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Mountains

The mountains of Assynt were created, or at least changed, during the last ice age when glaciers carved and gouged the landscape to reveal some of the oldest rocks on the planet, with layers of younger rocks ripped from the ground by the encroaching ice. Suilven is the most popular - but don’t miss out on the views from Canisp and Stac Pollaidh.

Suilven

Suilven, of course, is the one everyone comes to climb. But we always like to remind folk that the best view of Suilven isn’t from the top of Suilven, so if it’s that once in a lifetime photograph you’re after, grab yourself a Lochinver Larder pie and head up Cansip or Stac Pollaidh.

There are some arguments over the name. Some say it comes from ‘pillar’, and it certainly looks like one from the sea. Others compare it to a sugar loaf (now there’s a product that could do with a comeback?)

Perhaps the romance of the mountain is that it looks unclimbable - but in fact, it is a long walk with just a short staircase ascent at the end. Despite being the most iconic mountain in the parish, Suilven is also the smallest.

There are several routes up Suilven, but most will take the road from Glen Cansip which is marginally the shortest, and by far the clearest path. Those climbing Suilven for the first time are surprised to find a wall running across the top of the mountain - which is alleged to have been built to prevent suicidal sheep throwing themselves from the summit.

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Canisp

Canisp is Suilven’s nearby neighbour and is usually much quieter. It’s the ideal climb for anyone who suffers from vertigo - it is a long wide slope up with plenty of scope to stay well away from any steep drops.

As is typical of Assynt mountains, there is little in the way of a path, and for those who set off from Loch Awe, it’s a bit of a muddy start before the slope gets much dryer. When you come to the burn, instead of crossing it, you can head off to the right and follow it up the mountain to enjoy a series of waterfalls, waterslides and deep limestone gorges.

The views of the other mountains in the area are hidden until you are right at the top - providing you with the most spectacular reward for your efforts. Stop and enjoy your Lochinver Larder pie as you take it all in.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local folklore

QUINAIG

Quinaig is a local favourite. The name - pronounced ‘coo-nyang’ - comes from the Gaelic for milk pail, which the mountain resembles from one angle.

With superb paths and three very different peaks to explore, it offers a variety of options for climbers. A quick ascent of a single peak can be done in three to four hours with ease. Or you can spend the whole day exploring the full range of the mountain. Whichever route you take, you’re promised stunning views in every direction.

One of Quinaig’s hidden gems is the cattle byre with a burn running through it and excellent pasture. It can be found halfway up the mountain at the Kylesky end, between Sail Ghorm and Sail Garbh. One would struggle to find a better place to hide some rustled cattle - and the legends are that back in the days of clan warfare, this was exactly what happened.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local folklore

Glas Bhein, Beinn Uidge & Beinn au Fhurain

Just across the road from Quinaig is Glas Bhein, where it is a rare day to meet another climber. Access is from the Quinaig car park, where a short path leads to a steep ascent up onto a rocky ridge. From there it folds out into a flat plain big enough to host a full-sized football pitch.

Glas Bhein has some great views, but its defining feature is the two corrie lochs tucked into its sides. The more well-known of the two is Loch a choire ghuirm, which was made famous by the Andrew Greig book “At the Loch of the Green Corrie”, about the Scottish poet Norman MacCaig.

If you have time for a longer walk, then a short hop over the ridge at the far end of Glas Bheinn will take you to Beinn Uidhe with its steep sides and high ridges. There may even be time to get onto Beinn an Fhurain - the hill of the springs - with a small loch at the top which seems to hold snow on its backs for most of the year. If you manage all three in a day, then dipping your toes in the springs will provide you with a well-earned reward.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local folklore

CUL MOR

Cul Mor is right on the edge of the parish and used to be known locally as Marilyn – if you are driving from Ledmore towards Elphin the twin peaks certainly evoke memories of Ms Monroe.

This fantastic walk has an excellent path which is supplemented by a series of cairns dedicated to walkers every 100m to show the route. Some say it’s a frustrating climb due to several false peaks, where you can’t see any higher and assume that as soon as you’re over it you’ll be at the top – but you won’t be! When you reach the final ascent, however, it is clear you have made it - and any frustration will fall away once you see the views over Assynt and Coigach, including Stac Pollaidh and Suilven.

Partway down, there is a third lower peak heading off at 45 degrees and tucked under it is a hidden gem of a loch. There are waterfalls that run into it and out of it, offering magnificent views, plus a 200m long sandy beach where you can stop and soak it all in.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local folklore

CUL BEAG

Just across the glen from Cul Mor are the three peaks of Cul Beag. Climbers are spoilt with great views, stunning waters, and three completely different terrains and outlooks.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local folklore

Stac Pollaidh

Stac Pollaidh is the quickest and easiest ascent in the area. Those who are moderately fit can get up and down it in two hours - and it offers one of the best views of Suilven. It is also the best place to watch the sun go down, and photography lovers will enjoy capturing the last moments of the sun as it slips away behind the Assynt mountains.

