Torridon draws me back year in year out. And no wonder! This wild area and its adjacent deer forests of Coulin and Beinn Damh, boast some of Britain’s finest mountain scenery.
The area has long been the playground of British mountaineers, Ling, Collie and Murray, to name but a few of the earliest pioneers. Mountaineers have been coming ever since.
We come in droves to climb and scramble, or to walk high and savour mesmeric views of some of the planet’s oldest hills; to feast our eyes on the wet western seaboard with its sea lochs and islands. I came again to walk the ridges of an old favourite: Beinn Damh.
Beinn Damh (stag mountain), is a Corbett, its highest summit being 902 metres and by no means a minor height.
I say ‘its highest summit’; Beinn Damh, supported by imposing sandstone buttresses and as rewarding to the eye as any other Torridonian mountain, has five summits in all, every one worthy of attention.
Under unusually blue skies for the time of year (heavy rains and gale force winds would attack the region just days after my return to the east of Scotland), we donned my boots in the Torridon Hotel car park. A hundred yards or so up the road (Shieldaig-wards), we found the familiar, half hidden gate that gives access to the path for Glen Carron.
As we were starting at sea level, we had in front of us well over 3000 feet of ascent ahead of us (3525 ft, give or take an inch or two)!
But, apart for the final haul up onto the ridge, early in the day, the going would never be particularly steep; Beinn Damh, for all his ‘in your face’ blasé, is a relatively gentle giant.
From the gate we walked on beautiful soft carpet of pine needles; all about us dark rhododendrons reminded me of a summer, years ago, when the path had been alight with the colour of the flowers. Today the air was heavy with the fragrance of Pine.
For a while we walked above a deep gorge through which The Allt Coire Roill rushes noisily on its way to join the waters of Loch Torridon.
The waters are indeed noisy, but it wasn’t the allt that was creating the din that was just now assaulting our ears!
Just before leaving the trees we took a short detour for a glimpse of the impressive waterfalls that were thundering away nearby; they were magnificent!
Out of the trees and into the glaring sunshine; Coire Roill! A great cauldron hemmed in by mountains, best of which were the magnificent eastern ramparts of our one.
The path forked; we took the right hand option and began climbing into the shallow Corrie of Toll Ban. Without much effort we soon found ourselves up there, on the mountain’s skyline.
Though the name: Beinn Damh, applies to the entire complex, the ridges sport five fine tops, each one characterful, each one waiting for our visit.
After a cuppa we set off north, away from the true summit, in order to climb the first two of those tops.
Meall Gorm was a short climb away and offered superb views over the crags and rocky gullies of Creag Liathad Saoghail, to Loch Damh and Ben Shieldaig, to our west.
After a short grassy dip, another gentle climb had us perched amid the sandstone bones of Sgurr bana Mhoraire.
A romantic peak this, since its name, ‘peak of the lady’, alludes to an old Celtic tale about an unfortunate lady who was kept there by some cruel lord and fed entirely on shell fish.
Though we didn’t see any, it is rumoured that you can still find shells up here to this day!
What we did see though, across the loch and glen of Torridon, were stunning views of Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe. The seascape to our west, with islands large and small, was enthralling.
Both the Red and the Black Cuillins of Skye, along with The Kilt Rock and the Quirraing of Trottenish, lured our eyes across the inner sound.
Further out to sea, the Outer Hebrides were just visible to the naked eye.
Back to the col and a slightly longer climb to the summit of Creag na Iolaire, (crag of the eagle’).
The crown of our next top was carpeted, wall to wall, with shattered grey quartzite boulders, many of which were painted with a curious lichen of a pale lilac hue; it was as though some artist had been up here splashing blobs of colour all over the mountain.
Down again to another col and the final traverse along the rockiest and narrowest ridge of the day, to Beinn Damh’s reigning peak: Spidean Coir an Laoigh, (peak of the corrie of the calves).
A rocky eyrie is this, with drops all around and scrambles back down to Coire Roill, if you want them.
Beinn Damh is famous for its ‘Stirrup Mark’, an odd formation of white quartz scree in the shape of a massive horse shoe.
Though well seen from across Loch Damh, or The Applecross Hills, out west, looking down we could only make out the apex of the feature.
Always to remain up high on days like today, we decided to return by the way we’d come. Yet not exactly.
A bypass path skirts the summits of the penultimate two summits, thereby avoiding the painstaking trackle through the boulder fields we’d previously encountered; this we took with gratitude!
By comparison with those from above, the view from here, down to Loch Damh, with its shoreline woods and sandy beaches, was one of tranquillity.
After a while our path re-joined that of our upward journey. Again on familiar ground, we scampered down in the afternoon sunshine, soon to be swallowed up again by the Corrie of Toll Ban and the wild and widening vistas of the nearby Torridon giants.
Lured again by the roar of falling water, we took another, more lingering look at the falls; a splendid spot to drain our flasks and demolish our remaining sandwiches.
It had been an easy day, a sublimely peaceful and rewarding excursion. For the newcomer to these airts I have no hesitation in recommending Beinn Damh as the perfect introduction to Torridonian hill walking. Yet, don’t be fooled either!
Although this mountain may be viewed as a little brother in the greater Torridonian family, for thrills and views, and certainly for character, he’ll always rank high in the list of worthy summits.