Scotland, a country with wild landscapes, majestic mountains, unspoilt white sand beaches and undeniable beauty around every bend. Scotland has these places in abundance; however there is one area that captured my imagination like no other, Assynt. Assynt is a sparsely populated area in the North West Highlands packed with allure. The mountains are otherworldly, beaches so white you’d be forgiven for assuming you’re in the Caribbean (although the water temperature may serve as a stark reminder) and the valley floors are a maze of rock and water as far as you can see.
Scotland is my go to in the road trip department, so in late October after spending a few days on the Isle of Skye, we headed north along the NC500 to Assynt to experience it for ourselves. Our adventure starts from the quaint town of Lochinver, the largest settlement in Assynt. From here the NC500 route runs around the west coast to Kylesku, and allows you to do a full loop of the northern part of Assynt. There are countless stunning locations on this road and it serves as a perfect little taster of what Assynt has in store. As if spirits weren’t high enough, Lochinver is famous for its pies so we fuelled up before we headed out for a day packed with adventure.
Our first stop was Achmelvich Beach, a little corner of paradise on the west coast. It has perfect white sand and turquoise blue water that most wouldn’t associate with Scotland. Just don’t expect to top up your tan. We then moved into Clashnessie beach. With it being November in Scotland the weather was surprisingly calm, and we took this opportunity to test out the sea temperature. I can confirm it was Baltic, and we spent 30 minutes sat in the car warming up after. This wasn’t all bad as there are some stunning views of some of Assynt Iconic peaks that loom in the distance.
Cruising on around the NC500 route we reached One of Scotland’s many iconic lighthouses, Stoer Lighthouse. Dating back to the 1870’s this beautiful little lighthouse sits on the most westerly point of Assynt. We spent some time walking around, taking in views of the coastline and the beautiful rolling landscape with views of Quinag, a magnificent mountain with 3 summits. Pro Tip: Be sure to pack some binoculars, wildlife in Assynt is plentiful. On a good day you may spot dolphins even whales, but on all days we saw Red Deer and plenty of birds. Assynt really does have it all.
To delve a little deeper into Assynt you need to explore on foot, however trust me when I say you will be rewarded for your efforts. Suilven is the crown jewel of Assynt. A towering monolith reaching 731m high, this iconic peak is visible from nearly everywhere in the area. Due to its isolated location summiting it is no easy feat. It requires an 8km hike just to reach the base of the mountain. So much of the conversation before we set off on our road trip was centred on Scotland’s unpredictable weather; however Mother Nature was seemingly on our side this week with high pressure and little wind.
When conditions align and you won’t find many better wild camping spots in the world so grab your tent and some warm clothes and a good sleeping bag (essential) for a rugged night on top of the world. Once you reach the base of Suilven you are met with a 500m climb straight up to ridge and then along to summit. However once you reach the ridge which stretches 2km in length you are met with grand vistas over Assynt that are truly breathtaking. Witnessing a sunset and sunrise from the summit of Suilven is an unforgettable experience. It is easy to see why this mountain draws photographers and adventurers alike from all over the world to visit this remote part of Scotland.
If you fancy something a little less strenuous, Stach Pollaidh is a magnificent alternative. Located further southwest in Assynt and standing just 612m is Stach Pollaidh (pronounced Stac Polly, yes Scottish can be tricky). The path to the summit is well made, not too steep and you can summit in around an hour at a leisurely pace making it more of a friendly hill walk. A friend once said it’s the best hike to view ratio in the UK and I’m not inclined to disagree with him, this mountain punches above its weight.
Assynt is one of Scotland’s best kept secrets, and is perhaps best enjoyed by those who seek adventure. One thing is for sure, Assynt provides a quintessential Scottish outdoors experience, and no doubt I’ll be back soon.
- Pete Elliott
- : Pete is a 25 year old freelance photographer from the South Coast of England. Driven by exploring new places and meeting new people he loves to capture authentic moments as he travels, and likes to share his experiences with others.
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- : This is the first time this story has been published.