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Exploring the North-West, Part Two: the Assynt Loop

Atop Knockan Crag with Cul Mor in the background, October 2021

Heading south on the road from Stoer to Lochinver (one of many wiggly journeys in the region that I would hate to tackle in season!) it’s worth stopping at the designated viewpoint for a pretty decent shot of the most famous mountain in the region, Suilven.

(We scrambled up the hillside for this shot. Probably not worth it!!)

Then hang a right when you see the sign to Achmelvich Beach, one of the loveliest on the West Coast.

2021 & 2017

In Lochinver, call into the Highland Stoneware workshop, where they use local rocks to make geological glazes that are layered to create unique designs and everything is hand-painted. I highly recommend buying a ‘pebble’ dish or two, which are perfectly sized for nibbly bits. This trip, I acquired three, to add to the one I bought last time and two I came home with the time before that. I’ve probably got enough now…

Pottery 'furniture' outside the workshop; 2016/17 & 2021 purchases :)

Then take what I call ‘the Assynt loop’, heading east out of Lochinver, towards Loch Assynt itself – as far as I’m concerned, you get the best views going this way. Here goes with your main stopping points (see map at bottom for locations):

Loch Assynt trees

The above are from the main parking spot...

...and this is from a little further down the road

Ardvreck Castle and Calda House ruins

Elphin – notice how lush and green it is just around this little settlement. That’s down to it having an underlying outcrop of limestone. Isn’t nature wonderful? And if you need a refreshment at this point, pop into the Elphin Tearooms.

Knockan Crag. An informative little nature reserve that tells you all about the history of the rocks in the area. If you’re as unfit as me, it’ll take a bit of effort to climb the stone steps and shingle paths to the top, but it’s well worth it for the view. On our way back down, we met a couple who informed us there’s a much easier path to the summit if you go the other way (head right, not left from the car park). So that's what we shall be doing next time! Very excitingly – especially if you’re visiting between October and March when pretty much nothing is open – there are also some decent toilets.

Viewpoint, looking towards Cul Mor and Suilvan

L-R: Coigach, Cul Beag, tip of Stac Pollaidh, Cul Mor, Suilven

View of Stac Pollaidh. After Knockan Crag, carry on south, then turn right at the sign for Achiltibuie and the road will take you down the side of Cul Beag and the toothy-topped Stac Pollaidh, with some great views of both mountains. (See blog on 'View towards 'Stack Polly')


Now, at this point, you can either turn right when you reach the sign for Lochinver, or carry on to Achnahaird, where there’s a decent beach (though not as pretty as most others in the region) and some nice views back over the levels to the 6 well-known mountains (L-R): the Quinag range, Suilven, Cul Mor, Stac Pollaidh, Cul Beag and the Coigach range.

Looking across Achnahaird Bay to Cul Mor, Stac Pollaidh & Cul Beag



Back on the loop:

View over Loch Sionascaig. We didn’t make the hike this time, as it was super-soggy/boggy underfoot, but here’s a glimpse of your reward for making the effort – and check out my earlier blog dedicated to it.

And that’s my whistle-stop tour of Assynt. Of course, if you’re more adventurous, there are plenty of climbing and hiking routes to get right into the wilds, but we’re not that brave (or that fit *cough*), so we tend to stick close to tarmac!

We had a smashing little trip – just 3 days this time – and it was a wrench to leave, as always. Not to worry, we’ll be back.

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



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

Terrain: Can be very boggy and you’ll be scrambling up rocky paths, so avail yourself of a good pair of walking boots.

Nearest facilities: Lochinver. There are also decent toilets at Knockan Crag and a tea room at Elphin, but it’s advisable to keep some supplies and bin bags in the boot of the car!


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