Waking up and slowly clambering out of our tent, we arose to sunny skies over Ullapool. We had finally arrived for our first day in Scotland after a long drive from South of London. Being in no rush that morning, we took our time packing up our camping gear into the car. It was like playing a game of Tetris. We enjoyed a nice, warm, cooked breakfast courtesy of husband chef. (the best kind of chef!) After which, we drove to Lochinver to begin our trek up Suilven mountain.
The mountain was shrouded in a cloud of mystery upon arrival. We couldn’t see the top from the start of the trail. From where we were standing, it was difficult not to be intimidated by this mountain. It still looked quite some ways off in the distance.
If you look at the route profile, you’ll see that the walk is essentially: follow the path to the base of the mountain, go up the mountain, come back down. The only real ascending you do is the really steep one to the summit.
The instructions we were following for our hike gave us a good chuckle when we reached the base of the mountain. The instruction read: “The ascent of the gully might look intimidating, but it is merely a very steep walk requiring care and effort.” Ah yes–do not be intimidated by the near vertical ascent you are about to make. Just be careful.
We experienced all four seasons of Scotland in this one hike. One moment it was a beautiful, sunny, summer day, then the wind started to pick up bringing us into autumn, then cold rain mixed with high winds brought us into winter, and finally, the dying down of the wind and the breaking of the clouds saw us into spring and then back to summer.
I think to sum up the hike in one word would be: WINDY. Our excellent wind expert, Chris, gauged the wind to be about 50mph at certain points. He based this off of his past experience sticking his head out of car windows traveling at various speeds. At one point Mike lost his hat due to an unexpected strong gust of wind. We watched his hat tumble along until it drifted out of site over a neighboring hill. So long, hat.
The view at the summit of Suilven was absolutely spectacular. We were quite fortunate that the clouds had mostly cleared when we reached the top and allowed us the beautiful views of the surrounding areas. We didn’t stay too long, however, as the cold, high winds were making it a bit unbearable.
Lacking squirrely suits (you know the things I’m talking about…) or a zip line, we began the downward trek. We stayed the night at the Suilven bothy nearby. (after Mike and Chris graciously trekked back to the car for our sleeping bags and food while I secured our spaces in the bothy—aka I napped). I’m incredibly grateful for these two guys as I would probably never be able to hike up such mountains without them cheering me on or patiently waiting for me to catch up.
That evening we listened to the wind rage outside as we drifted off to sleep, thankful that we had proper shelter over our heads. If you stay in a bothy, please follow the bothy code. Be respectful and take all of your trash with you.
The following morning, we packed our gear up and trekked back to the car. We explored some of the small shops in Lochinver, and enjoyed a hearty meal at the Lochinver Larder.
Falls of Kirkaig
A few minutes drive away, we went to the Falls of Kirkaig parking lot. There is a walk you can do that starts (or finishes) at the Falls and goes all the way up to Suilven and down the way we originally went, but it’s a much longer hike. The walk itself to the Falls of Kirkaig is relatively simple. There is a steep bit towards the end to get to the actual falls and some boggy parts, but you don’t need to be an experienced climber to do it. When you reach the boggy parts, there are generally some stepping stones to use. However, these stepping stones were placed for long legs, not short legs like mine. An alternative route around the bog may be required.
The falls were nice. I thought the walk leading up to them was a lot nicer, but it was a much welcomed, easy walk after the long day we had previously up Suilven.
We drove onwards to Torridon to camp for the night. We were met by billions of midgies! For those that don’t know, midgies are like mosquitos (but smaller and swarm) or like sand flies (with less of a nasty bite). We were lucky thus far on our trip to avoid them, probably due to all of the wind, but unfortunately the swarm found us in Torridon. We quickly set up camp and practically ran to the pub down the road to escape and eat in peace.
The following day, I woke up feeling incredibly ill. Stuffy nose, sore throat, the works. The plan had been to hike up Ben Alligin, but I knew there was no way I was going to make it up another big mountain feeling so sick. So, while the guys trudged up another Munro, I passed out in the car. I awoke 5 hours later to Mike knocking on the window and a pool of drool congregating on my arm.
Feeling significantly better after my rest, we carried on towards Skye.