Exploring the North-West, Part One: Our lodgings & North


The cliffs at the point of Stoer


Rhuntotan Croft Cottage is a fab self-catering, dog-friendly cottage perched in the heathland just outside Stoer – the perfect spot from which to explore Assynt and the whole of the beautiful North-West coast. And that’s exactly what we’ve just done.


Rhuntotan croft cottage


Anji - an equine massage therapist, who seems to be on an endless merry-go-round of chicken and sheep tending, horse grooming, collie training and baking – handles the letting of the cottage, which adjoins the house she and her husband live in. It’s got a cosy, eclectic feel to it and the fact that your stay begins with homemade bread and a bowl of freshly laid eggs on the kitchen table tells you all you need to know about the care Anji takes to make her guests welcome.



There’s loads of room in the very decent hall area to take off your wet’n’mucky bits when you come in, and a door to the back patio and garden, which is fully enclosed so you can let the pooch wander in and out, no probs. The kitchen is small, but incredibly well kitted out and the downstairs shower room is a Victorian throwback with a super shower – far better than mine at home! And then upstairs in the eaves is a little sitting room and double bedroom. Anji’s not mean with the heating, so it’s warm as toast when you snuggle up with your wine in the evening, but if you like a cool bedroom (as I do), just turn down the thermo’ on the radiator and open the velux windows for a refreshing Highland cross-draught!



In addition to the cottage, Anji and Mark have recently built a 1950’s style shepherd’s hut, which they let as B&B. Super-cute, it has a double bed, wood burner, toilet and small kitchen cupboard with a sink, plus a separate shower unit round the back.



Price-wise, it's very reasonable indeed – even more so now that so many holiday lets have whacked up their charges, ‘thanks’ to the huge demand during the pandemic. The other massive bonus with Rhuntotan is that Anji will happily do just a few nights, whereas most others insist on letting by the week. Personally, I think it might be a bit tight with two people, but for a solo human plus canine, it’s absolutely perfect.


On your doorstep, you’ve got Stoer Lighthouse (see separate blog), from where you can take a 3km cliff-top stroll to see the Old Man of Stoer stack. We did the lighthouse on two previous visits, so this time I planned to take the coastal mooch – however, we were outfoxed by the boggy terrain and only made it about a quarter of the way. Next time!



Then just down the road in the other direction, you’ve got Clachtoll and some generally lovely landscapes.


Clachtoll



You just can’t go wrong with a stay in Stoer….although I would suggest you do it out of season. Both the lovely lady in Highland Stoneware in Lochinver and Anji said it’s been an absolute nightmare this year with all the pandemic-prompted staycations – just far too busy – and I have to be honest I wouldn’t want to have the roads any busier than they were this first week in October. Downside: very little is open. Upside: you’ll pretty much have every view to yourself.


From here you can wiggle your way north, via Drumbeg (pop into Assynt Aromas if you’re visiting in-season) and you’ve got some lovely coastal views on your way to the Kylesku Bridge. I’d suggest you wait until your return journey for photos of the bridge, so the sun’s in the right place. If you scramble up the embankment opposite the car park and walk up for a bit, you’ll get a pretty decent shot.


Clashnessie Bay

Hectic morning... ;)

Looking across Loch Ruighean an Aitinn - between Drumbeg & Nedd

Loch Unapool and Sail Gharbh


Kylesku Bridge, October 2016


The road takes you past Scourie (worth a stop off for the beach and rocky scramble) and then just a few kilometers further on, look out for the road to Tarbet. Scooch down there and you’ll find the tiny harbour from where the boat runs on demand to Handa Island nature reserve April to Sept - and you get some lovely views any other time of year.


Scourie, October 2016

Tarbet

Looking over to Handa Island & the Old Man of Stoer


Back on the trail north, just after Laxford Bridge keep your eyes peeled for the grey, black and pink striped Lewisian gneiss rock, which is some of the oldest rock in Britain. There’s a little parking bay where you can read a bit about it - and if you ferret about in the area, you should be able to find a nice piece to take home 😊


Lewisian gneiss


Keep going all the way up to the stunning beaches at Polin and Oldshoremore, where the hound can have a lovely run.


Polin Bay


Oldshoremore beach


In all, it’s about an hour and a half from Stoer to Polin – but only if you were to get your foot down and not stop, which is obviously impossible! You could carry on round to Durness and the north coast if you fancy – it’s only about 14km and a nice drive. Check out my blog on North Coast beaches


As with any picturesque route, the journey back is an extra pleasure, as you see everything from a different perspective, so take your time and enjoy the run. All very do-able in a day.


Now head over to 'Part Two: the Assynt Loop', for some iconic scenery…


And feel free to take a flick through my online photobook of our whole trip, courtesy of Bonusprint:


LOCATION INFO


Getting there: From Central Scotland, follow the A9 north to Inverness, then the A385 to Ullapool. From there, continue on the A385 north and after about 45 mins, just the other side of Elphin, turn left at the T-junction towards Lochinver. Go past Loch Assynt and just before the village, turn right, signed for Stoer and Drumbeg. After about 15 mins, you’ll come through Stoer and at the Community Hall, turn left, signed for Stoer Lighthouse. Then just opposite the little lochan, turn left, signed Balchladich and Rhuntotan is on the left just after the sharp right hand bend.

Sat Nav: IV27 4JJ

OS Landranger map: 15 LOCH ASSYNT Lochinver & Kylesku and 9 CAPE WRATH Durness & Scourie

Terrain: Lots of scrambling over heather and rocks, plus up and down croft land, so wear a sturdy pair of hiking boots.

Nearest facilities: Not many out of season, so keep some supplies and bin bags in the boot of the car!

1) Turning to Stoer from Lochinver / 2) Turning out of Stoer to Rhuntotan

(Google Maps)





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