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Dornie or Torridon?

Hi -

I am visiting Scotland from the US at the end of September. 1 week is full of tours/activities and the second week I would like to rent a self catering cottage near the sea where I can go on day trips/adventures . I have narrowed down my cottages to either Dornie (with a view of Elian Donan castle) or Torridon (with fabulous majestic views and hiking right outside my door). Some criteria are:

Access to good food/pubs (walking or short drive)
Beautiful views
Beach walkable or nearby
Access to day trips
Far enough to get away but close enough to find people
A real highland experience

The Torridon cottage is much nicer than the one in Dornie, but the Dornie cottage seems to be extremely popular.

Thoughts?

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, Scato,

Dornie and Torridon aren't that far apart, so you could stay in one and still have access to the benefits of the other. Both have beautiful views - I have to say, though, that I could very easily tire of looking out my window and seeing Eilean Donan castle every day. I could just buy a tin of shortbread and get the same effect.

Glen Torridon is particularly striking, assuming you'd be near the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve. However, Dornie gives you easy access to Plockton, Lochcarron, and Skye. Torridon would give you access to the Applecross Peninsula, as well as the wee road out to Lower Diabaig. There really aren't any good beaches within easy distance of either location. There's Camusdarach beach if you go south, and Sandwood Bay if you head north. But both involve a considerable drive. Plockton has a small stony beach, which is only accessible when the tide is out.

As far as pubs and restaurants go, you're pretty limited in Torridon. Hotels are just about your only bet there. At Dornie, you'd have the choices of heading in to Kyle of Lochalsh, Kyleakin, Lochcarron, or Plockton. Or you could even travel as far as Broadford.

You'll be a lot farther away from people in Torridon, but you'd be a lot farther away from everything else as well. Both locations give you access for day trips - Torridon would put you a little farther up the Northwest coast, where you could make easy day trips to Gairloch, Ullapool, and Lochinver. Both locations are going to provide a Highland experience.

Much as I enjoy being in Glen Torridon, personally, if was going to be in one place for a week, I'd go with Dornie. There's more to see and do. One thing you may want to consider is taking the south side road out of Shiel Bridge and taking the small single track road up past Ratagan to Glenelg, where you can catch the small (4 to 6 cars) ferry over to Kylerhea on Skye. (Yes, you can hum the "Skye Boat Song" to yourself during the journey!). There is a great view of the Five Sisters from the top of the Ratagan to Glenelg road, and there are a couple of Pictish brochs near Glenelg. Also a supposed otter hide near Kylerhea. The times I've been there, the otters are always hiding.

Anyway, whichever choice you make, you can't go wrong. It's all good!

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
2721 posts

The Dornie Hotel has a very nice pub/restaurant that is popular with locals. It's easy walking distance to Eilean Donan Castle, so I'm guessing it's also an easy walk from your cottage. Staying in Dornie will be a real highland experience, and I'd say it fulfills your "far enough away / close enough" criterion. If you're going to have a car, you can certainly take plenty of interesting day trips from Dornie.

AFAIK there's no beach, though. Eilean Donan is at the conjunction of three sea lochs and the shores are fairly rocky and/or covered in seaweed at low tide, from what I remember. Here's some info on beaches on the Isle of Skye https://www.theskyeguide.com/see-and-do-mainmenu-35/44-beaches

And here are some beaches on the "mainland" near Dornie
https://www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk/things-to-do/north-scotland/the-highlands/dornie/water/beaches

Posted by
18702 posts

I'm in Kyle of Lochalsh at the moment, and dinner-time meal options seem rather slim. The village has the feel of a place people mostly just drive through. Fortunately, I ate lunch in Plockton today, which seemed to have more and better choices. However, I don't know how many are open for the evening meal.

In terms of supermarkets, there's a Co-op here in Kyle. Plockton apparently has only a few short shelves of staples in a corner of the Plockton Shores Cafe.

Posted by
506 posts

Dear acraven
A quick hop over the bridge on to Skye, turn right and you have a very good Indian restaurant right there on your left.

There's also a decent enough place on the railway station platform in Kyle.
For the Highlands Kyle is practically a metropolis and the next place of any similar size is Broadford on Skye and then Portree. Us locals are well used to driving for up to an hour to the small COOP supermarket in Portree.

