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Sunday, 9 June 2013

Torridon and Wester Ross

So, ‘The Torridon Witches’ is due to be published by Damnation BooksTorridon is an area of north-west Scotland. 

Although I didn’t actually set the novella in Torridon – it’s somewhere vaguely along the coast with the stunning Torridon Mountains as a distant backdrop – the name stuck.  This post gives some description of the region which I hope readers will find useful background.

Torridon isn’t a place with defined boundaries.  Different maps include different places as part of Torridon.  However, all agree that it is an area of mountainous wilderness centred around the village that gives the area its name.  It is anything up to thirty kilometres across – from the mouth of Loch Torridon in the west, to the village of Kinlochewe at Glen Torridon’s eastern end.

North to south, Torridon might be up to twenty kilometres across.

The area is dominated by its mountains and upland moors which produce some of the most stunning and difficult scenery in Britain.  The whole region of Wester Ross – where Torridon sits - is remote, with transport being either by boat, or often by narrow, twisting roads with passing places often being the only means vehicles can pass.

I needed to set the story somewhere particularly isolated, so my (fictional) village is only reachable by sea or by a very long, rough walk.  The community needed to be isolated, and Wester Ross is one of the few places in Britain where it is plausible.  Most towns and villages – Torridon, Shieldaig, Lochcarron; Gairloch and the like - are too well populated by tourists and outsiders who have made their homes there for a tale about modern witchcraft to be believable.  Not to mention the always friendly locals.

So, I had to make up somewhere really isolated - a little like Summerisle, the remote fictional Hebridean island in ‘The Wicker Man’, or the New Forest setting for James Herbert’s ‘The Magic Cottage’, or even Dartmoor’s Baskerville Hall in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.  I came up with Dunmorgan, which can only be reached by boat, or via a long, tortuous trek. 

And witches?

Well, there are tales of witchcraft from around Wester Ross.  I’ve found historical references to witchcraft on Skye, Gairloch and Kinlochewe.  The Torridon region sits almost in the middle of these places to provide a ‘plausible’ location for the story.

And, my final reason for choosing the area around Torridon and Wester Ross for a setting?  Well, that’s simple – I wanted to set a story there.  I’m in love with the place.  It’s gorgeous.

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