Suilven – The Scottish Icon
Suilven from Glen Canisp Lodge – Image by Lochinver Landscapes
The four pods at NC500pods are named after four local mountains. We thought it would be good to look at each in a bit more detail. This week is the iconic Suilven.
Suilven is probably the most recognisable mountain in Scotland due to its unique shape. Loved by tourists, photographers and hillwalkers alike, and stunning from every angle. It’s not hard to see why Suilven is a true icon of Assynt and the Scottish Highlands.
A Bit About Suilven
The name Suilven (pronounced ‘Soo-ill-ven’), is a mix of the Norse word for pillar & Gaelic fo hill. Three distinct peaks make up Suilven, which are named Caisteal Liath (the Grey Castle), Meall Meadhonach (Middle Round Hill) & Meall Beag (Little Round Hill)
Suilven is quite dinky, compared to most famous Scottish mountains, being only a Graham (between 2000-2500 ft [609.6–762.0m]). Despite this small stature, walking Suilven is no small achievement. Not accessible by car, you must trek several miles of Assynt wilderness just to reach the base of the mountain. This only adds to Suilven’s mystic & allure.
Like it’s neighbours, Suilven consists of a geological mix of Lewisian Gneiss and Torridonian Sandstone. The distinctive shape was produced by glacial erosion. As the glacier slowly moved, it took away the softer land/stone to revel the iconic Suilven outline.
In last week’s blog we discussed how Quinag is a mini-mountain range. Suilven too has a little ridge along its three peaks. Where things differ are the steep gradient of the slopes. Suilven emerges abruptly and almost vertically from the surrounding flat marsh land. This is why Suilven looks so impressive and imposing despite being relatively small.
Suilven Ridge – Image by Lochinver Landscapes
Getting There From NC500Pods
From your pod, drive into Lochinver. Shortly after the public car park & village hall/ATM, turn left onto Canisp road. This road leads to Glencanisp lodge. It is not permitted to park at the lodge but there are a small number of spaces just before a sign saying ‘no parking beyond this point’. If there are no spaces here, you may have to park in the public car park in Lochinver. Worth getting up early to avoid this!
Continue on Canisp road until you reach Glencansip lodge. Take the left path to walk around the back of the buildings. Pass through the gate onto the dirt road.
Suilven Walking Route
It’s a long slog from here – about 8 or so kilometres. Thankfully there are great views of Canisp & Suilven (Mainly the dome shaped Caisteal Liath) along the way.
Once alongside Suilven, shortly after crossing a bridge over the steam, there is a path that veers to the right. The path heads to the low point or saddle on the Suilven ridge.
Once at the base of the saddle, it is a steep but not dangerous climb to the ridge. At the top of the saddle, you will be able to see Stac Pollaidh dead ahead in the distance. Once you’ve caught your breath, turn right towards Caisteal Liath.
There is a worn path to the Summit of Caisteal Liath, which is the highest point of Suilven (731m). The views at the top are stunning so don’t forget that camera! The summit is very exposed so unless it is a very calm day, you’ll likely want to have refreshments a little further down, which is generally more sheltered.
Looking East from Caisteal Liath summit to Meall Beag & Canisp – Photo by David Main
The descent and route back to the start is merely the reverse of the approach & ascent. You should plan for 8 – 9 hours from start to finish.
Some prefer to spread the miles over 2 days by wild camping on the summit. This allows for some incredible sunset/sunrise photos, but you should only attempt this if you have correct equipment, experience & weather.
On the return to Lochinver a well earned pint (or softy if you’re the driver) will be waiting at the bar in the Culag hotel.
Do you fancy tackling this icon? Have you already conquered Suilven? Let us know & share your photos on our Facebook page.