Quinag

We took a short break from the b&b last week and so had the opportunity to get out into the glorious Assynt hills. The forecast was looking good for our day out, at 3.50am the sunrise was superb with just a little cloud.

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Eager to make the most of the day we headed off early to ensure we’d have lots of time to spend on the hill.

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Quinag (pr: kwin-yak) the Gaelic name is A’ Chuinneag meaning ‘milk pail’ is a spectacular series of Corbetts (mountains over 2500 feet) just north of Ardvreck Castle and overlooks the beautiful Loch Assynt. One of the most northerly of the chain of impressive sandstone peaks in the north west of Scotland

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The hill has 3 peaks in its unusual Y shaped range, Spidean Coinich which means ‘boggy peak’ is 765m, Sail Gorm means ‘blue heel’ and is 776m and Sail Gharbh ‘the rough heel’ is 808m. The Quinag estate was purchased by the John Muir Trust in 2005 and they maintain the mountain paths to help prevent landscape damage and erosion. They also monitor the habitats on the estate particularly the native ancient Ardvar Woodland on the northern side of the mountain which is the most northern remnant of native oak woodland in the UK

Starting at the car park on the eastern side of the A894, 4 miles north of Inchnadamph and 27 miles north of Ullapool, cross the road to the stalkers path on the western side which heads up towards Lochan Bealach Cornaidh.

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Once across the road there is a very informative board together with leaflets highlighting the work carried out by the John Muir Trust. Water voles are found in the area & as you cross the bridge you can see where the trust have been monitoring these elusive and sadly declining mammals.

At the start the ascent is very easy going on a well maintained path. After 10 minutes or so the path forks off at a cairn and the gradual climb begins

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From here you follow a rocky rib. The ascent is easy going  & walking on the rocks avoids the boggier areas whilst also reducing any erosion. When you’ve reached a height of 400 meters or so you get fantastic views heading South down Loch Assynt with the ruin’s of Ardvrek castle on it’s rocky promontory in the loch just about visible to the naked eye.

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Eventually you cross a boulder field. There is no path at this stage but it’s not difficult to find your way. There is even a handy shelter in the middle should you get caught out by the elements.

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At this point (600m) the first Corbett of the day, Spidean Coinich, becomes more prominent. You also get a good view of Lochan Bealach Cornaidh & Sail Gharbh.

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Despite being a rocky and exposed spot,  the flora leading up to the summit of Spidean Coinich is varied & thriving.

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Before you reach the final push to the top of Spidean Coinich there is a saddle with a wee lochan and fantastic views of Suilven and Cul Mor.

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From here it’s a straight forward ascent following a clear path to the top. Below is the view back to the lochan and the path descending down to it.

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The views from the summit (764m) are spectacular in all directions,with fantastic views of  Loch Assynt, Suilven, Cul Mor,  Lochinver & Sutherland.

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The majestic hills of Suilven & Cul Mor

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The sandy beaches of Loch Assynt

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Heading West from Loch Assynt down to Lochinver & out to sea.

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The tiny settlements around Stoer, Clashnessie & Clachtoll.

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More great flora, wild mountain thyme dotted along the entire area.

The view of the descent ahead with the stunning Assynt coastline in the distance and Sail Gorm and Sail Gharbh ahead.

The cairn on the summit has the most amazing and colourful rocks on display, if only we had a Geologist with us to tell the story of these amazing rocks.

We may also need a paramedic with us to deal with the idiot who thinks he’s 21!

The acrophobic idiot’s not jumping around now & is clearly thinking does the ridge really just drop off the edge of a cliff? Thankfully not, it’s straightforward if a little steep in places but might not be great on a wet & windy day.

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Looking back at Spidean Coinich. It’s not easy to see the route down & it does look more menacing from this side.

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The route ahead climbing up Bealach a’ Chornaidh

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A breather halfway up to look back at what we had climbed.

