The area lies to the north of the small port of Ullapool. Originally founded by the British Fisheries Society in 1788 to service the herring fishing industry, this town is now more important as a ferry terminal for the Western Isles and as a popular visitor destination. There are hotels and pubs a plenty, many offering excellent food and with live traditional music in the evenings. It is here that we will make our base for the week, accommodated in one of Ullapool’s excellent Guest Houses.
Popular with walkers and climbers, Assynt is also favoured by many who simply want to escape the ‘madding crowd’. Geologists too home in on Assynt as the area contains the oldest rock formations in the United Kingdom and some of its most interesting geological features.
Your trip includes 7 nights’ bed and breakfast accommodation in Ullapool, and 5 days’ guided walking. There is one day left free in the middle of the holiday. On each of our 5 walking days we will be on the hill for up to 7 hours (or more, dependant on the pace of the party). Much of our walking is on mountain tracks and paths, however these vary in quality and can be rough and steep or on moorland soft and poorly drained. Some walking will be over unpathed and uneven ground, including boulder fields and scree.
The itinerary below follows our expected programme for the week. Any changes to this will reflect your guide’s judgement as to what is best in the conditions for the group’s safety and overall enjoyment of the holiday.
Day 1, Saturday: Travel from Edinburgh to Ullapool.
We leave Edinburgh at 1.00 pm for the 5 hour drive to our base in Ullapool. In the evening over dinner and a drink, we will have the opportunity to discuss more fully our plans for the week, and your guide will answer any questions guests may have about the trip.
Day 2, Sunday: Quinag (Milk stoup/pail).
A large and impressively cliff and crag encircled massif, Quinag is a 45 minute drive north from Ullapool. The drive and the trek give the opportunity to get a feel for the area we will be walking in throughout the week, with all of our hills coming into view throughout the day.
The Quinag massif itself comprises 5 distinct tops, 3 of them classified as Corbetts (Scottish hills of 2500ft-3000ft) and linked to each other by a lengthy Y-shaped ridge. Our route takes us by path, then rough moorland to the foot of a steep ascent on to a low col on the main ridge. This stretches out in three directions, and eventually we will take all of them to allow us to walk the whole mountain, taking in all of the major peaks. The going is straight forward enough, though fairly rough underfoot. Because the mountain falls away so steeply on most sides there is a great feeling of floating above the surrounding countryside, and each of the tops opens up slightly different views. To the north and west there is the deeply indented coastline with the Outer Hebrides 40 miles/70 km away on the horizon and to the south the whole of Assynt stretches away, an erratic mix of loch, mountain and moor.
(9m/14km, 1130m/3729ft, 7-8hrs)
Day 3, Monday: Cul Beag (Small Back).
The shorter trek today gives us the opportunity to get a feel for some of Assynt’s rugged coastal scenery in addition to taking in a fine peak. From our start point at Linneraineach, a well made stalkers’ path takes us north-east through the gap between Stac Pollaidh and Cul Beag. At a small loch we take to the rough, unpathed and steep hillside heading for an outlier of the main peak. From here the way up is still steep and loose, but height is gained more easily until the summit plateau is reached. We will have time to linger here and to soak up the views before taking an easier angled route back to the main road.
This road is the main access route to the Coigach peninsula and we will travel out to see the sandy beaches at Achnahaird and perhaps cool off in the sparklingly clear waters of the Gulf Stream, or for the more energetic, a cliff top walk with landward views back towards the Assynt hills.
(4m/6km, 700m/2300ft, 4-5hrs)
Day 4, Tuesday: Ben More Assynt, and Conival (Great of Assynt, and Hill of the Joining).
These fine peaks are the biggest mountains we tackle this week and are quite different in character to our other walks. The geology here is very different, and rather than having foot-sure sandstone underfoot, these mountains have retained their caps of gneiss and quartzite, with angular quartzite blocks sometimes hard to walk over in the wet. More than most, this is a trek we will try to schedule for a dry day.