This gem of a mountain can best be described by imagining one of Terry Gilliam’s amazing Monty Python cartoons. Imagine the hand of God reaching down from the heavens and ripping the top off a mountain - the raggedy top of Stac Pollaidh is exactly what would remain on the ground.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local folklore

Waterfalls

Assynt’s mountains are home to many waterfalls that offer a slice of beauty and refreshing pitstop for walkers.

Kirkaig Falls feature in every tourist book, and visitors can enjoy a lovely walk under this grand waterfall. At fifteen meters high, Clashnessie Falls are a spectacular sight. They can be reached by just a short walk from Clashnessie beach. The waterfalls at Stronchrubie are harder to find but are worth the trek for those willing to seek them out.

One of the lesser-known waterfalls is the Wailing Widow, which is loved by locals. It is hidden just 300m from the Kylesku road and right next to the path for Eas na Chaul Aluinn. The start of the path can be found next to a rock spire which looks like something from a cowboy movie.

Legend has it that the last man hanged in Assynt was hung from that very rock. Donald of the Moss was a Lewisman who had fled the islands after being accused of stealing cattle and settled in Assynt where he married a local lass.

One day he spotted a young lad on the banks of Loch Assynt with a new plaid (kilt) and decided that it might suit him better than the youngster and demanded he hand it over. A scuffle broke out and the lad fell to the ground where his head hit a rock and he died on the spot. Donald snatched up the plaid and ran up the pass between Quinaig and Glas Bhein hoping to cross Loch Glencoul where he could seek sanctuary in MacKay country. But he was spotted and chased over the hill before being run down. With the evidence in his bloodied hand, the trial was swift and he was forced to dig his own grave and weave a rope from reeds in the Unapool burn, before he was hanged with the very rope you will see as you pass on the walk up.

The waterfall is unusual in that it lacks that distinctive waterfall roar and is almost silent and this may be where it got its name. Some centuries past, a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death.

His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit. Whether it is true or not, it is certainly an awe-inspiring spot.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local folklore

Beaches

Assynt has some glorious beaches which rival the Caribbean with their soft white sand, azure seas and gentle slope underfoot for safe swimming. It is not unusual to see dolphins frolicking in the bay, and with the main ocean current coming from the Gulf of Mexico, the water is a wee bit warmer than you might imagine.

Achmelvich

Achmelvich is closest to Lochinver and is loved for its white sandy beaches - there is a second beach hidden just over the hill. With steep rocky slopes on either side, even the broad expanse of Achmelvich Bay seems enclosed, safe and a world of its own, sheltered from the bigger world outside.

As well as being a playground for water skiers, windsurfers and kayakers who come to enjoy the warm water and fresh breeze, the area’s unique landscape makes it a popular spot for hikers. So grab yourself a Lochinver Larder pie and head off on one of the many walks and climbs nearby.

This little corner of paradise also boasts the smallest castle in Europe. The “Hermit’s Castle” was built in the 1950s by architect David Scott and is one of the hidden gems in the area. This small but remarkable concrete structure blends beautifully into the rocky hillside setting - and is made all the more romantic by the fact that no-one is entirely sure why he built it. The story goes that it took him six months to single-handedly build the structure, but that he only stayed for a week before leaving, never to return.

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Clachtoll

Just a few miles north of Lochinver sits Clachtoll, another breathtaking beach with soft white sands and turquoise waters. Small and enclosed, it feels like a safe haven and is a firm favourite with families who come to enjoy the beach and its surrounding history.


Clachtoll is host to the annual sand sculpture competition - as well as being a regular host to Highland cattle, who enjoy a wander across the sands as much as the rest of us. Clachtoll is also where you are most likely to see dolphins - some say it wouldn’t be summer without seeing a video of them dancing on the waves posted on social media.

The beach is dominated by the split rock to the south, which is believed to have once been an arch. History lovers will enjoy the story of the medieval prophet - the Brahan Seer - who predicted that the arch would be rent asunder with such force that it would be heard by the laird of Ledmore’s cattle. As the story goes, a year or so after the tenant farmer at Ledmore was given land at Clachtoll, a storm caused the arch to collapse, and his cattle in the field next to it did indeed hear the crash.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local Folklore

Clashnessie

A little to the north is Clashnessie, which has redder sand than its neighbouring beaches. Sheltered from the predominant south westerly winds, it is a great spot to enjoy the water when there’s a bit of a breeze.

