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Diary of a trip to Assynt – week 1

Saturday 23rd May 

Had the perfect start for our trip and drive north, with clear blue skies and the hills of the Southern Highlands looking stunning in their spring colours.  Warm too, it being 17 C when we stopped for breakfast at the Green Welly in Tyndrum.  But the bright conditions weren’t to last, even by the time we were a few miles up the road driving across Rannoch Moor, we could see the high grey cloud moving down from the north west.  By the time we were in Glencoe village it was grey all over and just 9°C!  Little did we know that this was a taste of things to come?  The remainder of the trip north to Assynt was under increasingly dark skies and the final few miles along the single track road to the cottage we’d booked for the first week on the Storr peninsular, saw the rain start falling.  We’d picked a beautiful spot to stay all the same and even in the gloomy light and rain of the first evening, Nita could see wild geese grazing the rough pasture outside the cottage window.

Sunday 24th May 

Woke to bright sunlight and beautiful views across the land to the sea.  In between, in the hollow in these small hills, lay a wee loch and a short wander from the cottage took us to its shore.  I was surprised to find small banks of reeds growing around the edge which made for interesting patterns and possibly, some drawings in the future.

Monday 25th May  

Quinag, Assynt

Below Quinag, heavy shower

Heavy showers and high winds forecast, so decided on a lazy day checking out access to the ground leading up to below Sail Gorm on Quinag.  I’ve wanted to try and get up to below this part of the hill for some years in order to do some sketching and perhaps make a recording or two.  We found a convenient parking place and access, at least to start with seemed good …..we just needed a little dry weather.  Even the water proof drawing pen my colleague Alex Boyd had given me, would not do too well in the very  heavy showers that kept racing in from the north west.  Got some great views of Quinag as it was engulfed in one of these showers.  Time to head for lunch at the Scourie Hotel!

Tuesday 26th May

Assynt, Sutherland

The Old Man of Storr

More heavy showers and strong winds and so not a day for the high tops.  Instead, Nita suggested we walk the few kilometres from the cottage, out to Storr Head and the Old Man of Storr.    The 1:25000 map showed no fences all the way from the road near the cottage but we soon found  our way blocked and we had an annoying  hour and a half trying to find our way as two more tracks were blocked by fences and gates.  We did finally get to the open ground and had a fine walk out to Storr Head via a small hill that even at I think, 169m, gave impressive views.  The Old Man of Storr, a huge sea stack, was well worth seeing and the roar of the sea crashing against its base, made for some interesting recordings hopefully.  We returned along the cliff tops to the Storr lighthouse and then back to the cottage along the single track road in bright early evening sunshine.  Despite a few heavy showers early on, we arrived home dry!

Wednesday 27th May

Heavy rain and gales all day.  Feet up, heaters on, food, drink and much reading  / listening to books.  It finally eased around 21.00 and a few bursts of late sun had us driving the couple of miles to the nearest beach.  Big waves and very strange light …but good to get an airing.

Thursday 28th May

Scotttish Landscape

On the lower slopes of Canisp, 28th May 2015

No let up in the cold, showers and wind ….but it did seem that conditions would be a little better, so we decided to go for a proper walk and we headed for Canisp.  We’d done two big walks on this hill in the past.  One of them, on a fine hot day, saw us reach the summit of this fine hill.  The other attempt saw us do a circular walk up to a point about 600m on the hill before being turned back by high winds.  It seemed that conditions would be similar today and so we planned to walk the same route.

Sutherland, Scottish Landscape

Between showers, Canisp, 28th May 2015

This involved crossing a large footbridge over one of the streams flowing from below Canisp.  When we got to it though ….well, it was there ….but not crossing the stream.  At some point in the past it had been swept away and was left high and dry on the bank of the stream!  All was not lost though as we were walking in one of Scotland’s finest limestone areas ….and this stream simply disappeared underground a few hundred metres up-stream!  With the water levels being so high, it hadn’t completely disappeared and we spent quite a time picking our way through and across small but luckily narrow rushing streams.  Back on course we had a fabulous walk.  At first, enjoying some bright patches of sunlight but then becoming engulfed by a series of huge hail showers that blasted down with real force.  The landscape around Canisp is so wild and rough  and these conditions really made you feel quite isolated …..there was no-one else stupid enough to be out  that day, not on this hill anyway.

Friday 29th May

Suilven, Scottish Landscape

Suilven from the near the Stoor lighthouse, 29th May 2015

After the long walk the day before, we decided to head back to the Storr lighthouse so that I could do some sketching and try and make some more sound recordings.  It was still cold but the sun was shining and the cliffs and churning waves looked great.  Had a well earned cup of tea at Living the Dream …. sat with our mugs of tea looking out over the sea…. a magnificent end to a very enjoyable first week in Assynt.

We headed a few miles south for our second week, staying in one of the caravans close to the beautiful beach at Achmelvich.  More about this second week in Assynt in my next blog.