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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Despite being a rocky and exposed spot, the flora leading up to the summit of Spidean Coinich is varied & thriving.
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.
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.
The views from the summit (764m) are spectacular in all directions,with fantastic views of Loch Assynt, Suilven, Cul Mor, Lochinver & Sutherland.
The majestic hills of Suilven & Cul Mor
The sandy beaches of Loch Assynt
Heading West from Loch Assynt down to Lochinver & out to sea.
The tiny settlements around Stoer, Clashnessie & Clachtoll.
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.
Looking back at Spidean Coinich. It’s not easy to see the route down & it does look more menacing from this side.
The route ahead climbing up Bealach a’ Chornaidh
A breather halfway up to look back at what we had climbed.
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.
The rugged path to the most westerly of the three Corbetts. Sail Gorm (775m)
The fantastic view back to Spidean Coinich. It’s difficult to see the path but it was relatively straight forward with minimal scrambling required.
The route out to Sail Gorm with wonderful views over the minch.
Sail Gharbh ahead with it’s boulder strewn summit. At 808m it’s Quinags highest summit.
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.
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.
A fantastic walk with truly stunning views. To traverse all three summits takes 7 to 8 hours but it’s well worth the effort.