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Kylesku Bridge

Outdoors

Highland Cycling Itinerary - The Assynt Achiltibuie Circular

Go on an epic, weeklong cycling adventure through the wild, remote and mountainous northwest of Scotland. This route can be challenging at times, so bring the right gear and the right experience. For this itinerary, we’ll assume that every day you start at the previous day’s final stop. But feel free to tweak the route or to add extra days to fit your holiday or accommodation needs. Bits of this route can get a bit busy during the summer. Luckily, the route is just as beautiful during the autumn.

Most stops on this itinerary are just that; places to stop and rest. We’ll highlight when an attraction is close to accommodation options, so you could drop your gear off safely without worrying about storage. If you plan on camping in Scotland’s great outdoors, please read the Scottish Outdoor Access Code’s Wild Camping Guidance for useful tips. Or, even better, support local businesses by using campsites and other accommodation options in the area.

Transport

Cycle

Jours

7

Miles

117

Parcours

Ullapool, Achiltibuie, Inverkirkaig, Clachtoll, Drumbeg, Kylesku, Inchnadamph, Ullapool

Points phares

Ullapool, Stac Pollaidh, Achmelvich, Old man of Stoer, Kylesku, Ardvreck Castle, Inchnadamph

Zones couvertes

North

Jour 1

Présentation

Arriving in Achiltibuie

Get ready for a transformative journey through one of the most unspoilt natural environments in the UK. Today, you’ll hug the coast of Loch Broom before moving inland. Squeeze though a narrow but gorgeous mountain pass that abuts a series of lochs, before returning to the coast.
  • Miles

    24

  • Km

    39

  • Arrêts

    3

  • Transport

    Cycle

Ullapool

Ullapool is a great place to start this epic trip through one of the most remote and popular areas of the UK. Despite its seemingly far off location, the town is easily reached by coach from Inverness or by ferry from Stornoway.

You could also hire your bike at Ullapool, which makes the journey to this faraway area even easier. Just be sure you’ll get the right bike for the terrain and don’t forget to check the terms and conditions before hiring.

You don’t want to stick too long in this pretty Highland hub though, as you’ve got a full day ahead of you. Besides, you’ll see Ullapool soon enough again at the end of your epic trek.

Stac Pollaidh

Your first real stop of this route is over 2,000 ft tall Stac Pollaidh. This iconic Graham overlooks the entire area which you will explore in these next couple of days. But don’t let its flat head fool you, the top actually consists of a number of sharp pinnacles.

If you wish to climb the mountain, we’d recommend you’d add another day to your trip and get accommodation a bit further down the road to drop off your gear. The walk is quite straightforward and takes about 2 to 4 hours, with an optional ascent to up to a ridge on top of the mountain.

This mountain can get a lot of visitors, so, if you’d rather admire this mountain from below, you could stop at the car park opposite the start of the path and safely take in the area’s beauty before you take to the road again.

Achiltibuie

Achiltibuie and other places along the coast of Badentarbat Bay have plenty of cosy accommodation options to choose from, such as the Acheninver Hostel, as well as a breath-taking view over the bay and the Summer Isles. Remember, this area is quite popular, so book well in advance. These surroundings are home to many sea birds, dolphins, porpoises, seals, whales and eagles, which you could see up close on a day trip kayak adventure.

Looking to shorten this itinerary a bit? At Badnagyle, turn north towards Inverkirkaig instead of continuing west to Achiltibuie, and continue this itinerary from Day 2, Stop 2.

Jour 2

Présentation

Arriving in Assynt

This section is arguably most true to the itinerary’s name, for today you’ll start in Achiltibuie and end in Assynt. You’ll also have an amazing view over The Minch, the water separating the Outer Hebrides from the mainland.
  • Miles

    19

  • Km

    31

  • Arrêts

    2

  • Transport

    Cycle

Rubha Mòr

Start by making your way to Atlandhu to follow part of the Atlandhu and Polbain Circuit clockwise towards Achnahaird Beach, a golden beach that stretches from the bay all the way inland. This area is called the Rubha Mòr or Rubha na Còigich, meaning ‘Big Headland’ and ‘Headland of the Five’ in Gaelic (five referring to the five townships in the area).