Visible from the beach is the Clashnessie Falls - in Gaelic, Clashnessie means the Hollow/Valley of the waterfall. Take a short walk upstream from the beach and you will find yourself looking up at the spectacular fifteen-meter falls that transcend from the lochans above.

There is more to explore too. An early modern mill sits just above the beach and a couple of hundred meters south sits another hidden gem - an iron age structure built on top of a natural arch on one side and a blowhole on the other. There is little left of the building itself, but the spot is magical when the tide is coming in and roaring through the channel. Just don’t forget to pack your Lochinver Larder pie.

Don’t forget to pack your pie!
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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local Folklore

History

Assynt is steeped in a rich history dating back to the Stone Age and up to the Highland Clearances in the early nineteenth century. The bone caves and Clachtoll Broch are among the most popular sites for visitors, as well as the medieval castle at Ardvreck - with the tale of the Mermaid of the Loch.

Stone Age

Assynt has been inhabited since the end of the last ice age with stone age hunter gatherers moving north behind the receding ice flows. The ‘bone caves’ just east of Inchnadamph are both a popular local walk and a haven for archaeologists.

Sitting high up on a cliff, the caves go deep into the hillside. When they were first excavated, human and animal remains from the late Mesolithic/early Neolithic period were recovered.

Perhaps less well known are the chambered burial cairns from the same period that are scattered all around the Inchnadamph and Elphin area. Today, they look like piles of rocks or bumps on the landscape, but there is a central chamber surrounded by large raised stones and an entrance passageway for each. These occur in such sufficient numbers that Historic Environment Scotland inspectors described the area as a necropolis.

Iron Age

There is a remarkable number of iron age structures in Assynt, including hut circles/roundhouses, crannogs, duns, souterrains, and of course, a couple of brochs.

It is not so surprising to find roundhouses in the area - back in the iron age, most people in the UK built their houses in a circular shape. It was only after the Vikings arrived that people started building in a rectangular shape. Most of the circular structures found in the area tend to be built on platforms on a hill with spectacular panoramic views - suggesting that land was fairly freely available.

It is not uncommon to come across crannogs, duns and souterrains when exploring the area. Crannongs are homes built on natural or artificial islands, while duns are a catch all term for large structures that don’t fit into any other category. Souterrains are underground stone-lined tunnels.

But it’s the brochs in the area that are most remarkable. One of the most stunning brochs in Scotland can be found in Clachtoll. The remains of the fifteen-meter tower built from dry stone can still be seen. After a fire around 50 BC, the west-facing wall collapsed, bringing down the whole structure. It remained as a pile of stones until 2017 when a full excavation removed hundreds of tons of rock to reveal the remaining five meters of wall and three ‘cells’ between the two towers.

Ash is a great preservative and archaeologists were delighted to uncover preserved assemblages of iron age tools, including axes, sickles, brooch pins, pots and querns - for grinding grain and spindle whorls.

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Medieval

Ardvreck Castle is the most famous medieval structure in the area. Built in the 1500s by MacLeod of Assynt, it is rumoured to have been built with financial support from the devil in exchange for the hand of his daughter in marriage – a transaction so abhorrent that the poor girl's tears formed the loch surrounding the castle into which she threw herself, where she lives to this day as a mermaid.

There are many stories surrounding Ardvreck. Some factual – James Graham (Montrose) the Royalist General was taken prisoner when he sought shelter there during the civil wars – whether he was betrayed or captured might, of course, depend on which side your family loyalties lie. Some perhaps less factual – there is no record of the set of pearls he snatched from lady MacLeod’s neck and cast into the water with the words “with these pearls, so goes your fortune”.

True or not, they were not to occupy the castle for long after. The castle was destroyed in a siege from the MacKenzies, who promptly built Calda (the white house) next door. This burned down some years later, perhaps giving some backing to the rumour linking a pearl necklace to the castle’s stones.

If you are driving from Ardvreck towards Lochinver, as you pass the picturesque Boats Bay, look across the loch and you will see a flat island on the far side. Eilean Assynt was the site of an older keep from the fourteenth century, though very little remains of it today.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local Folklore

Clearances

The early part of the nineteenth century saw one of the greatest tragedies ever to hit the Highlands, when landlords discovered that it was far more profitable to keep sheep on the land than people. With most tenancies only lasting for a year, smallholders were told when their annual rent was due that their tenancy would not be renewed, and some were given just a few hours to gather their possessions and leave.

The lucky ones were offered an alternative house on the coast. But the grazing was poor where the ground had not been broken to plant crops in, so they were forced to learn to fish in order to survive.

The unlucky were simply cast out into the world with nowhere to go. With meagre possessions and no place to live, many were forced out of the area, some to the south and some crossing the oceans to a new life in Canada, America or Australia.

