G U E S T B L O G : Robert Baker – Outside Pursuits
There are few places as remote and unspoiled as the Summer Isles and the Scottish Highlands around Coigach. This region has inspired many adventure novels and was important in the rise of Scottish conservation.
If you love nature and natural landscapes, you will feel like you’ve arrived in Paradise. There are many items you can cross off your bucket list by visiting Coigach and the Summer Isles. Here are just 7.
The best way to explore the Summer Isles Archipelago is by sea kayak. Most of the islands are uninhabited and unspoiled by modern civilization, making them a haven for wildlife. Rarely will you find such beautiful natural scenery. By using a kayak, you can access places difficult for other travellers, such as the impressive An Eaglais Mhoh (Cathedral Cave), a stunning sea cave on the southern side of the island of Tanera Beag.
Ideally, you should visit the islands with a local guide who can lead you to the most interesting places and supply answers to your questions about the geography, flora, fauna, and history of the islands. Even if you have no previous experience of kayaking, you can join an organised tour where the necessary kayak safety equipment and lessons in kayak safety are provided. Kayaks are a safe mode of transport, suitable for your whole family as long as you’re all in good health.
If you’re an adventurous soul, take a tent along on your kayaking adventure and spend a few nights on the islands. There you’ll be truly out in the wilderness, miles from any neighbour. Just be careful not to mar the beauty of the pristine beaches by leaving behind litter.
The Assynt-Coigach National Scenic Area is renowned for its remote peaks, bogs, and wild lochs, such as Loch Sionascaig. The best way to explore this area is by Canadian canoe. These open-topped canoes ride higher in the water than a kayak, providing you with excellent views of the surrounding Inverpollaidh peaks. And their spacious design means there’s plenty of room for Rover!
There are many established loch-side campsites in the Inverpolly area where you can pitch your tent. From there, you can take Rover roving along scenic hiking paths and scale the surrounding hills and mountains. Whether you fancy a short paddle across Loch Veyatie or an epic journey through multiple lochs and climbing several summits, Coigach can provide you with what you need.
Some hikers like to stick to the well-trodden path, preferably tarmacked. Others have more imagination! Corrieshalloch Gorge is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserve located just south of Ullapool. A major feature of the gorge is the 150-feet-tall Falls of Measach. You can view this waterfall and the scenic gorge from the top, using a Victorian suspension footbridge or the viewing platform. Alternatively, you can get closer to the action and view the scenery from a better angle by canyoneering.
The route along the inside of the gorge is challenging, with uneven and slippery terrain, so you’ll need to be in good shape. Ideally, visit as part of a group led by a local expert. But once you’re in the heart of the gorge, the fauna and flora make it feel like walking through Jurassic Park.
From the lofty mountain crags of Stac Pollaidh to the scenic sea cliffs of Reiff, there are many great places to learn how to climb vertical faces within the Assynt-Coigach National Scenic Area. The range of rock types makes the climbing interesting and educational.
Even if you’ve never tried any serious climbing before, there are local experts who can show you how to don a harness and place your gear. Whether you’re more interested in attaining that impossible summit or abseiling down again, you can fulfil your climbing ambitions by visiting Coigach. And if you explore the cliffs and mountains with a local guide, you can also learn about the geological processes that created the surrounding breath-taking scenery.
If you want to conquer mountains, but you don’t want to face too many vertical climbs, scrambling is for you. Scrambling is the lovechild of mountaineering and hiking — using a climbing rope and harness but choosing less dangerous approaches to the peaks.
Within the Assynt-Coigach National Scenic Area, you’ll find many challenging peaks to climb, such as Cul Mòr, Cul Beag, and Stac Pollaidh. Scrambling enables you to reach heights inaccessible to hikers and provides you with spectacular panoramic views view people ever see.
The best way to enjoy scrambling is by joining an expert-led tour. A local expert will know all the safest and most interesting routes through the mountains. They will also be able to teach you new climbing techniques and tell you all about the geological history of the Inverpolly peaks.
#6. Spot rare and beautiful birds
If you enjoy birdwatching, the Assynt-Coigach National Scenic Area provides ample opportunities for you to observe and photograph some of the rarest and most beautiful birds. In the Islands, Achiltibuie and the Inverpolly area, you can spot many birds worth writing home about.
Among the more impressive birds to spot are the osprey, and white-tailed sea eagle. Also watch out for buzzards, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, barnacle geese, greylag geese, hen harriers, and many other avian species.
And it’s not just birds you should watch for. In the sea surrounding the Summer Isles, watch out for dolphins, seals, otters, and even basking sharks. If you’re lucky, you might encounter a whale! In the Highlands, keep your eyes peeled for deer, stoats, badgers, foxes, weasels, and pine martens. But watch where you step. Adders are also found around here!
#7. Go scuba diving to admire the marine life and explore shipwrecks
The rugged coastline of the Coigach Peninsula boasts some of the best diving conditions in the British Isles. This is because of its rich marine life, clear waters, and the number of shipwrecks found on the seabed.
Among the Summer Isles, Tanera Beag is a popular dive site. Divers love to explore the area around the Cathedral Cave (An Eaglais Mhor) on the south side of the island. And off the coast of Tanera More, you can explore the wrecks of the Fairweather V and the Boston Stirling, both modern fishing trawlers that met their end here within recent years. But if you’re looking for something larger to explore, check out the remains of the Jambo, a cargo ship that sank just north of Tanera Beag in 2003.