You’ll also notice that every other picturesque village on your route seems to start with ‘Ach-’. That’s simply because ‘ach’ or ‘auch’ means ‘field’. So, Achiltibuie (or Achd Ille Bhuidhe) is Blonde Man’s Field. With so many Gaelic placenames, it’s no surprise that a number of Scots in the area can actually speak this beautiful language. Check our video to learn some words and exchange some pleasantries with the locals.

Once you’ve made it to Loch Ra, you’re back on the same road as you were yesterday. Turn north at the road junction and again at the next one to continue your tour towards Inverkirkaig.

Tip: Why not rest your legs by the Am Fuaran Bar and enjoy a nice meal? If you spend some extra days in the area, you could spend the night at the nearby Port a Bhaigh campsite.

Inverkirkaig

Making your way north, it’s a nearly 9-mile cycle towards Inverkirkaig. This bit of the route stays parallel to the coast and weaves past a great number of small lochs. At times, the terrain will be quite flat, at times, quite hilly. But you know you’ve reached your destination when you’ve crossed the Elder’s Pool, a small burn south of Inverkirkaig.

This burn forms the historic border between Sutherland to the north and Ross & Cromarty to the south. Until 1975, the immediate area to the north was called the Assynt district, which to this day still jampacked with all sorts of fun things to see & do.

Jour 3

Présentation

A Captivating Coast

Going even further north, you’ll pass a bit of coast that is so beautiful and captivating that it was made part of the North Coast 500.
  • Miles

    13

  • Km

    21

  • Arrêts

    3

  • Transport

    Cycle

Lochinver

The first leg of this journey is the small country road north up to Lochinver, which serves as a kind of hub for the local area. Relax in some of the cafés, browse the craft & produce market or get a small handmade cup or decorative plate as a souvenir at Highland Stoneware. Lochinver also has some shops, making it one of the few places on this itinerary to purchase some food & drink to take with you on the go.

Achmelvich

Turn west onto the North Coast 500 at the Lochinver Fire Station to get to the turquois water of Achmelvich Bay. Bask in the sun at the white sand beach or explore the surroundings to discover Hermit’s Castle. Smaller and more modern than you’d think, Hermit’s Castle is reputably one of Europe’s smallest castles, erected out of concrete in the 1950’s by English architect David Scott.

Achmelvich Bay can get a bit busy during the summer, but don’t worry, there are plenty of hidden gem beaches in the area.

Do you love literature? Scottish author Val McDermid set her story of murder and punishment in this castle. You can read this and more Scottish crime stories in the bundle Bloody Scotland (2017).

Looking to shorten this itinerary a bit? At the Lochinver Fire Station, continue east towards Ardvreck Castle instead of turning west to Achmelvich, and continue this itinerary from Day 6, Stop 1.

Clachtoll

From the 1950s, we go to the original 50’s with a visit to an impressive Iron Age dwelling. Based of archaeological evidence, the Clachtoll Broch was last inhabited in A.D. 50 when its tower collapsed. But the over 10 ft walls still stand to this day, making it one of the most impressive Iron Age structures in all of North West Scotland.

Why not also enjoy the nearby sandy beach? This wide and, at some places, rocky stretch of land has a serene yet adventurous beauty.

Jour 4

Présentation

Down to Drumbeg

Today will be one of many ups and downs. Luckily, by travelling west to east, you’ll mostly encounter longer, gentle climbs and short, steep drops. If you have a pair of binoculars on you, you definitely want to take them out today. Weather permitting, you might see a range of incredible wildlife.
  • Miles

    16

  • Km

    25

  • Arrêts

    2

  • Transport

    Ferry

Clashnessie Bay, Assynt

Stoer Peninsula

About 5 miles northwest of Clachtoll, you’ll find the pretty, whitewashed Stoer Head Lighthouse, from where you’ll have an amazing view of The Minch. Once designed by the famous Stevenson family, nowadays the fully automated lighthouse serves as holiday accommodation (which you could book for this trip).

If you don’t stay the night there, you could park your bike at the nearby Coffee Shop at Stoer Lighthouse, from where the trail to the Old man of Stoer starts. The 2-mile track to the spectacular 330 ft sea-stack boasts an impressive coastal scenery and is one of the best walks in Assynt for some whale and dolphin spotting.

Tip: If you got a lot of gear, consider leaving it at your accommodation (especially if it’s in or north of Clachtoll) and visit the peninsula first, before collecting it and continuing the rest of your journey.

