A Road Trip in Assynt, Scotland’s Far North

A Road Trip in Assynt, Scotland’s Far North

 

We had signed up to this adventurous house sit before any of the others and it was only when we began to fill in our diary with pets and property that suddenly this journey to the north of Scotland became daunting. But after a week in the South (yes, we started off in Kent of all places) we set off for our road trip in Assynt regardless.

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The weather treated us kindly and our journeys doubled and tripled in time to allow us to stop and stare, take photographs and even embark on the odd hike or scramble. Scotland’s landscape bewitched us right away, engulfing us and our tiny car in its mighty clutches. Coarse hillsides filled with bolts of colour, golden sandy brush and vivid purple trees, erupted into huge valleys before quieting down again. Villages became more and more sparse and ruins more frequent and the icy blue stare of lochs greeted us around every corner.

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January might a bleak month… but not here.

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As the cascading landscape gave way to sporadic lonesome mountains and ocean lookouts we knew that we were closing upon our new home. We resorted to following the owners directions as we had no road name or number and driving through the iron gates we had no idea what to expect. The first house on the long unsealed drive was crowded with chickens, ducks and all sorts and it wasn’t until we turned the next corner that our hearts literally skipped a beat. There sat a little log cabin quietly puffing away as the suns glow illuminated it’s surroundings.

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“Hello girls!”

The family of 3 come out to greet us with Geo the English Shepherd leading the way.

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We soon found out that Geo would lead the way for most of our time in Assynt. He’d show us walking loops around our croft (yes we had a 23-ish acre croft of land, an undulating piece of raw Scottish countryside bought by an owner!) and running laps around us on our numerous hikes. In contrast we’d be begging the five cats, who also came with the house sit, for cuddles with very little success. They were a cute bunch and once we’d been initiated into using a wooden stove to heat the house and bid our family goodbye we settled right in.

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A day, a week or a month, I’m sure that it’s never enough time but we got seriously stuck into our surroundings and tried to make the most of our chance to road trip in Assynt and neighbouring Coigach. Here are our highlights:

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Trailed Mountain hikes

Road Trip in Assynt

With numerous mountains, lochs and rivers strewn around its easy to find a great hike. Several well signposted and easy to follow tracks are worth trying but our favourite had to be the famous Stac Pollaidh.

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Non-trailed Mountain hikes

Road Trip in Assynt

If you have honed in on your navigational skills you might want to try a more off road and raw hike. Cul Beag tested our abilities, map reading and determination to the max and we were well rewarded with incredible views.

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Geological Hikes

Road Trip in Assynt

The Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve is not only a short walk with several beautiful viewpoints but is an incredible insight into the movement of the Earths crust. Specifically the Moine Thrust. This immense thrust forced old rocks to push through the surface of younger rocks. Parts of Knockan Crag are aged between 400 and 500 million years old and that makes this site one of the oldest landscapes in Europe.

(Please note that Walking Highlands offer a comprehensive array of walks in Assynt and Coigach to suit every ability.)

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Beaches

I had to see it to believe it but Scotland has some of the finest white sand, turquoise water beaches I’ve ever seen. On our Road Trip in Assynt we visited the wonderful Achmelvich Beach. Although I have to admit there was no swapping our beanies for bathers this January .

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Lighthouse and cliff top views

Road Trip in Assynt

We kept our eyes peeled for dolphins while strolling around Stoer Lighthouse… all while trying not to get blown into the ocean in the wild Scottish breeze.

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Driving the NorthCoast500

Road Trip in Assynt

Every road that leads to Assynt is at some point labelled as part of the North Coast 500, which has become Scotland’s ultimate road trip. This is the Mount Quinag Pass on the A894, barely 30minutes north of Lochinver.

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Driving the Backroads

Assynt backroads

There’s a million detours linking the “highways” (meaning one whole lane each) to towns and villages and they should not be ignored. These single track lanes wind and wobble their way around the tumultuous landscape in peculiar fashion. This image is from a detour that connects Lochinver to the A835 … the long way around!

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Loch Views

Road Trip in Assynt

Loch Assynt might be the dominating body of water in the area but there’s over 150 others to admire. This image is taken at Loch Cul Dromannan with Stac Pollaidh in the background.

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Castles

Road Trip in Assynt

The crumbling ruins of Ardvreck castle is just one example of a castle in the area and it sits on the bank of Loch Assynt itself. Dating back to the 1490’s, it’s residents (the Macleods) and it’s walls were attacked and captured in 1672 by the Mackenzies.

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Idyllic Settlements

Road Trip in Assynt

 

Endless walls separating crofts of land, miniature churches and remote houses that defy the constant northern wind. This image from tiny Stoer but it is one in a haystack of idyllic settlements to visit.

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As you can see, our one week Road Trip in Assynt was a busy time… we’ll have to come back for more one day!

 

Here’s some more pictures from our time around Lochinver, we just couldn’t leave them out!

Road Trip in Assynt, Cul Beag, Scotland
Hiking Cul Beag with Geo

 

Road Trip in Assynt, Scotland
Coastal Road near Inverkirkaig

 

House sitting in Assynt, log cabin
Cat cuddles and daily tick checks

 

Road Trip in Assynt, Scotland
Road A837 heading NE from Lochinver

 

Road Trip in Assynt, North Scotland
The A835 Road somewhere near Elphin

 

Scottish Road Trip, Lochinver and Assynt
The A835 Road somewhere near Elphin

 

Incredible roads in Europe, Assynt, Scotland
HWY A835 near Ardmair

 

Road Trip in Assynt, Scotland
A837 Inchnadamph

 

Road Trip in Assynt, Ardvreck Castle
A837 Ardvreck Castle

 

Road Trip in Assynt, Achmelvich Beach
Sunset walk on Achmelvich beach

 


 

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Written by

Rebecca Mayoll is a ‘just turned 30’ freelance writer and photographer from England. She is the co-founder and author of straightondetour.com, a travel website with the mantra ‘find your own adventure.’ Promoting adventurous destinations, independent travel and giving a humorous insight to the World of travel is what Becky does best.

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Hi we're Prue and Becks, travel writers and photographers who have been travelling the world together since 2012. Without taking ourselves too seriously, we divulge the lesser known, out of the way places and give you the tools to replicate it. Want to know more? Click on our pic.
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