Ullapool and Assynt: the true Highland North
Edinburgh to Ullapool is a 5 hour drive. Depending on how many days you have in the campervan you can either head directly north to this extraordinary part of Scotland or you can add the trip to a West Coast wander.
The real highlight is this region’s remoteness. You will feel very much at one with your environment and will see ample wildlife and plant life. Enjoy a sunset at the Hermits Castle as well as an adventure into ancient caves. Every turn in the road will present a new view which will not disappoint.
Total time/distance: 3 days from Ullapool, 4/5 days from Edinburgh
Ullapool is reached by driving up the side of Loch Broom on the A835 and is a busy Highland town with ferries sailing regularly to the Outer Hebrides and fishing vessels leaving and arriving. The Ceilidh Place is well known for its welcome and night life.
From Ullapool the road to Assynt gradually becomes more twisted, the climbs more apparent and the traffic begins to dwindle dramatically. This route takes you through some incredible scenery dominated by the peaks of Suilven, Canisp, Conival and Quinag; this really is the furthest wilderness of the country.
As this region is sparsely populated there is plenty of scope to to enjoy all the opportunities it offers from cycling, walking, swimming and camping. There are many places where you can pull up in your campervan and make camp. Loch Lurgainn is in spectacular surroundings with Stac Pollaih in the north and Sgorr Tuath; camp here and wake up with a view you will never forget.
Useful to know: Wild Camping
Most Scots just call this camping; for as long as we have known, you head off for a few days and pitch a tent where you like the view. This is still pretty much the case in Scotland and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code will keep you right.
Just remember – your rubbish is your rubbish so please don’t leave anything behind – oh and bury your poop!!!
The Hermits Castle is said to be the smallest castle in Europe. The castle was built as a folly in the 1950s and is sometimes home to walkers stopping for the night or just for people wanting to watch the sun set. Follow the signs to Achmelvich Beach on the B869 and from the carpark head past the caravan site towards the rocky peninsula.
Further up the coast The Old Man of Stoer is an incredible 60m sea stack, you may witness climbers making their way to the top. If not, you are likely to see dolphins or whales and many fine coastal views. Take the B869 and then the minor road towards Point of Stoer then embark on the 1.5 mile long trek along the path.
Useful to know
You can wild camp or you could stop off at Clachtoll Beach Campsite. Take the A837 towards Lochinver and turn off on the road to Clachtoll.
Take the road along the coast and stop off at the Rock Stop Cafe and Visitor Centre in Unapool. Here you will learn about the amazing landscape’s geological history as well as enjoy fine views over Loch Glencoul.
From here you can choose to continue north to North West Sutherland and Cape Wrath or take the A894 south. If you choose to drive south then your next stop should be the Bones Cave which got it’s name due to the number of animal bones discovered there in the 1800’s. Arctic Fox, brown bear and polar bear bones were excavated. There are three caves set in the northern crags of Beinn an Fhuarain and to reach them you need to follow the A837 and park 2 miles south of Inchnadamph at the Inchnadamph Hotel carpark. You then take the path upstream past the waterfall. As you cross the river the path can become quite steep. Nearby are the Traligill Caves, the deepest cave system in the country which you can also visit.
On the map this region looks like it is more water than land but the land is boastful and presents many different terrains. Munro’s recede and the incredible landscape of Assynt and Coigach comes into view. The hills here stand upright in the otherwise flat moorland in dramatic fashion. The area has been designated the Northwest Highland Geopark, which received UNESCO Geopark status in 2004.
From Inchnadamph take A837 to A9 and this will get you back to Edinburgh in around 5.5 hours. Or you can go back to Ullapool and return to Edinburgh via the A835 in a similar time.