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Looking toward the next stage of Quinag

The view north of the Kylesku bridge across Loch a’ Chairn Bhain with the quartzite ridges of Foinaven (914m) in the far distance.

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The rugged path to the most westerly of the three Corbetts. Sail Gorm (775m)

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The fantastic view back to Spidean Coinich. It’s difficult to see the path but it was relatively straight forward with minimal scrambling required.

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The route out to Sail Gorm with wonderful views over the minch.

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Sail Gharbh ahead with it’s boulder strewn summit. At 808m it’s Quinags highest summit.

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The trig point on Sail Gharbh with superb views of the first climb to Spidean Coinich. The hills of Canisp, Suilven & Cul Mor can also be seen in the distance.

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When it’s time to drag yourself off the high tops, which can be difficult given the panoramic views, it’s a straight forward descent down into the coire. From this you follow a path recently repaired by the trust & back to the starting point of the walk.

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A fantastic walk with truly stunning views. To traverse all three summits takes 7 to 8 hours but it’s well worth the effort.

Stac Pollaidh, a spring ramble

Stac Pollaidh is one of the most iconic & popular hills in the area. Just 15 miles North of Ullapool & in the heart of the Inverpolly Forest, it’s ease of access & relatively short climb means that it’s also one of the busier hills.

The summit of Stac Pollaidh might only stand at 613 meters, but the views from even 100 meters shy of the top are truly spectacular.

Stac Pollaidh means “The Steep Rock at the Pool” in Gaelic and it’s easy to see how it got it’s name. It looks quite imposing from the roadside & reaching the true summit has it’s complications, with a high level of scrambling expertise required.

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Due to it’s popularity Stac Pollaidh has sadly suffered from erosion so it’s better to stick to the paths to help preserve the make up of the hill. The path starts through a gate from directly opposite the entrance to the car park. The car park is quite small for the number of walkers often found on the hill, so an early or late start is often better to guarantee a parking place.

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The path steadily climbs uphill with grand views down Loch Lurgainn & of Cul Beag (769m).

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After a short distance the path forks by another gate in a deer fence, with options to take either a clockwise or anticlockwise route around Stac Pollaidh.

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Taking the anticlockwise route, the path continues to climb steadily & heads towards the North side of the hill. As the path curves around the far side some of Stac Pollaidh’s neighbouring hills come into view. Cul Mor (849m) & another iconic hill in Assynt,  Suilven (731m).

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From the far side of the hill the erosion is at it worst & following the main path directly towards the ridge is the best approach.                                                                                            The views in all directions from the ridge are truly breathtaking.

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Sadly Stac Pollaidh isn’t one of those hills where you can spend some time milling around the summit and appreciating the tranquillity as certainly from spring to autumn there definitely won’t be just you climbing this hill.

We had the pleasure of sharing our time on Stac Pollaidh with a drone circling above our heads which for a good couple of hours sounded like a swarm of bees right next to us, such fun!

From the ridge it is possible to scramble to the true summit, which is found at the Western end. However it is no easy task & as you descend, it’s easy to see why.

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Evidence of the erosion on the hill.

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Upon leaving the ridge the track continues anticlockwise at a steady gradual decline, where it meets the deer gate and rejoins the path that was followed at the start of the route.

Approaching Gruinard on the way home we had to stop & capture the beautiful sunset over the bay.

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Diabaig coastal path via Wester Alligin

Diabaig is a small fishing settlement overlooking Loch Diabaig, a picturesque bay within Loch Torridon, in old Norse Diabaig means ‘deep bay’.

The walk begins in the village of Lower Diabaig passing by the pier where the views over the loch are stunning, heading along the road to the end of the village the route enters a small woodland of deciduous trees where for a few minutes at least there is a bit of a scramble up the cliff side and over the rocks but the path is mainly clear.

