An evening Jolly up Stac Pollaidh

By Pete Elliott

We were just entering the second week of an epic road trip through the NW Highlands of Scotland as we rolled into Assynt, a sparsely populated area in the North west highlands, known for its towering monolith mountains that jut out from the landscape, with vast swaths of interconnected lochs in between. Most of Assynt is accessible by a single track road, however there is breathtaking beauty around every bend so it’s always enjoyable even sitting in the car. To delve deeper into Assynt you have to explore on foot, in immersing yourself in the ruggedness of the place you will find beauty in its Knoch and Lochan landscape, as peaks rise vertically from the moorland below. With 4 days of high pressure forecasted we were itching to get our boots on and head out for an adventure. On day 3 of our adventure we opted to hike Stac Pollaidh for sunset. There isn’t much that can prepare you for the stunning vistas in this peninsula on Scotland’s far north-west, and climbing Stac Pollaidh will showcase this area at its very best.

Stac Pollaidh is a rather large smooth lump of chocolate red sandstone, that has a distinctive spiky top ridgeline. The hike up Stac Pollaidh isn’t too strenuous and the trailhead starts from the car park. The path to the summit is well made and isn’t too steep until you reach the top section and the final little climb to the ridge.  The rewards definitely outweigh the effort, at only 612m this peak punches above its weight, offering unparalleled views of Assynt. As with a lot of hikes in Assynt, the car park isn’t the most spacious so get here early, unfortunately due to the reward to effort ratio this is a popular peak for hill walkers.

When you reach the ridge the views are 360 degrees. Peer south and you’ll be looking into the Summer Isles, and north you’ll see the looming peaks of Assynt beyond. We took some time to enjoy the east summit, finding ourselves alone as most people would be heading down before light faded. We then headed west along to the true summit. To reach this you have to find an access point to the high rocky ridge. There are a few paths that will lead you up to this through small rivines, but some scrambling is required. When you reach the western end the ‘true’ summit is actually accessible only by a short bit of scrambling/climbing, that proved too much for us with our weighty camera bags. It was here we waited for the setting sun to illuminate the peaks around us.

The views are some of the best in Assynt, and you won’t be too tired to enjoy them.  The mountains in Assynt are so sparse a telephoto lens is essential, and for this hike I carried my wide angle, mid zoom and telephoto lenses so I was covered. As aforementioned the hike isnt too strenuous so the extra weight is well worth it! The views over the towering monolith Suilven and the Assynt Wilderness are simply breathtaking and we spent the hour enjoying the gorgeous golden light and snapping away all the way through to blue hour. It really is a showstopper of a peak and we were in high spirits as we donned our head torches and began the route back down to the ridge and then on down to the car.

  1. jackcairney June 29, 2020 8:39 am

    Great article Pete! such a spectacular area.