Torridon, Scotland

When somewhere is touted by a very good, well-travelled, sponsored climber-friend of mine as “the best bouldering in Britain” then you can be sure, it’s well worth checking out. While I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that sentiment, I can certainly see where he’s coming from.

Meanwhile, my better half was more than happy to accompany me up to the Northern most areas of the UK and continue her long standing love affair with the Scottish hills. In fact, she acted more as my tour guide for the week.

Neither were wrong when they said Torridon is truly amazing. We were blessed with sunshine and views that took your breath away, looking across Upper Loch Torridon and out to sea or up at Leathach, Beinn Alligin or Beinn Eighe to name but a few. This valley is, quite frankly, one of the best places you’ll base yourself.

The climbing is nothing short of excellent too, with plenty of grade range to keep everyone happy and rock quality so good that you have excellent friction even in the baking heat – although obviously this gets better when it’s slightly cooler.

But that isn’t why you want to avoid those summer months. While you’re enjoying the solitude of the hills of the highlands, don’t expect to be alone. While your nearest fellow climber could be more than a hundred miles away, don’t be surprised to find a hundred thousand midges invading your precious personal space.

This may sound, on here, a touch pathetic but believe me, it can be enough to drive you not only from the crag, but into your tent, car or as we did, into the sanctuary of the Torridon Inn. One evening, I even got slightly drunk specifically so we could get away from the midge, guilt free. Oh the sacrifices we make sometimes.

Seriously though, they are very bad and it can be unbearable. I would strongly advise checking the midge forecast on the Smidge website before planning a trip and picking your time of year carefully. Summer months and you’ll be eaten alive. Winter, and you run the risk of freezing to death trying to uncover the boulders from the snow. Be warned.

The Areas

There are a host of areas around the valley and while I’d love to check them all out, sadly we only had one day. From what I’ve read and heard, that day was well spent at the first and most obvious area: the Celtic Jumble. This is where you’ll find those picturesque lines and most likely find some company. The rock quality is excellent, it dries quickly or offers shelter, quite frankly, I could’ve stayed here all week alone. The other crags will just have to wait.

  • Celtic Jumble. This is the name given to the collection of boulders within easy walking distance of the campsite – and what a collection! Five minutes will get you there, another five to the Ship boulder, where you can find the iconic and stand out line Malc’s Arete Other classics abound here, such as Sad Piano 6b+ and my own personal project Potential Seven 7b. There is plenty more at every possible grade up to at least 8a.

Local Amenities

Despite the, erm, rural locale of Torridon and its population of around 3 people (mild exaggeration), there’s a surprisingly large amount of amenities here. The fact it’s a bit of a local hub for Munro baggers certainly helps and actually you could easily base yourself here for quite a long time without needing to go any further afield.

  • Food. At the far end of the village is a small café and shop which is remarkably well stocked. Fresh meat, milk, eggs, veg and almost an entire wall of beer should keep you well fed and watered for as long as you need. They even had Oreo ice creams, although we didn’t sample them. It better do – there isn’t really anything else within at least an hour…
  • Climbing Shops. Scotland is well versed with climbing shops with Fort William having at least three. Don’t expect much in Torridon itself though, especially as climbing has yet to really take off there. This may change but I’d very much doubt it. The bouldering guide is available from the Countryside Centre though, in case you’ve forgotten it/lost it/had it eaten by a Highland cow.
  • Accommodation – Campsites. This is one of those really nice aspects to Torridon: the campsite at the near end of the village. While it’s not entirely free – they ask for a donation towards the upkeep and the showers but it’s really not much – it’s incredibly cheap. Granted, it’s just a field really but there is a toilet block and a shower, which doubles as a handy refuge from the midge…
  • Accommodation – Other. There are quite a few other options around, from speaking to (far more sensible) people who opted for anti-midge accommodation. A quick look at visittorridon.co.uk will point you in the right direction.
  • Cafes and bars. Firstly is the aforementioned café in the village proper who do a mean toasted sandwich. Excellent and well worth a shout. If, like us, you seek evening sanctuary from the evil flying beasties, refuge can be sought in the Torridon Inn. Their food is tasty, their beer excellent and the service friendly. Don’t mix this up with the Torridon Hotel though, where, we hear, meals can set you back in the region of £70. Each.
  • Guidebooks. There is a dedicated bouldering guidebook to Torridon which has its own charming way about it. It’s a good guide, with some photo topos and is fairly easy to navigate with. Published in 2016, it is already out of date, from what I hear (the Potential Seven Project is now apparently just Potential Seven and gets 7b) and expect this to change regularly as time goes on and more is developed.
  • Other handy places. Well, there’s the sea, that can be handy… No seriously, this is the back end of beyond and while that does most definitely add to the charm of Torridon, it does mean you are a long way from anywhere. About an hour away are towns of Kinlochewe (which does have a garage) or Lochcarron but neither, to the best of my knowledge, would be classed as a town. For anything substantial, like a hospital or some semblance of substantial civilisation, you’re looking at heading back to Inverness. Embrace it and if you get into any difficulties, the guys at the café were incredibly helpful and would be my first port of call.

 

Relevant blog posts: here (if you’re that bored or psyched).

 

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