Stac Pollaidh from Loch Lurgainn

Stac Pollaidh

Words are not needed to describe Stac Pollaidh, just one look at its unique profile and you will immediately want to climb it. Not only is it an incredible looking mountain, it also sits in a stunning location at the centre of Assynt, one of the wildest and most beautiful areas in Britain. The small mountain of Stac Polly as it is popularly known rises to an amazing shattered Torridonian Sandstone ridge. This ridge makes for an exciting scramble across difficult weather sculptured pinnacles and terrifying loose scree gullies. Reaching the actual summit at the ridges highest point requires a long stretching move up one particular pinnacle. The walk starts from the car park on the Achiltibue road by Loch Lurgainn. The route is a loop that rounds the entire mountain with an easy ascent path up the back of the mountain, which reaches the lowest point on the crest of the ridge. That in itself is a great viewpoint for those who don't wish to scramble across the ridge. This is a mountain loved by so many and once you have seen it, let alone climbed it, you will immediately know why. This walk is rated as moderate, but the scramble to the true summit is hard.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the car park at grid reference NC 108 095 above Loch Lurgainn. The car park is on the minor road that heads out to Achiltibue from the A835 road between Ullapool and Lochinver.
  2. From the car park carefully cross the road in the direction of the mountain, then immediately pass through a wooden kissing gate to a stone path.
  3. Follow the well laid steep stone path as it ascends through an area of birch, heather, bilberry and ferns. The path gains height fairly quickly then comes to more open moorland.
  4. The path splits in two just before a deer fence and another wooden kissing gate. Continue on the path heading towards the right hand side of the mountain.
  5. Pass through this next wooden kissing gate and continue along the path heading up a fairly easy ascent towards the right hand shoulder of the mountain. The ever expanding views behind you across Loch Lurgainn to Sgorr Tuath and Ben More Coigach are stunning.
  6. As the path continues to gain height and rounds the eastern end of the mountain the sandstone cliffs loom high above. The views to you right are now of the bulk of Stac Polly's huge neighbour Cul Beag.
  7. Once you turn the corner of the mountains eastern end, the views will start to open up over Assynt behind the mountain towards its many sleeping giants like the unique Suilven seen over the wild Loch Sionascaig.
  8. After rounding the mountain the path splits in two. Turn left on to the steeper of the two paths which now ascends the back of the mountain to reach the lowest point on the summit ridge.
  9. It is a steep ascent along a clear path but then dissipates towards the top end. In no time at all you will find yourself on the lowest point on the summit ridge, with steep drops and stunning views on either side. To the south side is Loch Lurgainn and to the north side Loch Sionascaig.
  10. If it is a bad weather day or you do not wish to try the walk along the ridge then from here you can follow a clear descent path that heads to the right and descends the mountain in a north westerly direction. This path will bring take you back to the path that loops the mountain.
  11. If however you want to really have fun on Stac Polly then head along the ridge in a westerly direction and head across the rocks to its crest.
  12. Continue along the ridge trying to stay as high as possible and close to the ridges crest. It is an exciting hands on scramble at times and will seem to go on forever but is only a short distance in reality.
  13. There are several pinnacles to round or go over and a few loose stone gullies where care needs to be taken as the drops are fairly serious in places. As you traverse the ridge each corner rounded and gullies climbed you will see yet more incredible sandstone sculptures and weathered pinnacles.
  14. Some of the more notable features along the ridge have been named. The most obvious and striking of the lot is the Lobster Claw. The Lobster Claw rises on the south side of the mountain as you get closer to the summit, near several other impressive pinnacles.
  15. After around three hundred and fifty metres you will come to a summit that looks like it could be the highest point on the mountain, but actually isn't. Look west and you will see a little further along the ridge, the true summit and highest point on Stac Pollaidh.
  16. The true summit is only a little further on but if you continue along the ridge you will soon find yourself on a narrow flat ledge with exposed drops either side and what looks to be an impossible to pass, sandstone rock tower in your way.
  17. To get to the summit you must tackle this difficult grade two scramble up and over this rock tower. The initial move is quite long but the rest of the scramble isn't too difficult with plenty of holds.
  18. Make sure you are confident of getting back down on your return before you attempt the scramble, as there is no other way back. Do not be too disheartened if you can not get to the true summit as to be honest the views are no different to those of the accessible summit.
  19. After scrambling up and over the rock tower a short and easy walk along the continuation of the ridge will get you to the true summit, the highest point of Stac Pollaidh at a modest six hundred and twelve metres above sea level.
  20. The views from Stac Polly on a clear day are awesome and far reaching. Despite its fairly modest height, Stac Polly is located in a perfect location at the centre of the stunning Assynt region of wild lochs and rugged mountain scenery, made even more wonderful by the presence of the sea scape.
  21. You must now return to the lowest point on the ridge again to descend the mountain. To do this you need to follow your own footsteps east across the ridge. Firstly though you must return to that difficult grade two scramble. This time taking care as you down climb it. The last move is quite tricky.
  22. After you have navigated your way back over the three hundred and fifty metre ridge walk over pinnacles and gullies you will find yourself back at the lowest point of the ridge you were at earlier.
  23. From the lowest point on the ridge follow a clear descent path that descends the mountain in a north westerly direction. This path will bring take you back down to the path that loops the mountain.
  24. When you reach the loop path head left to continue the anti clockwise direction around the mountain. The path goes through a boulder field then continues turning left until it rounds the front of the mountain.
  25. In front now will be the views again to Sgorr Tuath and Ben More Coigach over Loch Lurgainn. The path will reach a kissing gate at the deer fence and will then join up with the path from the car park you took earlier.
  26. Turn right at that point and follow the lovely stone path through birch, heather, bilberry and ferns back down to the car park. You will pass through a final kissing gate and then reach the road. Be careful at the road, especially if you have young children running ahead.
  27. Your drive back to where ever you happen to be staying in Assynt or the surrounding area will no doubt be a delightful one. It is worth stopping as you leave to take photos of the mountain from a distance as its profile is so unique.
  28. If heading north you could finish your day by heading to Lochinver to check out the Lochinver Pie Shop or for a full meal and local ales check out the fabulous Caberfeidh seafood restaurant for local fresh caught seafood. If heading south you cannot beat the Seaforth Seafood Bar and Bistro by Ullapool harbour, for fresh tasty seafood, real ales and an excellent atmosphere.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer 439 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 15 Map Click to buy OS Travel Map Scotland Click to buy Lonely Planet's Scotlands Highlands & Islands

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.