“A tough slog through the pristine Ben Damph Estate with an awesome, rocky descent at the end
— Lost Justpastnowhere
This is a stunning, at times difficult backcountry ride through the 14,500 acre Ben Damph Estate that circles Beinn Damh Mountain (2,962 feet). It begins with an easy ride along Loch Torridon, which drains to the Atlantic Ocean. This is followed by another easy segment along Loch Damh. At the south end of Loch Damh, you begin the long, slow, boggy, rocky climb up an isolated valley along the shoulder of Beinn Damh. Finally you'll reach the Drochaid Coire Roill (pass) and then you can enjoy a fast, rocky and at times slickrock, descent to the Hotel Torridon with its pub. Treat yourself to an appropriate beverage in celebration of this ride.
The views from this loop are simply stunning. From the Torridon Hotel, the gentle Loch Torridon Shore Road
follows the shore of Loch Torridon (a bay on the Atlantic Ocean) through a piney forest. Laithach (mountain) lies just on the other side of the bay.
At the end of the Loch Torridon Shore Road
, cross the A896 onto the Loch Damh Farm Road
. After a short distance this gravel road joins the shore of Loch Damh. It's a pleasant ride with an increasingly backcountry feel as you travel south along the loch between mountain ranges. Beinn Damh lies to the east. Beware the winds funneling between the mountains can make this ride more difficult than you might expect (the loch had whitecaps blowing towards me when I rode it).
At the end of the gravel road at a fishing hut, the route continues as the Loch Damh Singletrack
. This is where the Beinn Damh Circuit starts to get interesting. This singletrack is generally flat following the shore of the loch, but it is quite narrow in places (the brush may be overgrown, attacking you shins). There are a number of steep creeks that run off the side of the mountain to the east and consequently, the trail can be boggy in areas. There is a small beach at the southern end of the loch if you feel up for a swim.
From the Loch Damh Singletrack
, turn left just before you cross the river to begin the climb on Drochaid Coire Roill
. If the Loch Damh Singletrack
was interesting backcountry, Drochaid Coire Roill
is downright crazy wilderness riding. Mountains loom to either side as you climb over the Drochaid Coire Roill (pass). The climb starts at an easy enough grade (below 3% for the first mile or so), but this mile can be quite boggy meaning either slow going or walking.
After that you've got a steep section and from here to the pass you can expect big loose rocks, boggy sections that will swallow a good bit of your wheel, oddly placed tufts of grass in the middle of the line you need, 4-6 inch deep ruts that make it impossible to pedal, and on top of that a 1,000 foot climb to the pass. Plan on stopping frequently to admire the view and/or to go around obstacles and likely walking a third or so of the way up.
After that the grade slackens but there are still some short, pithy climbs and more short boggy areas where creeks run down from Beinn Damh. After a couple more steep sections you'll reach the pass where there is a small lochan. The view of the valley from the pass is magnificent!
The near 3.0 mile continuous singletrack descent from the pass is a technical delight through mostly well-surfaced (i.e. not boggy) rocky awesomeness, including some long slickrock sections. About halfway down, you've got to cross a creek. Expect to have to carry your bike while jumping from rock to rock and/or to get your feet wet (it's likely that they'll be wet from the trails you've just ridden so you might not notice).
The descent becomes significantly steeper on the other side of the creek before entering the forest. The rest of the downhill to the A896 (and the pub!) is through this piney forest with the tumbling creek to keep you company. The forest has some impressive rooty sections to test you for a change. There is a 100 foot waterfall easily accessible from the trail about a half mile before you reach the A896, but you might be going too fast to miss the turnoff. Beware that the hike to the waterfall is popular with hillwalkers, so yield appropriately should you encounter any.
At the end of the trail, turn right for a short distance on the A896 to complete the circuit and for your well earned beverage.