Assynt: Take A Walk on the Wild Side
Posted on Jun 13, 2017 by Sonja Jones
In the North-West Highlands of Scotland lies Assynt – a walkers’ paradise. Here you can climb mountains, follow coastal trails, find hidden waterfalls and explore ancient caves.
The real beauty of the area lies in its barren ruggedness and open vistas; here iconic peaks rise proudly from the moorland. As majestic as they seem many of these peaks are not even Munros (Scottish Mountain Classification: over 3,000ft) and, in fact, the whole area only has two – Ben More Assynt & Conival. You’re more likely to be tackling a Corbett or Graham, but this landscape isn’t about munro-bagging, instead it offers walkers an abundance and diversity of walking options. It’ll keep drawing you back because there is always something more to explore.
- What’s the difference between Munros, Corbetts and Grahams? Read on and all will become clear.
The Bone Caves
At Inchndampf you will find the start of the short hike up to the Bone Caves. Before you begin your ascent look out for springs popping up from underground. It’s a fantastic short loop and taking the right-hand path you’ll head up the steep valley edge to explore the caves up close. The caves are named for the extraordinary number of bones discovered there including bones of bear, reindeer, lynx, arctic fox, wolves and even the skull of a polar bear. Some of these bones date back 45,000 years!
We chose to do this low-level walk on a wet weather day – the rain swept in and across the glen just as we arrived at the caves. We were grateful for the cave’s shelter as we pulled on our waterproof gear. No wonder all those animals ended up here in these caves sheltering. But the weather really didn’t spoil a thing and, in fact, helped make an atmospheric snapshot.
- Warm up some amazing local cuisine on a wet weather day – Assynt: Scotland’s Secret Culinary Hotspot
- Check our our most trusted weather websites
The rain packed up and offered us up a cracking day to tackle the distinctive craggy ridge of Stac Polliadh. It’s a short steep pull up to the bealach (pass) with amazing panoramic views en route. Once you have made it to the top and gasped out over Inverpolly Nature Reserve there is some great scrambling to enjoy amongst the lumps and layers of Torridonian sandstone. Do be careful scrambling as some of the drops are very steep. As always in Scotland you should be prepared for anything as the weather can change in an instant – our blue-sky-day disappeared for a few minutes when a short snow flurry blew in. All in all it’s pretty breathtaking.
Old Man of Stoer
Not to be confused with the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye, this lovely coastal walk begins at the car park by Stoer Lighthouse. Before you set off keep your eyes peeled for whales, dolphins and porpoises – they are all regularly spotted around here and a chalkboard notes recent sightings. Our circular route followed the coast down towards the sea stack known as The Old Man of Stoer. The route is pretty boggy in parts so make sure your boots are waterproof and add some gaitors if you can. As you turn your back to the lighthouse you become aware of the crashing waves into a froth and the salty air tingling your nostrils. There’s nothing like a cliff-top walk to blow away the cobwebs. After watching the waves crash into the 60 metre sea stack we walked towards Stoer Point to take in the views. At the hill crest we paused to look towards Quinag (It has three summits with Corbett status) then joined the path back down to the lighthouse carpark for a circular route. If at the end of your walk you need a little something to warm you up then head over to the quirky tea van Living The Dream for a hot drink in a proper mug.
- Keep your feet dry with the right footwear for hiking in Scotland
- How to spot Killer Whales (Orcas) in Scotland
Falls of Kirkaig and the Long Route to Suilven
There are a couple of different routes into Suilven – one of Assynt’s iconic hills. The long route in takes you past the powerful Kirkaig Falls and there’s a short scramble down to the falls from the path at around 5km. As you round the bend you’ll see Suilven rising dramatically from the scrubby moor with its distinctive spiny ridge. This route sees you skirting around Fionn Loch. If you return this way then be sure to stop in at Achin’s cafe and bookshop just by the car park. The route via Inverkirkaig is the long way round and a shorter route starts by Glencanisp Lodge.
- The mighty Suilven features in our Top 5 Most Dramatic Walks
- Drive the North Coast 500 and stop for a boat trip to Britain’s highest waterfall Eas a’Chual Aluinn
I hope you enjoyed this little snapshot of Assynt. Join us for a week up in walkers’ paradise and you’ll want to come back for more.
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