Assynt Peninsula

  • Suilven (L) and Cul Mor from Stac Pollaidh, hazy day - © William Mackesy
  • South-east from Stac Pollaidh, Cul Beag and Loch Lurgainn - © William Mackesy
  • East from Achnahaird - © William Mackesy
  • Suilven from Stac Pollaidh - © William Mackesy
  • Suilven from Lochinver - © William Mackesy
  • Cul Mor from Stac Pollaidh summit ridge - © William Mackesy
  • Cul Mor from Stac Pollaidh - © William Mackesy
  • Descent from Stac Pollaidh - © William Mackesy
  • East from Achnahaird - © William Mackesy
  • Loch Lurgainn - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Assynt from the sea, north - © William Mackesy
  • Quinag from the north - © William Mackesy
  • Quinag from the north-east  - © William Mackesy
  • Quinag from the north-east - © William Mackesy

Key information: Assynt Peninsula

    •  Assynt is a distinct area of low glacially scoured hills, riven with lochs of all sizes, by the sea. Inland, isolated sandstone massifs emerge from the surrounding hills, bog and moorland.
      • The scenery is as a result unusual and very beautiful, and somehow combines the wild and unrelenting with the unexpectedly mellow.
        • Geologically, this is an exceptionally ancient and interesting area.
          • These are often solitary walks, with always unpredictable weather. Come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating88
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest18
  • Human interest3
  • Charisma34
  • Negative points1
  • Total rating88
  • Note: Neg: likely bad weather

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: N/A
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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South-east from Stac Pollaidh, Cul Beag and Loch Lurgainn - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

Assynt is not strictly a peninsula, more a distinct area of low glacially scoured hills, riven with lochs of all sizes, by the sea. These hills and small lakes are known as “cnoc and lochan”. Inland, isolated sandstone massifs emerge from the surrounding cnoc and lochan, bog and moorland.

The scenery is as a result unusual and very beautiful: great craggy masses above rough purple hills, lakes, moorland and bogs; and the sea feeling its way in for miles between low, heavily eroded hills. It somehow combines the wild and unrelenting with the unexpectedly mellow.

Geologically, this is an exceptionally ancient and interesting area. These worn little hills are Lewisian Gneiss, some of the oldest rock on the planet, and the mountains are mostly all that the glaciers left of a thick layer of younger sandstone. Wherever you walk is likely to be stepping on a geological masterclass.

Wildlife is various, from deer to otter to golden and (if you are lucky) sea eagles, to dolphins, seals and a multitude of birds in the sea.

The area has a romantic Highland history, but was wild and dirt poor in old times. Clearances took their toll here, and you will see melancholy traces of a lost way of life.

Walks vary between:

  • peak bagging;
  • old tracks; and
  • shorter walks in special places

That said, just look at any map and you will be able to create your own menu: there are fantastic walks of all shapes and sizes throughout the area.

A keen walker would want to take in a variety of walks and terrains, although an ascent of one of the great Assynt peaks is a must.

Peak bagging

This is an area where you need to walk high, at least once, to appreciate fully this marvellous landscape.   Some of these are Munros, although many of the most interesting climbs are not. Once again, you have a huge selection to choose from:

Suilven: the area’s, and many would argue Britain’s, most distinctive mountain, a   remarkable isolated sandstone cathedral which rises abruptly from the beautiful lakes and rough, broken cnoc and lochan and bog that typify the area. It is remarkable that a mountain that is “only” 731m can have such presence. The views from its top are exceptionally interesting and beautiful. It is not an easy climb, as it is remote from any road, so both the approaches, from near Lochinver to the west and near Elphin to the east, are long and are also boggy in places. The summit ridge is reasonably easy once you have finished the tough scramble to the saddle in the middle. 8-10 hours.

Stac Pollaidh: while “only” 612m, this superb solo sandstone patisade exemplifies how remarkable Scotland’s in-theory-small mountains can be: in a mere 3 + hours you get a fascination-packed thriller of a walk. The views all around are as gorgeous and thrilling as you can find, and give you a full lesson on the area’s idiosyncratic geography and ‘logy. 

Ben More Coigach and the other grand mountains of the Coigach peninsula. To be written up. Ideas, suggestions and photos welcome!

Canisp: To be written up. Ideas, suggestions and photos welcome!

Quinag: a majestic mass looming over the sea loch in the north-west. Superb views.

Ben More Assynt/ Conival: The highest mountains in Assynt, Ben More at 998m. Fine, dramatic views (although not as exceptional scenery as further west) and a good, long walk (5-7hrs) from Inchnadamph. Hard work. [Rough 271]

 

Great hill tracks

Scotland’s ancient hill tracks – some of them drovers’ roads, along which cattle would be driven – provide outstanding walking, often over long distances. This can require to-ing and fro-ing, although you can create marvellous circuits – for a day or longer – with combinations of tracks. Some of the best are:

Lochinver (Inverkirkaig) to Elphin via the Fionn Loch, passing close under the south face of famous Suilven.