To Scato. Neither of your proposed locations will give you quick access to sandy beaches, but the scenery in both places is lovely. Having you considered the Ardnamurchan peninsula? Maybe there's no accommodation there that you like the look of? But the beaches and scenery are really second to none.

Best wishes
Skyegirl (Jacqui)

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you everyone for your input!

An alternative trip could be for me to stay somewhere around Inverness (nearby) - this would give me access to beaches on the east coast, and the west coast is not too bad of a drive, I think. I am so conflicted!

Posted by
506 posts

Given the opportunity I would go west every time. The scenery around Inverness is no where near as special and it's 2.5 hours from Inverness to the Skye bridge so not necessarily as quick to get around as you might think.

Posted by
5543 posts

So, I do think that Torridon is wonderful. However, there is an advantage to staying near Inverness. When you stay near Inverness you many more options for day trips where you can dodge the weather. The "west is best" is a truism in Scotland, but the West also gets the rain the best. When you stay in the Inverness area you can go west for the day when the weather is good, or if it's bad in the west you can easily drive to the Cairngorms or northeast toward Dornach or straight east along the Moray Firth. All are things that you should consider as you plan your trip.

Posted by
18702 posts

It's not so easy to appreciate the scenery when it's raining, but this is another advantage of having your own vehicle: You'll mostly be looking out the front, where you'll have windshield wipers going. Bus trips in the rain don't allow you to see as much.

Posted by
940 posts

Hi again, Scato,

You've mentioned beaches twice now, so I have to believe that they are of primary interest to you. Scotland is not usually somewhere that you think of for beaches. Most Scots travel to the Mediterranean or the Canaries on their holidays, if they want the beach experience. That said, there are beaches in spades (which you'll need, along with a bucket) on Scotland's coasts.

Some of the best beaches are at Lossiemouth, near Elgin; Newburgh and Balmedie, near Aberdeen; Sandwood Bay, near Kinlochbervie; Big Sand, near Gairloch; Sango Sands, near Durness; Achmelvich, near Lochinver; Tolsta Beach, on Lewis; Luskentyre and Scarista beaches, on Harris; Golspie and Brora beaches, just north of the Dornoch Firth; Camusdarach, near Mallaig; Calgary Bay, on Mull; and Skyegirl has already mentioned Sanna Bay, at the end of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula.

Have you considered breaking up your week of exploration in to two segments? That way, your day trips wouldn't necessarily have to be as lengthy. Perhaps a few days along the Moray coast, then a few days on the west coast. Ullapool would put you within a reasonable drive of Big Sand and Sandwood Bay, as well as Sango Sands. Ullapool is large enough to find shops for your groceries, as well as restaurants, yet small enough to give you that "Highland experience." You could even take a couple of days to ferry over to Stornoway, to explore Tolsta Beach and the South Harris beaches. The choices are limitless (almost).

One possibility would be a self catering cottage on Harris, which would give you access to the beaches, with mountains (well, hills) in the background. There is a good choice of hikes, good food (Scarista, Leverburgh, Tarbert, Scalpay), and even a few pubs.

I hope that you are eventually going to find a solution that works for you.

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: If you end up in Torridon, and self catering, you're going to have to go a long way for messages (groceries). You'd be midway between Lochcarron and Gairloch, both of which have small supermarkets. There is a small shop and cafe in Achnasheen, and a small store connected with the post office in Kinlochewe.

Posted by
5543 posts

There's another wonderful Moray Firth Beach, Culbin Sands. I have done several walks there and there are lots of seals and water birds galore.

Pam

Posted by
940 posts

Hi once again, Scato,

Forget what I said about Lossiemouth Beach (near Elgin). The wooden footbridge which leads from the town, across the River Lossie, to the prettiest part of the beach has just been condemned and closed indefinitely for repair. You can still get to the beach, but it involves a long walk in from an eastern access.

However, you can still visit Lossiemouth for some great ice cream and fish & chips. And you can gaze longingly at the virtually inaccessible beach as you enjoy your food.

The much smaller West Beach is still open, and Lossiemouth can still be used as a base for visiting the nearby towns of Findhorn, Spey Bay, and Elgin.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you everyone for your insights! I ended up renting an AirBnB in Dornie. I am actually taking the train to Ft. William, then renting a car and driving to Dornie. We will go on day adventures from there...