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From suburbia to the sublime – a family walk in Torridon taking in Loch Clair and Loch Coulin

By John Davidson

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On the track on the west side of Loch Coulin.
On the track on the west side of Loch Coulin.

When is a walk not a walk? Usually when you’ve got to convince children that it’s going to be a fun adventure rather than a boring old drudge!

With my brother and his family up to visit recently – the first time we had caught up face to face since about two years before the pandemic even struck – I wanted to show them some of the most spectacular sights in the Highlands.

So we headed west to Torridon, where huge sandstone monoliths rise out of the glen to rocky precipices and dramatic cliffs. It would be something to behold for children more used to the suburban delights of north-west England!

The walk past Loch Clair and around Loch Coulin is predominantly flat and mostly on good estate tracks, so I threw the smallest pedal bike in the back of the car for my youngest, who would struggle to walk the whole way – and I would struggle to carry him.

We met at the small parking area opposite the access track for the Coulin Estate, below the angular outline of Beinn Eighe’s notched ridge and the infamous Black Carls.

On the path towards Loch Coulin.
On the path towards Loch Coulin.

Care is needed crossing the busy single-track road and we followed the track downhill to cross a bridge over the A’Ghairbhe burn that flows down into the Kinlochewe River and then into Loch Maree.

The route is surfaced as far as the end of Loch Clair, so Matthew was firing ahead on his bike for a while – giving me plenty of exercise trying to keep up with him running while carrying a rucksack full of kids’ coats and snacks.

I occasionally got him to stop and wait for the others to catch up, giving us a chance to look back at the spectacular view across the mirror-calm water to Beinn Eighe and Liathach. He was on good form today, shouting “mountains” while posing for photographs.

At the end of the loch, the main track bends left to cross a bridge leading to the lodge. Ignoring the bridge, we went straight ahead through a gate, following a wooden sign that said ‘footpath’.

The midges were out in one or two places, but they were ok if we kept moving, so we continued along the stony track through beautiful trees overhanging the meandering waters of Loch Coulin. Matthew wanted to walk some of the way now, so his big sister took over the pedalling despite the bike being way too small for her! At least it meant I didn’t have to carry the bike as well.

Matthew enjoying being in the mountains!
Matthew enjoying being in the mountains!

Around half a mile after the gate, a path strikes off to the right. The continuing track climbs higher into the forest and is signed as a bike route – as it avoids the rougher ground below – but we followed the walkers’ path.

After an initial steep drop, Matthew was determined to get back on and pedal along the path. He made his way over the bumpy ground with aplomb, ignoring any suggestion that he might want to dismount for any of the little burn crossings… I think we may have a mountain biker in the making!

Two white cottages ahead show the turning point in the route, but we paused before there for a bit of lunch with a lovely view over the loch and looking south towards the Coulin Pass.

Before reaching the first cottage, the path and track converge at a burn, which we forded despite the presence of a bridge. Approaching the cottage, we cut across the boggy ground to shortcut to a large vehicle bridge on the main track – largely as the herd of cows looked a little too interested in our progress.

Sure enough, as we approached they started to steadily walk towards us, so we hurried everybody across the bridge. Still, the bovines kept coming, but I knew there was a cattle grid further ahead before the next house, so we made sure we could reach that in time.

In fact, having crossed the bridge, most of them lost interest in us, but it was a little unnerving with little ones in tow.

Hannah, Clara and Jennifer on the track back.
Hannah, Clara and Jennifer on the track back.

Our return north would begin from this point, but first I explained to my brother the wonderful range of possibilities from this point – whether continuing over the Coulin Pass to Achnashellach or heading past the Teahouse bothy into Coire Lair and beyond.

All that was for another day, however, as we followed the estate track past the house – not so much a cottage when you see it up close – and back to the edge of Loch Coulin.

Matthew was getting tired now, but thankfully for me it was his Uncle Alan he wanted to carry him, not his boring old dad, so I enjoyed a more leisurely walk along the west side of the loch, passing below the steep slopes of Meall an Leathaid Mhoir.

The view ahead framed Beinn Eighe beautifully as we walked towards Coulin Lodge and the bridge passed earlier in the day. By now, Matthew was back on his bike and there was no stopping him as he zoomed along the track with the view opening up to include Liathach again as we made it back to the cars before the rest of the crew.

Route details

Torridon lochs loop

Distance 6.25 miles / 10km

Terrain Estate tracks, stalkers’ type path

Start/finish Parking area off Glen Torridon road at NH002582

Map OS Landranger 25; OS Explorer 433

A family walk among the spectacular Torridon mountains

Matthew crosses the final bridge over the A'Ghairbhe with Beinn Eighe rising above.
Matthew crosses the final bridge over the A'Ghairbhe with Beinn Eighe rising above.

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