Walk the North West Highlands and Skye

Resort: Skye
Operator: Explore
Destination: Scotland
Price From: £1439.00

Why book this trip?

This three-centre walking holiday showcases the stunning natural beauty and wild nature of Scotland’s North West Highlands and Skye. Enjoy varied and rewarding walks on glacier-carved mountains, spectacular coastal scenery and the rugged interior and iconic landscapes of Skye. Expertly guided by our experienced mountain leader and intertwined with culture, cuisine, history, nature and geology.

 

  • – North West Highlands UNESCO Geopark– Climb iconic hills in the Assynt and Inverpolly
  • – Gairloch– Explore the coastline with stunning seascapes and pristine white-sand beaches
  • – Isle of Skye– Experience the magic of the Cuillin and Quiraing
  • – Small group walking holiday– Maximum 8 guests

 

Itinerary

DAY 1– Join trip Inverness. Drive to Ullapool

The trip starts at Inverness Rail Station at 13.30. After meeting we have a scenic drive (1.5hrs) to Ullapool, a thriving fishing town nestled on the shores of beautiful Loch Broom. Founded in 1788 as a herring port, the town was designed by Thomas Telford. Despite its size with just 1500 inhabitants, it is the largest settlement in the area and an important tourist destination and port. Located just to the north of Ullapool is the UNESCO Geopark of the North West Highlands – an area of remarkable natural beauty, with dramatic mountain landscapes, pristine sandy beaches, ancient settlements and remote communities – all within one of the most sparsely populated corners of Europe. After settling into our accommodation we plan a warm up hike on Ullapool Hill with commanding views over the loch, village and the Summer Isles – a perfect introduction to our trip.

The Tour Leader will talk through the plan for the coming days in an introductory briefing this evening. Please note that the planned walks may need to be changed in accordance with the weather, to maximise your enjoyment, and the Tour Leader will discuss these on the ground if necessary.

Today’s intro walk will take approximately 2 hours and will cover a distance of 3-4 kilometres along grassy trails with a total ascent and descent of 500 metres.

DAY 2– Explore the Assynt and climb Cul Mor

After a full Scottish breakfast we embark on our first exploration of the UNESCO Geopark with a wonderful walk in the Assynt region just to the north of Ullapool. Assynt is rich in indigenous plant life such as lavender, miniature wild orchids and Scotland’s national flower, the thistle. The western part of this area has distinctive-shaped mountains sculpted by the huge forces of glaciation, resulting in 800 million-year-old Torridonian sandstone \ island\ mountains that rise majestically from the loch-strewn moors. Our aim today is to climb Cul Mor and the ascent starts from Knochan Crag making use of a good path onto the upper reaches of the hill with some off-trail hiking towards the top. From the summit we enjoy a breath-taking 360\ panorama of this dramatic landscape. We descend and return to the vehicle via a different route.

Today’s walk will take approximately 6 hours and will cover a distance of 14 kilometres, with a mix of trails and off-trail routes, with a total ascent and descent of 750 metres.

DAY 3– Climb Stac Pollaidh and transfer to Gairloch

We check out of the guesthouse this morning after breakfast. First we drive north again into the Geopark, this time further east into the Inverpolly area to Stac Pollaidh; arguably one of the more well-known and distinctive hills in the area. From the foot of the mountain with its distinctive sandstone pinnacles shaped by the last ice-age, it looks impressive, but the climb is relatively easy. After hiking to the easterly top and taking in the unforgettable vista, we continue our walk all around this mountain on the way back down. Back in the vehicle we make our way, on a scenic drive south (2hrs), to our next base in Gairloch. If time permits we have a quick stop at Corrieshalloch Gorge, an impressive 200m deep chasm containing the Falls of Measach. Situated on the shore of Loch Gairloch, the small town of Gairloch is a great base for exploring the awe-inspiring scenery of Wester Ross.

Today’s shorter walk will take approximately 3 hours and will cover a distance of 4 kilometres, mostly on trails, very steep in parts, with a total ascent and descent of 510 metres.

