The Great Outdoors
Explore and walk. So what can I say? It's all here. This Parish is a haven for climbers and walkers, with magnificent massifs like Ben More Assynt and Conival, both featuring in the Munro Tables, followed by the spectacular Corbetts of Quinaig, Canisp, Suilven, Cul Mor, Cul Beag, Stac Pollaidh, and Ben More Coigach, to name but a few, within immediate reach of Lochinver. Further north and just an easy drive away from your accommodation in Lochinver, you will find the spectacular Ben Stack, Arkle, Foinaven, and the most northerly Munro in Scotland, Ben Hope, as well as the Queen of Scottish Mountains, Ben Loyal. So there are no shortages of locations to climb in this locality.
With an abundance of footpaths along the valley floors, in some cases ascending high into the hills, and many easier routes nearer the coastline, there are so many places to walk that it would take months, if not years, to get around them all.
On the safety theme, remember the golden rules before venturing out into the mountains. Leave a note or tell us your intended route. Carry at least, enough provisions for your day, as well as some extra clothing. Never go without a map and compass. Our hills are lovely but they can be treacherous places if the weather turns foul and you are not properly equipped to deal with it.
Little Assynt and Culag Woodlands Trust
Community owned land with delightful woodland paths, as well as tracks through open countryside. The fir forest near the harbour in Lochinver has some wonderful trails meandering all over the place. Walk to the White Shore and take a picnic with you to enjoy on the benches located close to the silvery, pebbled beach. Climb to the viewpoint and get a bird's eye picture of your accommodation at Polcraig Guest House, and Lochinver village as a whole. Information and interpretation boards are dotted throughout the forest to keep you interested as you wander through the woods.
Drive to Little Assynt some 3 miles away from your accommodation in Lochinver, and take in the all abilities footpaths. Those superb tracks were recently constructed and provide you with easy walking, or even wheelchair access in many parts, through woodland, by the lochs, and out into beautiful, scenic, open countryside. All the routes are signposted so it would be almost impossible to get lost here. In any case, eventually, each of them leads you back to the roadside. All abilities boats are located on Loch Leitir Easaidh (Loch of the hill of the waterfall) and Loch na-Innse Froaich (Loch of the heathery pasture), so there is good trout fishing available, for people of all abilities, here as well.
Knockan Crag Visitor Centre
A very interesting visitor centre that provides a host of information about the geology of the landscape. Follow the scenic trails through the crags and check out the interpretation boards and learn about what is around you.
The Bone Caves and the Traligill Caves
Both very popular walks through lovely, grassy, limestone valleys. The bone caves are located high up on the hillside, and it was here that archaeologists found human bones dating back some 4500 years, and also fragments of bone from lynx, arctic fox, brown bear and reindeer. A good path traverses the hillside all the way to the caves and as it ascends the drop below becomes very steep, so take care on this track as it can be very slippery underfoot.
The Traligill caves are accessed by a footpath from Inchnadamph, alongside the Traligill river which tumbles and meanders down off Conival through Glen Dubh, finally ending up in Loch Assynt. The path takes you through an area rich in wild flowers, and you may well encounter lots of red deer en-route. The caves are very popular with cavers seeking to explore the many underground passages and caverns, where some water filled sumps may be encountered. Unless you are experienced in this activity, then it's best just to go for a look from the outside and enjoy your trip.
Old Man of Stoer
Located near the Stoer Head Lighthouse some 10 miles north of your accommodation in Lochinver, and a forty five minute walk from the car park there, this very striking, sandstone sea stack is well worth a visit. It is not accessible from the land, unless you wish to swim across to it!! This practise is not advised and it is best seen from the cliff tops alongside which it stands. Very popular with experienced climbers, it has been ascended many times, and has been the focal point in a number of documentary films made for television, in recent years. Amazing scenery is seen whilst on this walk. Most of the west coast mountains are visible, and stand out like a line of soldiers on parade. Dramatic to say the least, particularly on a good day.
A spectacular waterfall, it drops vertically about 80 feet into the falls pool of the river Kirkaig. A complete barrier to ascending salmon, it is reached by a footpath beginning by the river side near the Achins Bookshop at Inverkirkaig, and follows the birch wooded Kirkaig valley to the Fionn Loch and the foot of Suilven. Here you will see the salmon jumping into the foaming falls in vain attempts to fulfil their natural instinct to get to the headwaters.
After observing the waterfall, continue along the footpath for about ten more minutes and you will witness one of the finest views in Assynt, where Fionn Loch suddenly comes into sight, guarded over by the massif of Suilven, and see the out-flowing Kirkaig river, that appears like a great silver thread sparkling in the sunlight as it glides and hurries seawards on its ancient carved out course through the purple heather clad moor-land. Magnificent indeed.
Ardvrek Castle, Calda House and the little Church at Inchnadamph
Steeped in history, the stark ruins of Ardvreck Castle and of Calda House are located on the north shore of Loch Assynt. It was in this castle that the Marquis of Montrose was held captive by MacLeod of Assynt, before being escorted south for execution in Edinburgh, in 1650.
Calda House, only a few hundred yards away, was the stronghold of the MacKenzies of Assynt, and was built by them sometime in the 1720's. It had a relatively short lifespan, being burnt down during 1737, in the course of an ongoing dispute between the Earl of Sutherland and MacKenzie of Seaforth.
The hamlet of Inchnadamph at the east end of Loch Assynt is home to a little Medieval Church. This was the parish church used for worship for many years until it eventually fell into disrepair. It has been restored in very recent times and is now a community resource and archive centre, which is open to the public. The burial vault of The MacLeod's of Assynt is in the graveyard at the church and it has also been preserved, like the Castle and Calda House; by an active group of people called Historic Assynt.