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.