again and bounce back onto a smooth tarmac road. We pass a little white cottage overlooking the loch with a picnic bench outside and a wood fired hot tub too. It looked like a holiday cottage and I would check it out later. We picked up the main high road and cycled into the little village of Torridon, up to the T junction, where we turned right and headed towards Shieldaig. We had a good pace going and hurtled through the hamlet of Annat and finally worked out what had been puzzling me for the last couple of nights – a string of lights on the far side turned out to be the street lighting of Annat. How annoying (well, in my world) – here you were, in the middle of nowhere, with beautiful night skies where you could watch stars, planets, shooting stars, moon and the Northern Lights and you had light pollution! A bloody corporation light bulb shining in your bedroom every night. I suppose there was a reason for it, but personally I would of shot every flipping lamp!
We turned off at the Torridon restaurant after enduring a really rough 50 foot section of highway, riddled with holes, which had forced us into the middle of the road – if that was ever a good candidate for patching! We cycled across the car park and between two buildings, across a bridge and took the right sign post as suggested by our plumber. We followed a bike trail through a mix of woodland, which opened up fantastic vistas of the loch and pass beautiful little bays. We looked and stared, hoping to spot an otter. We spotted our cottage sitting on the opposite side of the loch. The sun was out, bathing everything in a fantastic light – the white houses glowed against the greens and browns of the surrounding landscape and the reflections of the dark water were beautiful. It was a great bike ride – we ended up doing a big loop and arriving back at the Torridon hotel. We stopped and peered into the restaurant – the Bo and Muc, our intended nice meal out and it looked rather nice. We cycled back to Torridon in the glorious sunshine and stopped at the General Store. Here, we snagged ourselves a bench and table in a great little sun trap and ordered cake and coffee, watching the world. We laughed as our food arrived, accompanied by those little Tiptree jam jars that seem to pop everywhere. You just can’t escape the little blighters. We stayed for ages, reluctant to move from our little warm spot. People stopped and chatted to us and we recognised the host of the Gille Brigdhe and had a good conversation with him. Finally, we got up and jumped back on the bikes and at the entrance of the Estate, we parted. We had just invested in an electric bike and I was keen to see it take on the double hairpin, so I took the high road and hubby went back on the low road. The bike skipped up the hairpin (albeit on full power) and was rewarded with far reaching views, which I stopped to take photos of or just to take in the view. A lovely little ride. I dropped down into our hamlet and stopped by the corner, where there was a postbox and a traditional red phone box. I had noticed that most communities had retained these phone boxes, though they had no use, the phone equipment long gone, but it pleased me immensely that BT hadn’t reached this corner of Scotland with it’s ugly chrome and glass design. Had the Highlands bought a job lot of them? Had the communities fought the monolithic company and won? Or couldn’t British Telecoms be bothered to come up here and change them? Whatever, here they stood, proud but slight dilapidated in the Highlands of Scotland and were just the icing on the cake of an area of outstanding natural beauty.
We meet up within minutes and free wheel to the cottage – the plumber is just leaving. We make a fuss of his Jack Russell dog, guarding his van and hubby falls into conversation with him. The plumber is a wealth of tourist information and informs us of other bike tracks and things to do. I don’t think he wants to go home. Finally he heads off and we enjoy a cuppa on the garden bench, sunning ourselves against the wall. We have the rest of the afternoon to kill – don’t really want to hang around the house – so we jump in the car and drive a mile or two towards Torridon and parking in a little car park by the bridge. We’re going to have a stroll up to Coire MhicNobaill, a valley between hulking mountains. A gentle haul through woodland following a river gushing towards the loch – it’s very pretty. We pass through a deer proof fence and the valley opens up before us, stretching as far as you can see. We’re on the look out for deer, but there has been shooting today and we fear that the deer have gone into hiding. We have our binoculars and stop to scan the landscape. Beinn Alligin looms over us and hubby describes a walk he took along the ridge, with a 400 foot sheer drop. He points it out to me, which I admire from a distance – there’s no way you’re going to get me up there mate! We walk up to the bridge crossing the fast flowing river and study the beauty of the area. It’s something else. We turn around and retrace our steps back to the car, failing to see any deer. It would of been fantastic for a rutting stag to appear on top of one of the hills, his magnificent antlers in perfect profile, but they were evidently in self preservation mode and stayed well out of sight.
We trundle back to the cottage and relax, watching as the colours changed with the setting sun. We’re quite tired – it’s been a busy day. The moon has another visit, the loch reflecting its glow. There are clouds too so they light up as they pass by the moon. It’s all very magical.