'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Torridon Sandstone

Some time after you turn north from Strath Carron you realise that the landscape into which you are moving is like no other that you have ever experienced. It's no gradual impression: you know it the first time you see Fuar Tholl and the distant light of the western evening splits the buttresses of Beinn Bhan, burning the air with the luminescence of a message from God. Then you descend towards Shieldaig and a distant flash of blue, crushed by dark islands rocks and pine trees, obscures the sunset.
The sandstone of Torridon's mountains is over one thousand million years old: the place is a geological anomaly, tacked on to the west coast of Scotland, a landscape with which it has nothing in common. Imagine Monument Valley's older and more experienced cousin, and you will have some idea of the deep harmonies of light, perspective, distance and colour when you're lucky enough to approach it late on a clear summer's evening, as I was on Monday.
But none of this prepares you for the moment when you swing right from Shieldaig and begin to drive along upper Loch Torridon and you see the glen itself for the first time. Three mountains adorn its north side: Beinn Alligin, Liathach, and Beinn Eighe, a trio of great dilapidatory piles of sandstone topped with cones of grey quartzite. Liathach's pinnacles were wreathed by clouds that burnt pewter and pink in the sunest, giving them an air of dangerous grandeur. This is where I'll be spending the next six days, scrambling and walking. A place like nowhere else in Britain, nowhere else on earth.


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