Once above the tree tops the view over the sea is spectacular, the Isle of Skye just visible through the haze

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The village of Diabaig basking in the April sunshine

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Curving around Loch Diabaig is the rugged headland of Rubha na h-Airde, apparently a good example of Lewisian Gneiss, the oldest rock in the uk

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Nestled at the foot of the headland is the abandoned crofting township of  Araid, on the 1881 OS map it was recorded that there were 8 roofed dwellings, 3 unroofed buildings, 2 enclosures and some field walls. On the 1969 OS map it was recorded that there were 2 roofed dwellings, 6 unroofed buildings, 3 enclosures, 2 sheepfolds and some field walls. Sadly very little sign of life nowadays

IMG_1009The route continues over the moorland passing a couple of small lochans, Loch a’ Bhealaich Mhoir & Lochan Dubh. The path running alongside the lochs looked like it could possibly be boggy after a wet spell but we were grateful for several weeks of dry weather.

As the path descends the view opens up taking in Shieldaig over Loch Torridon. Below is a secluded cottage only accessible via the path or a boat.

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There were several wild flowers along the route, the pretty wild dog violet and the cheerful primrose sparkling in the sun

Overlooking the remote cottage on the slopes of the hillside was another ruined building nestled in a sea of dried bracken. The view across Loch Torridon is breathtaking

A serene sight of high cirrostratus cloud hovering over Beinn Shieldaig, Aird and Ardheslaig

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Further along the coastal route the path takes you through the heathland and begins to descend. The view ahead is of the small village of Wester Alligin surrounded by crofters fields on the shore of Loch Torridon

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Towering protectively over the shore side villages is the imposing Liathach, at 1053m the peak looks fairly gentle and inviting from the this view but viewed from the east it looks anything but gentle & inviting.

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The route descends down into a deciduous woodland after which you emerge in the village of Wester Alligin

A spectacular view over the water of the 2 summits of Beinn Damh ‘the stag mountain’ & Maol Chean-Dearg which in Gaelic means ‘bald red head’!!!

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The Torridon Hills

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Heading away from the road the path heads left down towards Loch Diabaigas Airde, legend has it that a Kelpie lives in this loch, we made sure to stay well clear.

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The route alongside the loch could potentially be very boggy after bad weather and there is a stile to cross over a deer fence which is currently in a bad state of repair. After leaving the loch side and heading up towards a ruin you rejoin the road for a short spell. Whilst walking the short distance along the road the moorland to the right hand side of the road is where a large fire took hold last summer after some visitors to the area had a barbecue and unfortunately didn’t douse it with water when they had finished. What remains is a sad sight.

If you do have to use a disposable (or any other kind) barbecue please put them out properly, most people generally have a bottle of water with them or if not this is the highlands and there is bound to be a loch or burn nearby, please also take them away with you, they can be devastating to the land and wildlife.

Several cases like this have happened again in the area this spring.

At the end of the loch you take a left off the road walking across a small footbridge, the path then takes you alongside the Allt an Uain gorge, a great spot with lots of wildflowers on the slopes and very small birds flitting over our heads,  annoyingly they wouldn’t stay still long enough for us to identify them.

Further along the path the view opens up with the village of Diabaig below

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Descending down toward the village you walk through a beautiful deciduous woodland which is a place that makes you stop, take 5 minutes and admire the textures and colours all around. A wonderful spot.

After a long dry spell and the shrubs & trees just coming into bud meant that we avoided the boggy ground and the wrestling match with the summer bracken. A wonderful walk alongside a stunning coastline.

 

 

 

A winter spent in creative reverie

Here at the b&b the wee ( very wee…! ) shop has some new additions for this season. It’s been a productive winter time filled with felting, knitting, sewing stitching and sketching, with the wonderful landscape surrounding us there is inspiration everywhere.

Our felted Herdwicks with their knitted jackets are super cosy and cute, there are Herdwicks on a croft nearby and they are the most characterful sheep, I can’t help but wave to them when passing and watch their lovely expressions.

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We have some hand illustrated note cards using watercolour & ink, inspired by our local woodland and wild flowers

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Along the shore at Laide beach there are always Curlews, Plovers and Oystercatchers snuffling around in the seaweed or in the nooks and crannies of rock pools, often they’re arguing amongst themselves over which patch of rock is who’s or just simply standing on one leg whilst fast asleep.

