Stac Pollaidh: (A Dramatic Short Scottish Hike)

Stac Pollaidh East Summit

The combination of a well-maintained path, a dramatic ridge and spectacular panoramic views across the Assynt peaks and Atlantic ocean makes Stac Pollaidh one of the best short hikes in Scotland.

Stac Pollaidh rises to 612 m. Its height is small in relation to the 282 Munros Scotland has to offer.  However, what this Graham lacks in height it more than makes up for in character.  From the moment you pull into the small car-park at the bottom of the mountain all you want to do is climb its impressive craggy ridge.

The Ascent of Stac Pollaidh

It was a decent day when we set off on our hike. The sun was threatening to break the clouds and there was a welcome mildness to the air. The walk takes around 3-4 hours, and we decided to take our time and enjoy the experience.  A nice thing about Stac Pollaidh is its circular path means you don’t have to retrace your steps. You get to experience the mountain from every angle on your walk. 

We ascended the steeper right-hand side of the trail.  I personally prefer a steeper climb to descent, but if you prefer a gentler climb you could approach it from the left.

Great Path!

The path is steep but brilliantly maintained with stone steps sunk into the side of the mountain.  I love this terrain and always wonder how long it must have taken to create.  The higher you get the steeper the path becomes. However, there are plenty of opportunities to rest and take in the amazing views.

From this vantage point your views now stretch back across the lochs and lochans that weave together and snake out to the Atlantic Ocean beyond.  The largest of these is Loch Sionaschig and we remarked that it would be a great spot to kayak on. Who was going to carry the kayak there was a debate for another day!

Views for Miles

On a clear day you can also see the equally impressive peak of Suilven in the distance. Unfortunately it was hidden under a thick layer of cloud as we rounded Stac Pollaidh.

After taking in the views and a spot of lunch we started our final ascent up the mountain.  The final climb is short and steep but the sight of the craggy top getting closer pushes you forward. 

About halfway up this section a large rock juts out from the side of Stac Pollaidh.  If I didn’t know better, I would say it had been created for that perfect Instagram shot.  Michelle enjoyed a wee pose, but I stayed well stuck to the path and firmly on the other side of the camera.  Although my fear of heights improves with every climb, certain environments still being on the dreaded jelly legs. This was 100% one of them.  

As we climbed the final short distance to the top ridge, the clouds above us began to scatter leaving nothing but blue sky above our heads.

East v West Summit

When you make it to the top of the ridge you see the dramatic East summit in all of its glory.  There is a small cairn visible at the Western end of the rocky ridge and many hikers decide to end their walk here.

The first cairn

There is certainly no shame in that as from this vantage point you have unbelievable panoramic views. Suilven to the North.  The Atlantic Ocean to the West and Loch Lurgainn to the South.  Everywhere you look you are spoiled by the stunning landscapes the West Coast of Scotland has become so well known for.

The East summit, while intimidating on first glance, is actually quite accessible as it has a well-maintained path that snakes up to the top.  I was pleasantly surprised that despite the slight onset of jelly legs I was able to reach its peak.  It is a spectacular spot to take in the views, and provides the opportunity for some really cool photos if you have someone at the bottom capture your silhouette at the top.

The West Summit of Stac Pollaidh is another story altogether and is lauded as one of the hardest summit scrambles in the whole of the UK.  We are far from expert level so decided against attempting that one and began to make our way back down the west side of the mountain.

The Descent of Stac Pollaidh

The descent is a little more gradual and brings you around the opposite side of the mountain at a nice pace before the two paths meet again some 200 metres from the carpark.

We were silent for much of the hike. Happy to take in the remarkable surroundings in peace and quiet.  I arrived back at our car with a massive smile on my face- looking back up to the mountain we had just enjoyed. 

I would highly recommend anyone visiting Ullapool or who’s doing the NC500 road trip to make this short detour and climb this wonderful rock. You will not be disappointed!

When hiking in Scotland please remember to take only photos and leave only footprints!

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