An Unexpected Journey (Final Part) – The Fatdog Kicks Ass(ynt)

02 May

Saturday breakfast at the Old Smiddy was outstanding.  Home made bread, jams and locally sourced produce made up the bulk of the menu.  A handy feature of B&B breakfasts is that you can skip lunch so there is less weight in the rucksack.  On the down side there is a tendency to instantly double your self weight, which is not ideal before a hill walk.  It was fortunate we had a few miles to cover in the Santa Fe before we would be forced into action.  As the sun blazed down over Gruinard Bay we said our farewells to both our genial hosts and fellow guests, pointed the “tank” north and rumbled onto the quiet A road.

We had a very pleasant drive up to Ullapool.  The weather was beyond expectation, yesterday’s chilly breeze having almost disappeared and the sun now splitting the sky.  As we stood at the viewpoint to the east of the town the pristine white buildings of the west coast port contrasted starkly against the deep blue waters of Loch Broom.  It felt surreal for a Scottish spring.  I fully expected to hear the irresistible foot twitching sounds of the bouzouki and to catch the mouth watering Mediterranean smells of rosemary and garlic barbequed fish.  Maybe I would need lunch after all.





A few miles north of Ullapool we caught our first clear sight of today’s destination.

The 30 year wait...almost at an end

The 30 year wait...almost at an end

Stac Pollaidh. This was a walk one month short of 30 years in the making.  In May 1979 we had stood below the hill taking a photograph of our sky blue “biscuit tin” (Citroen Dyane) with Stac Pollaidh in the background.  They were almost identical in profile…and both probably moved at about the same speed.

The Fatdog ready for action...Stac Pollaidh quakes at the thought.

The Fatdog ready for action...Stac Pollaidh quakes at the thought.

The car park beside Loch Lurgainn was chock-a-block when we arrived, but we were lucky.  We had only been hanging around for a minute or so when one walking group returned and gave us their parking space.  The Fatdog was by now impatient to get on the move.

The path is in great shape with a lot of money having been spent on it in recent years.  Staircases of pitched stone took us upwards fairly quickly but the views and the sunshine turned the walk into a gentle stroll.  The path forms a circular route around the hill gaining height until it reaches its highest point around the “back” near the north west corner (about the 500m contour).  We opted to take the path around the east shoulder of the hill and once on the far side take the spur to the summit ridge.  This looked the shortest route to the top.  The plan was then to complete the circumnavigation of Stac Pollaidh by continuing westwards, once back at the main circular path.

J with Cul Beag (left) and the east end of Loch Lurgainn behind

J with Cul Beag (left) and the east end of Loch Lurgainn behind

During the first 30 minutes or so the views were mainly to the south over Loch Lugainn to the Corbett, Ben More Coigach.  This is a complex shaped hill which I have the notion to visit in the future.

Loch Lurgainn and Ben More Coigach

Loch Lurgainn and Ben More Coigach

As we began to wind our way around to the back of the hill the view north could only be described as stunningly captivating.  Mountains whose names had become so familiar to me over the past 3 years now stood proudly to attention awaiting their first inspection.  Suilven, Canisp, Cul Mor and distant Quinag, every one an individual character, every one a memory from someone else’s day out.  But this time it was our day out!  These tall iconic shaped lumps of rock looked as if they had been thrust randomly upwards through the wild Assynt landscape to reach for the sky above.  I had waited a long time to see this…it was worth the wait.

Cul Mor

Cul Mor

The Resurrection Man returns

The Resurrection Man returns

Loch Sionascaig with Suilven and Canisp in background (Quinag far background left of Suilven)

Loch Sionascaig with Suilven and Canisp in background (Quinag far background left of Suilven)

It was now crunch time for J.  She isn’t a hill walker so I fully expected her to want to take a seat with a view and wait until the Fatdog and I did a quick toddle up the spur path to the summit ridge.  She was having none of it.  She wasn’t to be left behind and so the 3 of us started up the steep stone built staircase towards the top.

The path to the ridge

The path to the ridge

I thought we might be in a bit of trouble when we met a girl coming down complaining of suffering slightly from a bit of vertigo.  I could see J’s mouth tighten a little but the path wasn’t over steep and the ridge was close.  Minutes later we had dropped the packs and were sitting on Stac Pollaidh’s saddle in bright west coast sunshine.

J nears the ridge

J nears the ridge

Did we go to the summit?  I think you’ve already guessed the answer to that one.  This view was more than enough.  Maybe I could have done it with J looking after FD but to be honest it just didn’t matter.  The 3 of us had done what we set out to do.  A simple hill path…but the walk of a lifetime.

Job Done!

Job Done!

The route to the summit

The route to the summit

The view north

The view north

The view south

The view south

A triumphant Fatdog

A triumphant Fatdog

The Eastern top (The Fatdog is in this photo - can you find her?)  Will email full res photo if needed

The Eastern top (The Fatdog is in this photo - can you find her?) Will email full res photo if needed

We chilled out on the ridge for a while as people came and went.  It’s a busy little hill on a Saturday.  Apparently the Fatdog became quite distressed as I disappeared up the summit path to take a few photos back towards the saddle.  Usually she doesn’t bother about me at all in the house but on this trip, even when I left the room at the hotel or the B&B, she would start to cry.  I suspect she was only concerned that a possible food source might go missing.