Drumbeg

Cycle back to the main road (B869) and turn north towards Drumbeg. Right before you’re about to enter the village, you’ll see a parking bay of sorts (and maybe a couple of sheep) to your left. This is the Drumbeg Viewpoint, from where you’ll have an amazing view over the Eddrachillis Bay down below.

Tip: You might also find some more accommodation options further up the road in Nedd, but only Drumbeg has shops. So, if possible, do your shopping first.

Jour 5

Présentation

Bridging Borders

Get ready to see a village that doesn’t exist anymore. After you leave the shores of Loch Nedd behind you, the road swerves left to cross a burn before it swerves east again. Now a beautiful and wild landscape, 200 years ago before the Highland Clearances, you would have entered the village of Glenleraig.
  • Miles

    11

  • Km

    18

  • Arrêts

    1

  • Transport

    Cycle

Kylesku

Once you made it past Glenleraig, you’ll see the award-winning the bridge at Kylesku. It’s easily one of Scotland’s most iconic bridges, best admired from the car park on its north side. Replacing the weather-dependant ferry service in 1984, it ensured that people wouldn’t have to take a 100-mile detour via Lairg, making Assynt more accessible.

From people being told to leave in the 19th century to it being made easier for people to come back 100 years later, this bit of coast alone has a fascinating history. Its three billion years of history is so rich in fact that the entire area you’ve been exploring is part of Scotland’s first UNESCO Global Geopark. History and geology buffs will easily find one of the park’s activities to be one of the highlights of their trip.

Tip: why not enjoy cup of tea and cake, or even some fresh seafood at the Kylesku Hotel?

Jour 6

Présentation

Come to the Castle

Get a good night’s sleep; today’s stage is short, but the first half is mostly uphill. If you need a break, why not stop at the end of your long climb at the parking space by the beautiful Loch na Gainmhich? This is also where the path to the Eas a' Chual Aluinn, Britain’s tallest waterfall, starts. There’s no place to store your gear, but see that as a great excuse to revisit this place (with an electric vehicle) in the future!
  • Miles

    9,3

  • Km

    15

  • Arrêts

    2

  • Transport

    Cycle

Ardveck Castle, Assynt

Ardvreck Castle

At the bottom of your descent, you’ll see the impressive Ardvreck Castle on the shores of the equally beautiful Loch Assynt. This stronghold was built by the MacLeod’s of Assynt in the late fifteenth century to exert control over the local area, until it was captured by the MacKenzies in a siege in 1672. The MacKenzies didn’t stay at Ardvreck for long though and built the more comfortable Calda House, now also a ruin, a bit further down the loch shore.

Inchnadamph

Just a mile more down the road and you’ve made it to Inchnadamph, where you could see the Traligill Caves. There’s a path by the river, from which you can observe the cave entrances from a safe distance. Just keep away from the entrances of the caves or other potholes in the landscape. The caves themselves are too dangerous to enter.

For a safer experience, why not visit the Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve & Visitor Centre and the much more ominous sounding Inchnadamph Bone Caves, made famous for the bones of wolves, reindeer, bears and lynxes that were found inside. The path is suitable for hikers of all abilities. Just keep it fun by keeping it safe; stay on the path. These caves don’t want to collect any more bones!

Jour 7

Présentation

Cycle to the Sea

This will be one of the longer days in the saddle. Luckily, there are plenty of places along the road where you can stop. You’ll have two, short climbs at the first half of the route, but afterwards it’s pretty much downhill. What’s more, the road is quite straightforward. Just turn onto the A835 at Ledmore and before long you’ll be back in Ullapool.
  • Miles

    24

  • Km

    39

  • Arrêts

    1

  • Transport

    Cycle

Ullapool

What a journey it has been; you’ve explored bits of the North Coast 500, snagged a locally made souvenir or two, you’ve learned a bit of Gaelic, stared into the abyss of a cave and maybe even seen a dolphin or whale! Talk about a journey worth travelling!

Looking for some relaxing things to do in Ullapool? Why not try some of their fresh seafood places or enjoy a beautiful sunset over Loch Broom. Visit our iCentre for more things to see and do in the area or continue your epic journey through Scotland. The ferry to the Outer-Hebrides leaves from the docks, and Inverness is merely one bus ride away.