The number of people affected was staggering. Some townships completely disappeared, leaving nothing but roofless ruins, and as time passed, a rectangle on the ground where a home used to be. Many visitors to Lochinver will be tracing the routes their ancestors followed when they were displaced to leave room for sheep.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local Folklore

Wildlife

Assynt is home to a huge variety of wildlife and is a real haven for the naturalist. Visitors can expect to encounter deer, badgers, otters, dolphins and whales, as well as several birds of prey, including the white-tailed sea eagle. You may even be lucky enough to spot a golden eagle.

Mammals

A significant number of deer populate the area of Assynt. They are to be found on the hills, by the roadside, and even wandering the village. Those you are most likely to spot are red deer, the larger of the local species. They are wild animals, so please don’t get too close as they may get territorial if there are young, or it’s the rutting season.

Roe deer populate the area too - they are much smaller, shyer, and if you are close enough to see, have a distinctive moustache. Towards dusk, you might even spot a Sike deer, with its distinctive black stripe down its back.

Badgers and foxes are regular nocturnal visitors, as are pine martens with their distinctive white bib. Some credit pine martens for keeping grey squirrels at bay – meaning the native red squirrels are much more likely to be found in areas where the pine marten thrives.

On the smaller side, you will often see river voles and mice. At the other end of the scale, it wouldn’t be the Highlands without a Heilan coo being spotted somewhere on your travels. And if you’re hillwalking, keep a careful eye out for mountain hare.

Aquatic Mammals

There is a large seal population in the area, and it is not uncommon to see them in Lochinver harbour. Taking one of the local boat trips will almost guarantee a sighting as there are numerous local colonies.

Out on a boat trip or are standing on the cliffs near Stoer Lighthouse, keep a lookout for dolphins or porpoises playing in the bay or a passing whale – orca, minke and humpbacks regularly pass through our waters.

The species everyone wants to see is the otter – they are the most charming of creatures and sometimes seen in the river mouth right in front of Lochinver Larder. So grab yourself a pie and settle down to watch these marvellous creatures. You will have to look closely - the otter’s fur is camouflaged to match the seaweed they play in.

Many people report staring at the same place for an age. Then as if out of nowhere, an otter appears. Keep an especially close watch when the tides are turning - that might be your moment!

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Sea Life

It just wouldn’t be a visit to the beach without spotting a crab in a rockpool - and we have many to search in. Perhaps the biggest of all is the Carraidh in Lochinver - a man-made fish trap visible at low tide reaching out from the war memorial and coming back in at the post office.

A bustling harbour, Lochinver at its peak saw forty or fifty boats landing with a variety of fish. It is quieter now, but there are opportunities for the sea angler to land mackerel, herring, plaice and a dozen other varieties.

The lochs around the parish are well stocked with brown trout (and sea trout in some). With a permit from the local angling associations, there is some lovely sport to be had. Of course, the prize fish is the salmon, and there are a couple of excellent salmon rivers in the parish.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local Folklore

Birds

Any bird watching enthusiast is bound to have a golden eagle at the top of their wishlist. Alongside fellow predators, the sea eagle and the osprey, all three have been sighted in Assynt in recent years. White-tailed sea eagles are becoming increasingly common too.

The so-called tourist eagle (buzzard) is often seen roadside and is much more common, but still an impressive sight. Black-throated divers are regular summer visitors and always get the cameras clicking.

For those who enjoy the hills, beware of the grouse – they have a habit of waiting until you are less than a metre away before breaking cover. Their close relations the ptarmigan are more likely to take a walk with you.

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...a young man spent an evening with his friend trying to catch a deer for their winter stores. It was a wet and misty night and they lost their way and the young man blundered over the top of the falls and fell to his death. His companion raised the alarm and in the morning his young widow was taken to see where the love of her life had fallen, and knowing she couldn’t carry on living without him she let out a wail and threw herself from the same spot. It is said that the only sound you will hear from those falls is the wails of her spirit.
Local Folklore
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FRIENDS OF THE COMMUNITY

Lochinver is home to a fantastic selection of B&Bs, hotels and self-catering accommodation, and offers a range of activities and attractions to help you make the most of your visit.

Davar B&B

A family bed and breakfast, Davar looks out over Lochinver harbour with wonderful views of the village and the mountains behind.

VISIT

The Assynt Highland Games

Every summer on the second Friday in August, Lochinver hosts the Assynt Highland Games in Culag Park, providing a fun day for all the family.

VISIT

Lochinver Landscapes

A family bed and breakfast, Davar looks out over Lochinver harbour with wonderful views of the village and the mountains behind.

VISIT

INVER LODGE

Family-owned for generations, Inver Lodge is a 4-star hotel in a hillside setting offering stunning views of Inver Loch. .

VISIT