A look at the watch told me it was time to go search for food before heading home.  Reluctantly we began our descent down to the main path and then followed it westwards for a better sea view.

It was quiet around this side of the hill, in fact we didn’t meet anyone at all as we worked our way around Stac Pollaidh and back to the car.

Stac Pollaidhs west top

Stac Pollaidh's west top

The route back to the car

The route back to the car

To round off our trip we followed the road west towards Achultibuie.

An Assynt view

Stac Pollaidh - Cul Beag - Ben More Coigach

The Summer Isles

The Summer Isles

The mountains north of Kinlochewe - yesterday seems such a long time ago!

The mountains north of Kinlochewe - yesterday seems such a long time ago!

We started this “Unexpected Journey” eating seafood on the terrace of the Loch Leven Seafood Café nr Glencoe.  It seems only fitting we end it here, eating seafood at the Fuaran Bar looking out to the Summer Isles in glorious Assynt.

Some things dont change!

Some things don't change!


I hope you’ve enjoyed this road trip with myself, J and the Fatdog.  You never know we might be persuaded to do another one soon.


Posted by on May 2, 2009 in General Drivel


12 responses to “An Unexpected Journey (Final Part) – The Fatdog Kicks Ass(ynt)

  1. Martin Rye

    May 2, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Food in hand and as if by magic a Lab will appear. Some things don’t change. Fantastic walk there.

  2. Gayle

    May 2, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Really enjoyed that trip report – and the fantastic photos.

  3. craggy-irene

    May 3, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Cracking photos, Ken. J is really getting into this hillwalking and soon there will be no stopping her!

  4. swanscot

    May 3, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Stac Pollaidh is one of my favourite ‘wee hills’ and your description of your super day out walking this is wonderful. Wonderful photos of the hills.

  5. Paul

    May 4, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Great Post Ken, Brill’ photos.
    Glad you could enjoy the spectacular scenary in the sunshine, it makes such a difference.
    If you do get a chance, a good round of the peaks of Coigach can be made from Culnacraig (a wee bit of a drive along the single track roads though!).

  6. fatdogwalks

    May 4, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Many thanks for all the comments 😀 !

    Martin:I don’t know how many times I’ve taken the “Lab and Table” shot.

    Gayle: thanks for stopping by…hope you enjoyed the trip as much as we did.

    Irene: No chance 😆 😆 😆 !!!

    Sheila: I guessed your blog header was Suilven (from Cul Mor? maybe?)so I did think you might like the photos from this part of the world.

    Paul: Thanks for the tip. I’m off to look at the map. Definitely going back for a shot at that one…sometime in the next 30 years 😆

  7. Tessa Park

    May 6, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Cracking photos as usual. 😀

  8. scott

    May 7, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    That whole thing is top quality Ken. Showstopping photos altogether.

    I find it hard to imagine that anyone could get a better picture of Cul Mor than yon first one.

    (Not that I’m saying the second one, with you in it, isny good as well.)

  9. beatingthebounds

    May 8, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Clearly well worth the wait! What a fabulous day you had for it. Amazing photos, really enjoyed this post. Many moons ago I tore a muscle in my thigh when I put my foot in a hole whilst running down off Stac Pollaidh in the rain. Yep – every bit as stupid as it sounds. I seem to remember that the last bit to the top is a little tricky.
    Ben More Coigach is an absolute gem, I shall be very jealous when I read your post about a trip there. I hope that I don’t have to wait 30 years to read it though.

  10. fatdogwalks

    May 9, 2009 at 11:55 am

    “(Not that I’m saying the second one, with you in it, isny good as well.)”

    Scott…are you saying I’ve failed to enhance the “second” photo…surely not? 😆 . Normally I keep well out of camera shot to prevent irrepairable damage to the lenses and sensors, but J seems to think it mandatory on our trips out.

    Mark…that descent must have been worth seeing…no video footage? 😆
    I knew about the summit before we went and was aware that there was no way the 3 of us would get to the summit. I didn’t even consider going myself as it was a day out for the 3 of us. It was well worthwhile going up to the ridge though.

    It could be a while before I get to do Ben More Coigach, I’m certain it won’t be 30 years…as I forsee a few minor technical difficulties with that particular timescale 😆

  11. Clova

    August 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Great Ken! Some amazing shots of my favourite part of the world. We’ve stayed at Dornie (chalet or caravan)just west of Polbain 4 times now and it feels like a 2nd home. Glad you made it to the Fuaran Bar. Looks like you had the languistines. Fabulous food!

  12. fatdogwalks

    August 10, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Thought you would like to see the photos…I know you like this part of the world. I even recognised the barman of the Am Fuaran in your report on Shills. And yes…it was the langoustines 😀 .


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