We leave the main road at Inchnadamph and initially follow a good easy angled track into Gleann Dubh before climbing on much steeper terrain towards the start of Conival’s northern quartzite ridge. This leads us to our first summit of the day. Here we get our first introduction to Garbh Corrie (Rough Corrie), a huge glacially carved basin enclosed by Conival and Ben More Assynt. We head off east again along the narrow and rocky 1 mile ridge to Ben More Assynt, which at 998 metres (3300ft) is the highest point we’ll reach this week. Views extend in every direction, the scale of the mountains we are on making the panoramas all the more dramatic. Turning south now we take in the mountain’s south top before picking our way carefully and steeply down into the corrie below. Now in Garbh Corrie we head back towards Inchnadamph, eventually picking up our outward path which leads us again on better footing back to our transport.
(11m/17km, 1110m/3700ft, 8 hrs)
Day 5, Wednesday: Rest Day.
Time to enjoy a more relaxing day or to do an easier walk. Your guide will be able to advise you on what’s available.
Day 6, Thursday: Ben More Coigach, and Sgurr an Fhidhleir
(Big Hill of Coigach, and Fiddler’s Rock).
Between Ullapool and the Coigach peninsula stands Ben More Coigach, presenting itself as a rocky curtain closing off all sight of the headland beyond. Linked to Ben More Coigach is Sgurr an Fhidhleir, which faces north as a dramatic arrowhead of cliffs.
We start across wet moorland from the north, aiming to reach the linking ridge by way of a steep and rough gully. A more straight forward climb soon takes us from this low col to the spectacular and airy viewpoint of the Sgurr, offering an eagle’s eye view of Assynt from this south most vantage point. Retracing our steps we head back to Ben More Coigach and on beyond the summit to an airy viewpoint giving a tremendous outlook over Achiltibuie and the Coigach peninsula, Loch Broom and the Summer Isles, to the mainland mountains of Torridon and over the sea to the Cuillin of Skye. Our return route takes a more direct line back to the road by way of Ben Tarsuinn, initially by some steep and rocky ground, before reaching a rough moorland path.
(9.5m/15km, 914m/3000ft, 7-8 hrs)
Day 7, Friday: Suilven (Norse - The Pillar)
This is a striking mountain from any angle, but from seaward the impression is certainly of a pillar, and even the Gaelic for the western peak – Caisteal Liath (Grey Castle) suggests impregnability. The mountain is, however, a long, narrow, steep sided ridge comprising three tops in a row, and the defences are breached by way of a steep and rough gully which climbs from the surrounding moor to the low point on the ridge.
Our start point is from close to Lochinver, a small fishing village about an hour from Ullapool. After what seems a long 4.5 mile walk in on an excellent path, we take to a very rough, wet and intermittent moorland path for the last 1 mile to the foot of the mountain. Care needs to be taken on the steep and very broken ground in the gully which then leads us on to the ridge. As we reach the ridge views erupt all around, restricted only by the ridge itself stretching off east and west. We follow the narrow route west along the ridge to the summit of the Pillar – and that is exactly how it feels – high and airy, surrounded by all of our week’s mountains and moors, a fitting finale to the trip!
11.5m/19km, 800m/2650ft, 9 hrs)
Day 8, Saturday: Travel to Edinburgh
We leave Assynt to the weekend climbers and walkers, aiming to be on the road by 9.00am . We aim to be in Edinburgh by 3.00pm , and we will be happy to drop guests off at Edinburgh Airport, or in the City Centre.
Your guide for this holiday will be qualified to at least Mountain Leader (ML) standard and will have an intimate knowledge of the area’s mountains. Your guide’s objective will be to ensure the group’s safe enjoyment of the best of the area’s hillwalking routes, depending on weather and any other issues which may give rise to possible departures from the planned itinerary.
Accommodation and Meals
Your holiday includes bed and breakfast accommodation in one Ullapool’s many welcoming and comfortable Guest Houses. We will arrange for evening meals, which are not included in the trip price, to be taken together with the whole group in a local bar or restaurant (budget around £10-£15 per night for dinner). Packed lunches will be provided throughout the week.
Grading of walks
This trip is graded as “Challenging”. On each of our day’s walking we will be on the hill for up to 9 hours, with daily distances of between 4-12 miles (6-19 km) and between 700-1130 meters (2300-3700ft) of ascent in a day. You should be reasonably fit to get the most out of this holiday and recent mountain walking or hiking is a definite advantage. Much of our walking is on mountain tracks and paths; however these vary in quality and can be rough and steep to soft and poorly drained moorland. Some walking will be over unpathed and uneven ground, including boulder fields and scree.
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