Assynt to Durness
The landscape and geology of Assynt (designated as a National Scenic Area) is different from other parts of the Highlands as the mountains have distinctive shapes (such as the sugar-loaf Suilven) each rising up from the barren plains which are interspersed with many lochs. The Knockan Crag visitor centre on the A835 north of Ullapool provides an excellent interpretation of the geology of the area.
The villages tend to be scattered around the coastline with Lochinver being the main settlement in the area. North-west Sutherland up to Durness is even less inhabited and the shores are exposed to the Atlantic Ocean and strong winds. This a wild but magnificent part of Scotland, where the visitor can enjoy peace and solitude, far from the usual busy tourist centres.
Coigach is in southern Assynt, accessed via a minor road off the A835 about 10 miles north of Ullapool. The views from Achiltibuie towards the nearby Summer Isles are stunning and there is a Hydroponicum in the village where plants are grown without soil. Lochinver is a fishing port with a busy harbour and a visitor centre which explains the geology, history and natural heritage of the area.
The tortuous B869 north of Lochinver leads to a number of sandy beaches and attractive villages, such as Achiltibuie, and to the Old Man of Stoer, a tall pillar of rock standing offshore. The A837 east of Lochinver passes along the shores of Loch Assynt which is popular for fishing and meets the A894 at its eastern tip. About 10 miles north is Kylesku from where boat trips take visitors to Eas-Coul-Aulin, Britain's highest waterfall and to Kerrachar Gardens.
Scourie, about 10 miles north of Kylesku, is a crofting community overlooking a sandy beach and wide bay, and is a popular base for walkers and anglers. Boat trips run to a Scottish Wildlife Trust seabird sanctuary on nearby Handa Island. Although Kinlochbervie (about 10 miles north of Laxford on the B801) is a busy fishing port with fish-processing plant, the views from the village are magnificent. The beaches north-west of Kinlochbervie are magnificent, particularly at Sandalwood Bay.
Durness is about 20 miles north of Laxford (or 69 miles from Ullapool) on the A838. The village is strung out along the cliff-tops looking down on beautiful white sandy beaches which provide excellent waves for windsurfing.
The sights include Smoo Cave, with a river tumbling through its roof into a vast chamber and on into the sea and Balnakiel Craft Village at the beautiful Balnakiel Bay. Cape Wrath is mainland Britain's most north-westerly point but the road is sometimes closed when the Ministry of Defence is using the area for bombing practice!
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