DAY 4– Walk the dramatic coast on Rua Reidh headland, looking for marine and bird life

Today we explore the dramatic coastal scenery on the headland just to the north of Gairloch, with stunning views across the Straits of Minch to the Isle of Skye and the Western Isles. We ascend from sea level to the 350-metre cliffs, looking out for marine life such as Atlantic seal, dolphin or basking shark, and abundant birdlife including gannets, fulmar, shag, kittiwakes and divers. Unique heathland plants thrive here, including bog asphodel and several species of insectivorous plants. The coastline offers many miles of beautiful cliffs, sea stacks and sandy beaches. After the walk we return to Gairloch and the rest of the afternoon is free. We suggest a visit to the fascinating Gairloch Museum and or the famous Inverewe Gardens by Osgood Mackenzie. The gardens are noted for their Himalayan and New Zealand plant collections, as well as their classic English garden.

Today’s walk will take approximately 4-5 hours and will cover a distance of 11 kilometres, mostly off trail and undulating, with a total ascent and descent of 280 metres.

DAY 5– Hike Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail. Transfer to Isle of Skye

After breakfast and checking out of our accommodation we drive east and our first stop is the Beinn Eighe massif, Britain’s oldest National Nature Reserve – which now forms part of the UNESCO Wester Ross Biosphere reserve. Beinn Eighe is a vast mountain ridge, between Glen Torridon and Loch Maree, with a cluster of rugged peaks and screes slopes that are home to a diversity of wildlife. The lower hillsides are home to 350-year-old Scots pines and the oldest rocks here (indeed the oldest in the world) are Lewissian gneiss, dating back some 3 billion years. Our walk climbs steeply from pinewood forest onto a bare plateau of quartzite rocks. The views over Loch Maree and the hills behind are breath-taking.

In the afternoon we continue our drive through beautiful scenery, stopping after an hour to visit the 13th century Eilean Donan Castle – one of the most spectacular in Scotland. We then drive across the bridge to Skye, the largest and northernmost of the Inner Hebrides, and on to our final base in the tiny hamlet of Sconser located on the shores of a sea loch.

Today’s shorter walk will take approximately 3-4 hours and will cover a distance of 7 kilometres, mostly on marked trails, with a total ascent and descent of 680 metres.

DAY 6– Skye – Cuillin Hills Climb Bruach Na Frithe

After breakfast we drive a short distance into the Cuillin Hills. Two Cuillin ranges dominate the landscape on Skye – the Black and the Red Cuillin separated by Glen Sligachan. The iconic ridge of the Black Cuillin is one of the most challenging ranges in the UK and is often the training ground for British climbers preparing for Himalayan ascents. The Munro Bruach na Frithe is considered one of the more accessible and straightforward peaks in this beautiful range and the views get better with each step on the rocky path. Once on the top, the amazing views include Ben Nevis to the east and the Outer Hebrides to the west.

Today’s walk will take approximately 6-7 hours and will cover a distance of 14 kilometres, on rocky trails, with some scree and some off-trail sections, with a total ascent and descent of 950 metres.

DAY 7– Skye – Climb the Quiraing for dramatic views

For our final day of hiking we enjoy a scenic drive (1hr) up to the far north end of the Trotternish Ridge to the Quiraing – a stunning landscape that has been formed by a massive landslip which has created rugged cliffs, hidden plateaux and rock pinnacles. Our goal is The Table – a grassy summit plateau that offers dramatic views of the surrounding landscape including the Cuillin, the Western Isles, the mountains of Wester Ross and out to the sea. Time permitting, we plan to make a stop in charming and colourful Portree, the capital of Skye, on the way back to our accommodation.

Today’s shorter walk will take approximately 4-5 hours and will cover a distance of 7 kilometres, sometimes on-trail and other times off-trail, grassy with some rocky sections, with a total ascent and descent of 380 metres.

DAY 8– Drive via Loch Ness to Inverness where our trip ends

After a last hearty breakfast we bid farewell to the Isle of Skye. The drive back to Inverness takes around three hours and we plan to drive alongside Loch Ness for the final section of the route. We arrive back at the rail station at about 12.30 where the trip ends.

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