“Let’s give it until midday, and see if the weather improves”, I said optimistically, peering out through the rain splattered windscreen at what should’ve been a stunning view of the bay, looking for any chance of a slight break in the cloud. It was 11am and we’d already been cowering in the van for over an hour, parked in layby just outside Annat, debating whether or not to embark on our ride into the wilds of a very wet and foggy Torridon.
Midday arrived, and not much had changed. Just when we thought it might be clearing, the mist would descend again, bringing with it yet more rain.
Although it was early August, we knew if we left it much later, we’d struggle to complete the route we’d planned in daylight, so as we only had this one-day window to get a taste of Torridon, we decided to bite the bullet and set off.
Most of the recommended routes that we’d read online had started by following the road from Annat for several miles and approaching from there, but a friend who knows the area well had told us it was possible to just climb straight up from Annat, so we decided to do that.
While it was possible, it wasn’t easy, and on the initial climb there were several points on the steep, rocky path where we both had to get off and push. We were mainly riding over massive slabs and loose rock, which was also pretty slippy in the wet. Eventually the gradient eased off a bit making it easier to keep pedaling, and enjoy the views.
Although it was misty and dreich – to use that Scottish word that describes better than any other, the grey and damp weather that is so characteristic of these parts – the scenery was still spectacular, if not more so. The mist clung to the weird and wonderful rock formations making them even appear more dramatic, while the carpet of lush green grass peppered with purple heather added a splash of colour to the otherwise monochrome scene.
The scenery got more dramatic the further we went, pedaling over enormous slabs and past swirling peaks that looked like they had contour lines etched into the sides, rocky pillars protruding from grassy hillocks, lochs, streams and waterfalls. In the places where the trail wasn’t formed of rock, it was pretty boggy, but fortunately those areas were few and far between, and didn’t result in too much sinkage.
A couple of hours into the ride it became apparent that we weren’t going to manage to complete the route that we’d set out to do, in the time we had left, so had to make the executive decision to retrace our tracks back to Annat rather than try to do the much longer loop via Achnashellach that we’d originally planned. We’d been told that the best descent on the route was the one back down to Annat anyway, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out on too much, and having already climbed up that way, we knew we had lot of fun in store.
By this time the weather had started to clear up and the clouds had even parted to reveal a patch of blue sky and a few rays of sunshine. Not only had the rain ceased, but the rocks had started to dry out, making them much less slippy.
The descent was fast, loose, and so much fun. Whether rolling over massive slabs, dropping off big steps, or bouncing down chutes of loose rubble, it was most definitely a rocky ride, but in the best possible way. When we stopped half way down to catch our breath and relieve the arm burn, we were both grinning from ear to ear. As with all good descents, it was over far too quickly, and before we knew it, we were back at the van.
The next day, the weather was glorious, but typically, we had to leave. As we drove through the stunning landscape that was now bathed in sunshine rather than cloaked in mist, we had to fight the urge to stop and get the bikes out. Although difficult to leave when there was so much more exploring still to be done, we were satisfied that we’d at least had a good taste of the area, and now can’t wait to go back and devour it properly.