During the years I’ve been visiting the north of Scotland, my trips out from a family home have mainly been for photographic goals. But, until last year, I’d only been hiking once.
I certainly can’t complain about getting time to enjoy the countryside when visiting Scotland and I’ve usually been able to spend at least a couple of days each year driving out to the remotenesses of the northern and western areas of the country. Whether fine, dreich, hot or cold, the landscape is always fascinating.
After ascending my first and only Munro in 2017, it took me three years to be able to spend the day hiking again. As the weather was favourable while we were in Scotland last autumn, I found a suitable day amongst the weather prognoses and found a realistic, less challenging peak for us to assault. After a short search, the choice was pretty clear: Stac Pollaidh, amongst the remarkable mountains of Assynt. (The name of the peak translates from Scottish Gaelic to “the pinnacle of the pool river”.)
The sandstone edifice stands clear of the surrounding mountains and lochs, so it presents both an imposing challenge from the approach along the A835 and a massive view from the 600-odd-metre ridge at its summit, from the nearby Loch Lurgainn to the dramatic mountains stretching away along the coast.
The walk was relatively simple, if a test of calf muscles on the stepping-stone part of the route on the far side of the peak. It’s a very popular destination despite being half-an-hour’s drive from the already remote town of Ullapool, which became obvious when we arrived to find both the little car park and many of the roadside lay-bys full. The number of other people and their incessant and carrying chatter made the hike a little less enjoyable than we’d expected and hoped, but it was a great first experience of hiking in the dramatic and distant landscape of the far north of Scotland.