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10 things that Edie might do in the north west Highlands

The new heart-warming film Edie is set to hit UK cinema screens on 25 May. It tells the tale of recently-widowed Edie (Sheila Hancock) overcoming a lifetime of bitterness and resentment, as she plans to climb a Scottish mountain, after caring for her invalid husband for 30 years.

Edie movie poster

Sheila Hancock stars as Edie in this new film © Arrow Films

In the film, Edie aims to tackle 731 m tall Suilven, one of Sutherland’s most iconic hills. At 83 years old however, she realises she’s maybe not fit enough and employs local camping shop owner Jonny (Kevin Guthrie) as her outfitter and trainer. It’s a remarkable story of disappointments, dreams and determination. You can watch the movie trailer and walk in her footsteps following the WalkHighlands route. National treasure Sheila Hancock actually climbed the mountain (aged 84) for the movie and you can learn more in this fascinating behind-the-scenes clip.

Just like Edie, you too can be inspired by our magnificent Highland landscapes, whatever your age. Here are just 10 suggestions, there’s plenty more to discover:

1. A walker’s wonderland

Sheila Hancock on the shores of Fionn Loch with Suilven behind

Sheila Hancock as Edie on the shores of Fionn Loch with Suilven behind © Arrow Films

Sutherland has some of the finest scenery in Europe – the perfect place to escape the everyday. The best way to immerse yourself in this landscape, from sandy shores to solitary summits, is to lace up your walking boots and start exploring. WalkHighlands offers some outstanding routes. If you’re looking for dramatic views with a little less challenge, the Stac Pollaidh ridge and circuit is a short three mile climb on steep paths. Alternatively, Wilderness Scotland – Europe’s No. 1 Adventure Travel Company – offers a fully guided group walking trip to the Wilds of Assynt.

2. Chocolate delights at Cocoa Mountain

Chocolate eggs by Cocoa Mountain

Chocolate eggs by Cocoa Mountain

Wonderfully situated by Balnakeil Bay, just off the North Coast 500, Cocoa Mountain has to take top prize for most scenic chocolaterie. They produce delicious truffles and chocolates and excellent hot chocolate or Mountain Mocha fair trade coffee. The perfect indulgence after any outdoor activities. Visit them in Balnakiel Craft Village alongside a number of craftspeople and artists. A walk along the nearby stunning golden sands of the bay is very rewarding and Durness Golf Club is just a good 3-wood away.

3. Wild times at Handa Island

The dramatic cliffs of Handa Island, Sutherland

The dramatic cliffs of Handa Island, Sutherland

The wide, open landscape of the north west Highlands is home to many amazing species, including red deer, golden eagle, otter, seals and, if you’re lucky, Scottish wildcat. In spring and summer, take the pedestrian ferry to Handa Island and see thousands of seabirds including guillemots, razorbills and great skuas nesting on the impressive Torridonian sandstone cliffs. You may also see dolphins and whales off the coast.

4. The north west Highlands rock!

Kylesku Bridge, Sutherland

Kylesku Bridge, Sutherland © Richard Elliot/VisitScotland

This part of Scotland has been designated by UNESCO as a Global Geopark due to the outstanding landscape, which dates back three billion years and is of global importance. At the gateway to the geopark, a visitor centre at Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve offers wonderful insights and trails with stunning views. Or head into the heart of the Geopark to the Rock Stop Visitor Centre and Café, at Unapool. You can also explore more using the excellent Pebble Routes guides.

5. Human history

The ruins of Ardvreck Castle on the shores of Loch Assynt

The ruins of Ardvreck Castle on the shores of Loch Assynt

This part of Scotland has been settled for thousands of years. Take a walk to the Bone Caves near Inchnadamph, where evidence of cave-dwelling and the bones of long-extinct in Scotland lynx, bear, reindeer and wolves have been found, if you need any proof! There are many fascinating Neolithic sites to explore such as Clachtoll Broch, Loch Borralan Chambered Cairn and Dun Dornaigil Broch and no visit to the area would be complete without stopping at iconic 16th century Ardvreck Castle. The unusual Hermit’s Castle at Achmelvich is also worth exploring. Arguably Europe’s smallest castle, it was built in the 1950s by English architect David Scott.

6. Breathtaking beaches

The vast beach of Sandwood Bay, Sutherland

The vast beach of Sandwood Bay, Sutherland

The beaches in this part of the world are something extra special and there’s a good chance you’ll have the golden sparkling sands all to yourself. Take the long rewarding walk, passing myriad lochs for an overnight wild camp at Sandwood Bay with its sentinel Am Buachaille sea stack shepherding the waves. Or take a relaxing stroll along Achnahaird Beach, Sango Bay or Achmelvich Bay to unwind and revitalise your senses.

7. Fly-fishing paradise

The view from Stac Pollaidh, Sutherland

Sutherland’s dramatic loch-strewn scenery is ideal for fly-fishing

The remarkable Assynt landscape is dotted with many mighty inselbergs which loom large over sparkling hill lochs, lochans and winding rivers. There are many spots where experienced and novice anglers can enjoy some fishing and no one knows these waters better than Stewart Yates of Assynt Fly-Fishing. This has to be one of the best places to fish – if you can concentrate long enough amidst such amazing surroundings!

8. Let’s get crafty

The locals here take great inspiration from their awe-inspiring surroundings and you’ll come across many creative places to admire their works. Perhaps you’ll take a memento home to remind you of your time here. The aforementioned Balnakeil Craft Village hosts a number of artists and craftspeople and is well worth a visit, as are the creative hotspots of Highland Stoneware, Ripples Crafts and Achiltibuie Artists’ Gallery.

9. The drive of a lifetime

Driving along the North Coast 500 at Clachnessie

Driving along the North Coast 500 at Clachnessie

The north Highlands is a vast and untamed area full of quite breath-taking landscapes, towering waterfalls, beautiful beaches and dramatic coastlines. One of the best ways to explore the region is along the North Coast 500 touring route. Starting in Inverness, you’ll pass through many lovely places, including Assynt and Sutherland, as you explore this secluded part of Scotland. Develop your own itinerary or take the hassle out of planning with Wilderness Scotland’s self-guided trip. Get an eagle’s eye view of the route with some epic aerial footage in our new Scotland from Above video.

10. The lap of luxury

After your outdoors exertions, it’s time for some indulgence and this rugged part of Scotland is the ideal place for a bit of luxury. Inver Lodge in Lochinver offers unspoiled views, impeccable service, a warm welcome and a Chez Roux restaurant. Stay in a 15th century castle and experience the finest Highland hospitality at Ackergill Tower Hotel near Wick. The 5 gold star guest house of Pool House in Poolewe offers stunning surroundings and the warmest of welcomes. For a quick bite of the freshest seafood, stop off at the Seafood Shack and there’s more deliciousness to be had at the West Coast Deli – both are on Argyle Street in Ullapool. Spoil yourself with lovely things to smell and eat at Assynt Aromas or pick up something scrumptious at the Lochinver Craft and Produce Markets.

Find out more about this amazing part of Scotland that so inspired director Simon Hunter to film this touching movie here.