Our mini textile wall hangings inspired by the waders on Laide beach are a combination of wool, hand embroidery, cotton and machine stitching, each hung with driftwood found on the local beaches.

Inspired by the ever changing colours of the sea and sky around us, I was eager to make these brooches (or equally lovely fastened to a favourite handbag). The base of the brooch has firstly been hand knitted then I have shrunk and felted them, next they have been embellished with vintage buttons, hand embroidery and needle felted accents.

For book lovers I created these sweet book mark / page holders. They have an elasticated band which wraps around the front of the book and holds the pages in place so those occasions when your bookmark slips out of your book and your place has been lost are now a thing of the past.

They are made using felted knitting with a needle felted decoration and hand embroidery.

Alongside making gifts and mementos for our wee shop I have been busy making several large scale textile wall hangings which are now proudly hung and on display.

The ‘Gannets over stormy waters’ wall hanging in the breakfast room is inspired by the elegant aerial displays of the superb seabird. Their visits to Gruinard Bay are generally during stormy weather when the wind is fierce and there are white caps on the waves, we watch these seabirds circling and diving into the wild water. In Old English the word Gannet means ‘strong’ and ‘masculine’.

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In our Plover bedroom are two wall hangings with a…. you guessed it, Plover theme. These little waders are often on the shoreline of Laide beach running back and forth escaping the incoming waves or perched on a rock ready to flee from passersby.

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And finally a woodland needle felted and embroidered hoop. I am tempted to create miniature versions of these to sell, maybe next winters project.

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We hope you like our new additions.

From Sunrise to Sunset, the perfect winters day in Laide, Wester Ross.

Sometimes you get the perfect winter day. Snow on the hill tops. Wall to wall clear blue skies with great visibility. Cold & crisp with not a breath of breeze.

On such a day you could do worse than visit the trig point that overlooks Laide & Aultbea. At just 293 meters Beinn Dearg Bad Chailleach is only a hillock but it does command superb 360 degree views. All of the local hills are on show & on a clear day the peaks of Skye, Harris & Sutherland can all be taken in.

It’s a walk that’s probably best undertaken when either there has been a hard frost or following a very dry spell. For certain sections bog snorkeling would be the order of the day in normal ground conditions.

The trig point takes a couple of hours to reach from Laide & on a good day it’s easy to spend an hour or two at the top admiring the views.

Whilst we weren’t lucky enough to see much wildlife on our walk this time, we did see clear evidence of the tracks of mountain hare, deer & grouse in the snow. Right beside the trig point there were mountain hare droppings & the fur pellet from what looks to have been from an eagle. The trig point would be a great vantage point for an eagle, but not so good for the hare!!

We chose to head out early so that we could watch the suns movement around the bay through sunrise to sunset

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The sun rising above An Teallach with silhouettes of Beinn Ghobhlach & The Coigachs.

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The heather moorland behind Laide. You might just be able to make out the bright dot to the right (it was exceptionally bright to the naked eye, not so much in the photo). Planet or satellite?

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Views to the North with the sun beginning to shine on the very tips of the peaks. The Coigachs, Quinag & Foinaven prominent. The tops of Suilven & Stac Pollaidh can be seen (Stac Pollaidh only just). Foinaven is close to Kinlochbervie,  90 miles or so to the North of Laide.

img_0382A closer look  at Quinag with Foinaven to the left & the top of the iconic Suilven to the right.

Trudging over the moorland we came across several peat overhangs with some sharp looking teeth!! Brrrrrr!

 

A couple of hours in and the old timer needs to prop himself up on the trig point.

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Looking South. The trig point was doing a fine job of obscuring the winter sun. Here we found the fur pellet where something had chosen the trig to perch and dispose of it’s fur ball.

