A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Almost All The Way Up Stac Pollaidh

The next day I climbed Stac Pollaidh which lies just north west of Ullapool in the Inverpolly Forest. Of course the forest is a forest no longer. It's a vast, bare, open landscape of lochs and lochans, peat bogs and isolated mountains. Though Stac Pollaidh ('Peak of the Peat Moss') is little more than 2000 ft, it seems higher as it's not hemmed in by other hills. From the top the views are tremendous. To the west are the sea and the Summer Isles; to the north, south and east stretch the wilderness areas of Assynt, Coigach and the Cromalt Hills. And you can clearly pick out the mountain peaks of Suilven and Canisp, Cul Mòr and Cul Beag.

Stac Pollaidh is easily accessed from the road which runs along Loch Lurgainn at its foot. There's a well-maintained path to the top which I climbed without too much difficulty. I'd obviously got fitter since my travails on Ben Nevis! The eastern top is simply reached, but the higher, western top can only be gained by a scramble up rocky gullies, slabs and pinnacles. I enjoyed the scrambling - the Torridonian sandstone was firm and grippy - but I'm afraid fear got the better of me in the end when I came to a short, but exposed, near-vertical rockface. So I didn't quite make it to the highest point. (For an experienced scrambler this would have been a piece of cake - there were plenty of holds - but I didn't want to take the risk, as I was wary of getting into trouble, being on my own. I would have gone for it if a mate had been with me.) Anyway, that's quite enough talk about my sensible discretion (or cowardice? Afterwards I wished I'd gone 'all the way'...) Let the pictures now do the talking...

Before returning to my Ullapool campsite, I drove west a few miles and came upon this superb, pristine sweep of sand at Achnahaird. Here a shallow river runs from bogland into one of the narrow inlets of Enard Bay. The sun had come out and the water sparkled, changing colour from light to dark as your eye followed it to the sea, first sandy brown, then turquoise, finally aquamarine. Near the shore purple patches of water shimmered over submerged, weed-encrusted rocks. The subtle spectrum of colour and constantly shifting light in North West Scotland is simply astonishing; no wonder so many artists are attracted to this place...


am said...

No wonder Bob Dylan bought a home in Scotland. Your photographs are extraordinary. I don't know what else to say except thanks so much for posting these images.

Let me drink from the waters where the mountain streams flood/Let the smell of wildflowers flow free through my blood/Let me sleep in your meadows with the green grassy leaves/Let me walk down the highway with my brother in peace/Let me die in my footsteps/Before I go down under the ground BOB DYLAN

The Solitary Walker said...

I am so in love with Scotland it hurts. I would live there if I could.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Love your photographs Robert - and am enjoying the journey you are taking us on. Love

sarahloldfield said...

Wonderful post!

We climbed Stac Pollaidh last year, up to a point. My husband pressed on, but also did not quite make the second top, whilst my daughters and I were already prudently descending.

The following day, having dropped my husband off to make a solitary attempt on Ben More Assynt, we spent a heavenly day on the small beach and island shown in your second photo.

On the return drive we visited the Knockan nature trail, which was my first encounter with the poetry of Norman McCaig. I had quite forgotten how impressed I was and am grateful for the reminder.

If we are ever in that vicinity again I shall make sure to seek out Achnahaird. Amazing photo.

I am very much enjoying your posts. Revisiting these places through the eyes of another is a vivid reminder of the compelling nature of the Highlands.

The Solitary Walker said...

I too walked the Knochan nature trail - with its stone sculptures inscribed with some of MacCaig's lines.

Thanks for linking to me in your blog. I've never been sandwiched between 3 delinquent rats and a Baconian artist before!

Backpackbrewer said...

yes the photos are great.
Dappled sunlight on water, grass and mountainside stirs the blood

gleaner said...

Amazing photos, I had to enlarge them to have a closer look, so very beautiful and peaceful...really enjoying your journey.

Dominic Rivron said...

Never ascended Stac Pollaidh myself. Would like to think I might get round to it.

I desperately wanted to live in Scotland for years but circumstances didn't allow for it. I think I've now got just about got it out of my system: as the price of petrol has increased over the years, so my forays to into mountains have diminished.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Robert - Mrs Do as you would be done by is in Charles Kingsley's Water Babies - I had it as a Sunday School Prize when I was eight and still read it sometimes. It was inspired by Malham Cove I believe. There is also a Mrs Done by as you did! All a bit dated but still quite charming. Hope you are OK

MichelleY said...


Great post!

I’m Michelle from Jam and I’m working with the Guardian on their ‘Enjoy England’ feature, which is being produced in partnership with enjoyEngland.com.

I would like to get in contact with you about an opportunity to share the great things we can do in England, but I could not find a contact email for you.

Is there a way I can contact you with this information? My email address is guardian@i-level.com.

Loved this post - photos were great, and it makes me excited to go to Scotland next month!

Kind regards,


Rachel Fenton said...

Had a wonderful holiday in North West Scotland before I left the UK for NZ...don't know when I'll get back but I'll be up there when I do. Beautiful pictures. I know what you mean about the light on the water - quite indescribable. Popped over via Rivron's blog.

TheChicGeek said...

So beautiful :D What a view and a hike! I love the comment about the purple patches in the water...I've seen water like that before...so pretty.

Thanks for taking us on this adventure with you! It was spectacular...even if only with our eyes and imaginations.

Have a Happy Day!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks everyone for your all your lovely and interesting comments!

Michelle - have sent you an email...

ips said...


just found your blog today ....spent all evening connecting the thoughts,places and similar travels. Here is a recent image of Polbain .
This part of the world is indeed special , so many visits,climbs,kayak trips and latterly music in Ullapool. Will comment and read through some more posts! You can see more images of this area and many places that may interest you in Scotland at my flickr address.