Lochinver to Elphin via Glen Canisp, passing close under the north face of famous Suilven.

Lochinver to Little Assynt via Glen Canisp (this then goes on the Inchnadamph, but the way is harder to find and involves a potentially difficult river crossing near the end).

The north shore of Loch Assynt to two alternative spots on the beautiful north coast via dramatic Glen Leireag.

Scottish Hill Tracks, published by The Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society (ScotWays) gives excellent information on these trails, and is a must-buy, and can be got from ScotWays as well as bookshops.

 

Other great walks

Almost every glen is a gem: you need do no more than have a good study of the map to find a fabulous walk, often improbably empty of humankind. There are numerous lakes and oddities to check out, too.

Falls of Kirkaig/Fionn Loch: [Rough 270] This lovely walk ascends the Kirkaig river glen to the 20m waterfall and on to gorgeous Fionn Loch, directly below the magnificent mass that is famous Suilven. 9km return, 3 hrs. Justly popular. Starts at Inverkirkaig, ascending through attractive woodland by the river. It emerges into heathery moorland and grand big-country views. You can carry on for a Suilven ascent, or on along the Inverkirkaig to Elphin hill track (see above), of which this is the opening section.

Old Man of Stoer: [Leaflet 1] to be written up. Ideas, suggestions and photos welcome!

Strath Canaird to Achvraie, along the superb south coast of the Coigach peninsula.

Lochinver to Achmelvich: [leaflet 3, Rough 271] to be written up. Ideas, suggestions and photos welcome!

Inchnadamph to Traligill Caves: [leaflet 9] to be written up. Ideas, suggestions and photos welcome!

Bone Caves: [leaflet 8] to be written up. Ideas, suggestions and photos welcome!

Knockan Crag: an hour-or-so trail which lead round and up above the famous crags and provides insights into geological history, at the heart of the Geopark. And fabulous views towards the Assynt Mountains.

You should have a compass (and relevant skills) with you‎ if you are heading into remote inland areas if there is any risk of low cloud or fog.

While the above are in Walkopedia’s view the best walks, there are plenty of others, and you can find plenty to suit your taste and time.

This page is at an early stage of development. Please help us by making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps

Books on this walk

Walking in Scotland’s Far North – Cicerone. As usual, a high grade presentation of fine and carefully chosen walks.

Scottish Hill Tracks – published by ScotWays – 2012, brilliant if terse.

Walking in Scotland – Lonely Planet – not a great Assynt focus.

100 Best Scottish Mountain Routes – Ralf Storer

?Find these and other books on Amazon.?

Other books

The Rough Guide to the Scottish Highlands and Islands (a bit disappointing)

ScotlandLonely Planet Country Guide

Leaflets to be found locally on the fascinating geology of the area.

Find these and other books on Amazon.?

Maps

Ordinance Survey Explorer series, which are the most suitable for walking.They can be bought locally, easily.

Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

Summer for the best chance of fine weather (early summer for the best combination of good weather and fewer people). Spring and Autumn can be lovely and will be emptier. Winter is likely to be snowy, but magnificent: well worth an expedition, and you can get fine, clear, cold days. The west coast horror of midges June-Sept; worst early morning and evening, and still days. Bring suitable repellant – some skin creams can be surprisingly effective (as repellants, anyway…). And head nets work - for those who aren’t worried about their image…

Weather

Variable and changeable at all times – “all four season in any day”. Always come prepared for rain.

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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Fly into Inverness and elsewhere, or train to Inverness, then hire a car.

You can get about by bus/taxi, although a car will give you a lot of freedom. Cycling.

Route(s)

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See Walk Summary above.

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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·Unpredictable weather: rain, wind and cold are possible at any time of year, with snow in winter. Come prepared.

·Heights: can be dangerous.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

Guided or independent?

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Independent

You can do all these walks independently, although the remoter walks require preparation, experience and common sense.

Guided/supported

Any recommendations for good guides? Tell us about them on our “Participate” page.

Accommodation

There is a lot of accommodation available, from fine and trendy hotels, to pubs, to B&Bs, to rental cottages, to hostels and campsites. The guidebooks have a selection of possible accommodation. There are various relevant accommodation websites.

A good range of hotels can generally be found on the unimaginatively but effectively named Hotels.com; if you’re on a budget, Hostelbookersusually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation, or perhaps try for some bargain luxury on Lastminute.com.

It is always worthwhile seeing what the commentary on Tripadvisor is on possible places to stay – although do take their reviews with a pinch of salt, as they can be “interested”.

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Other information and tips

Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

·www.wikipedia.org - as usual, a good starting place.

·Try www.flickr.com for pictures of this walk.

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Other things to do in the area

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Fewer castles than elsewhere, but some. Fishing and other country sports. All sorts of water and river activities, including kayacking.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Suilven from Stac Pollaidh - © William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Suilven from Lochinver - © William Mackesy...
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