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Loch Fada in the foreground, with Beinn Airigh Charr , A Mhaighdean  & Ruadh Stac Mor in the distance.

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The view over Aultbea. Whilst it’s difficult to see from this image, beneath the cloud line the hills of Harris were visible to the naked eye.

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The Calmac ferry leaving Ullapool and on it’s way to Stornoway.

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A lovely view of Laide, perched on the shores of Gruinard Bay

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An Teallach & Sail Mhor looking splendid in the midday sunshine.

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The slopes of An Teallach. It would have been a challenging day on the very high tops today!

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Sail Mhor. The last time we were on Sail Mhor the Ptarmigan were vocalising because of the overhead threat of a golden eagle.

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Beinn Ghoblach, the forked mountain. It might only be just over 600 meters in height but looking over Scoraig it does impress as it towers over Little Loch Broom.

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The impressive slopes of Quinag. In the snow quite a daunting looking prospect from every angle.

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Loch a Bhaid-luachraich. A mirror lock in the still conditions. The snowy hills on the Isle of Skye poking above the heather clad hills of Wester Ross.

After spending some considerable time by the trig point admiring every view through the camera and the binoculars and tracking the varied animal prints in the snow we tore ourselves away and walked home.

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By late afternoon the sun began it’s descent over Laide, pink light glowing over the snowy caps with the moon perfectly positioned between the Coigachs and Beinn Ghoblach. A little bit later with the sun set, the moon was shimmering on the still, pond like sea.

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The Oystercatchers on Laide beach getting themselves settled in for an early evening snooze. Usually quite skittish they were unconcerned by the visitor busy taking photos as the sun set.

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The last of the daylight, the sun disappears and for just a few more minutes leaves a beautiful glow in the sky over An Teallach, Sail Mhor, Beinn Ghoblach & The Coigachs. The perfect end to the perfect winters day in Wester Ross.

 

 

 

 

Coastal winter ramble from Laide

In the last week the snow has almost completely receded from the high tops. The light & visibility has been at it’s absolute best & it’s been rather mild for the time of year. Just a short ramble from the house along the single track road to Mellon Udrigle is a fantastic wee viewpoint. An Teallach & the hills in the Fisherfield Forest will often be visible and on the clearest of days the distant hills surrounding Kinlochbervie & Torridon can also be seen,  the silhoutte’s of  the Isle of Harris, Isle of Lewis &  the Uists  with The Shiants are  also visible if you are lucky enough to have a haze free day.

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It’s not always necessary to climb a big hill to find a fine view & nothing more is truer than Meall nam Meallan. At just 147 metres it really is just a hillock but standing by the cairn with a 360 degree panorama it really is a great view that, at just 25 minutes or so from the road to Mellon Udrigle, is very accessible.

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The view towards Gruinard Bay with Sail Mhor (767m) , An Teallach (1062m) Beinn Dearg Bheag (820m) & Beinn Dearg Mor (910m) prominent.IMG_9934

Across the water & heading North. The Coigach (743m) hills are most prominent in the foreground. The very tops of Stac Pollaidh (612m) & Cul Mor (849m) can just be seen behind the Coigachs. Further in the distance the iconic shape of Suliven (731m) & the magnificent Quinag (808m).IMG_9935

On the clearest of days the hills to the far North can be seen.  Suliven & Quinag are the most clearly visible with Foinaven (914m) faintly in the distance. Foinaven is near Kinlochbervie, some 70 miles or so as the crow flies.IMG_9951

 

From the viewpoint looking south with the small lush settlement of Achgarve & Udrigle in the foreground and Laide in the distance. The hills of Beinn Airigh Charr (792m), Baosbheinn (875m), Beinn an Eoin (855m) & the Torridon hills are all in the distance.IMG_9925

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This is a really pleasant short walk to a nearby trig point where the far reaching views over Wester Ross are spectacular. If you are just passing through travelling along the North Coast 500 or are spending some time in the area (which is highly recommended) then this is an ideal trundle to stretch the legs and admire the views.