Welcome to Lochinver – with otherworldly mountains and white sand beaches, amazing wildlife and tasty pies, whether you are driving the North Coast 500 or not, a visit to Assynt and Lochinver in Scotland not to be missed.
Visit Lochinver and Assynt
1 – Discover Scotland’s best beaches (probably)
All the beaches near Lochinver would make the UK’s top ten – with turquoise waters, black rocks and white sands you could be in the Caribbean, not Scotland.
Achmelvich is one of Scotland’s most famous beaches, and with clear blue water, a nearby caravan park and youth hostel, and an incredible view of Suilven. Achmelvich Beach is around 15 minutes north of Lochinver off the B869 along the single track (and at times slightly hairy) Drumbeg Loop. You can also walk to Achmelvich from Lochinver.
My favourite of the beaches near Lochinver is Clachtoll which is about 30 minutes further west round the loop where there is another campsite. Lochinver’s beaches are also great for wild swimming – if you can cope with the temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean that is!
2 – Catch the ferry to Handa Island
Whilst not technically in Assynt, Handa Island Wildlife Reserve is worth a visit for the views back over the Lochinver region alone. Despite being protected by all manner of wildlife acronyms (Handa is a SSSI and SPA) you can visit the island by crossing the Sound of Handa by RIB from the tiny hamlet of Tarbet. You will be met off the little ferry for an island introduction by a Scottish Wildlife Trust volunteer before you wander off on your own Handa Island tour.
Stroll along the island’s boardwalks, spot the different varieties in the 100,000 seabirds including puffins, kittiwakes and eagles soaring over the sea stacks. It will take you around 2 hours to walk around the island’s 4-mile circular boardwalk path, longer if you stop every few seconds to scan the cliffs for puffins. Or just sit and watch the changing light over Suilven and Cul Mor. Handa is a tiny island paradise. Catch the tiny ferry to Handa from Tarbert near Scourie.
A visit to Handa Island is £15 per adult.
3 – solve the long-running argument at Knockan Crag
The Knockan Crag is a site of special scientific interest famous for the Highland’s Controversy – a long-running argument between geologists about the age of the rocks here – otherwise known as the Moine Thrust – when two continents slammed together upending the landscape of Assynt.
There is a visitor centre for those interested to find out just why the debate over Knockan Crag was so bitter in the 19th and a walking trail around Knockan Crag for those just wishing to take in the incredible views. Knockan Crag NNR is 30 minutes south of Lochinver on the road to Ullapool. The NNR is managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
4 – Climb Stac Pollaidh
Despite rising to just under 2000ft, Stac Pollaidh (pronounced Stac Polly) is one of Scotland’s best hill walks. With a well-made path to the summit, easy and fun scrambling over its pinnacles and ridges and incredible views of the mountains of the Inverpolly Nature Reserve, down to Loch Lurgainn and across to the mighty Cul More and Suilven, this mini-mountain punches well above its weight.
Along with some great scrambling at the top – you get a big pay off for such a short climb. Climbing Stac Pollaidh is not to be missed. Get there – Park at the car park at Loch Lurgainn. Get there early, this is a popular hill walk and the car park gets full quickly. Do not park in passing places.
Read more: How to climb Stac Pollaidh
5 – Eat a Lochinver Pie
Lochinver is well known as a foodie destination, with one of the remotest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. However, it is the pies sold at Lochinver Larder on the village’s main street which are spoken about in hushed tones across Scotland. From traditional steak, haggis, and venison, to cauliflower cheese, the pies are stuffed full of filling and well worth the eye-watering price tag. Best served up with a side of beans and a great view, my favourite is the chicken curry.
You can order Lochinver Pies by Post.
6 – Drive over the Kylesku Bridge
Opening in 1984 the much photographed Kylesku Bridge replace a tiny ferry between the hamlet of Kylesku and Kylestrome – the bridge is now one of the icons of the NC500. Don’t forget to visit Kylesku Bridge is on the NC500 (A894) 30 minutes north of Lochinver.
7 – Visit Ardvreck Castle
Sitting on the banks of Loch Assynt sits the ruins of Ardvreck Castle, once a 15th-century stronghold of Clan MacLeod, longtime owners of the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Lewis and Harris. Besieged by the MacKenzies of nearby Wester Ross in 1672 it was then abandoned and used to build the clan a new opulent residence – the nearby Calda House – which was said to have been built with views of the castle to celebrate the MacLeod’s downfall… Ardvreck Castle is 20 minutes east of Lochinver and on the North Coast 500.
8 – explore the paths around Lochinver
- Hike out to the Old Man of Stoer a spectacular sea stack off the coast of Assynt.
- 10 miles north of Lochinver is Clashnessie Bay with its pretty beach. Walk from the beach to Clashnessie Falls, a 15m high waterfall.
- For a low level, family friendly stroll visit the Culag Woods on the edge of the village.
9 – Mountain climb in the Inverpollaidh Nature Reserve
Much of Assynt is covered by hundreds of lochs, bogs and moorland making up the Inverpolly Nature Reserve. Hill baggers will want to climb Scotland’s most dramatic mountains – Suilven, Cul More, Quinaig and the two Munros – Ben More Assynt & Conival or if you aren’t feeling quite so energetic walk up to the Kirkaig Falls. The Inverpolly Nature Reserve is just east of Lochinver and accessible by foot from the village.
How to get to Lochinver & Assynt
Stretching from Lochinver in the west to Dornoch in the east Sutherland & Caithness make up the far north of Scotland. While much of the region can be visited by driving the famous North Coast 500 you need to detour off the route between Unapool and Ullapool to visit Assynt. If you aren’t driving the NC500, Lochinver is around 5 hours north of Glasgow and Edinburgh and 2 hours from Inverness. Whilst the best way to explore Assynt is by car – there are daily bus services. To get to Lochinver catch the Far North Bus service 804 from either Durness or Ullapool.
Love, from Scotland x