A Week in the Far North West of Scotland

Yesterday we were meant to be heading up to the far north west of Scotland for a week’s holiday. Unfortunately, the nationwide lockdown has meant we have had to delay our trip until later in the year. Therefore I thought I would share some memories from our last visit to Kinlochbervie, a fishing village in Sutherland, where we stayed in September 2018. I’ll share where we stayed, what we did, and how dog friendly it all was!

Where We Stayed

We stayed in a cosy cottage just outside of Kinlochbervie. Being completely honest, we picked it because it was the cheapest property available on the dates we wanted, and didn’t look into the cottage or location at all! We really fell on our feet with Inchard Barn. The cottage was snug and secluded with amazing views over Loch Inchard.

The cottage was set in beautiful scenery – the photo on the left was taken about 20 metres from the cottage! We very often saw deer in the garden at night and in the early mornings.

Overall dog friendly rating for Inchard Barn – 4/5. The cottage has easily cleaned floors downstairs so we didn’t need to worry about a soggy spaniel getting any carpet wet! (always a bonus in Scotland!). The only reason this cottage doesn’t get a 5/5 dog friendly rating is that the garden wasn’t completely secured – but that didn’t matter at all with the miles of walking right from the front door!

Sandwood Bay

The first walk that we did was Sandwood Bay, which is reportedly the most beautiful beach in Britain. Despite being relatively well known, we saw almost no people on our walk, and when we got to the beach we had it entirely to ourselves! This may be something to do with the four mile walk to get to the beach from the car park at Blairmore. There is an honesty box here with money going to the John Muir Trust so try and leave something if you can! There are also some public toilets at the car park.

Although four miles each way might sound like a long way, the path is clear and well defined and almost completely flat. The scenery along the way is typical for the area and the stunning beach is well worth a walk! We had glorious sunshine for most of the walk although we did get caught in a hail storm on our way back to the car park – make sure you are prepared for all weathers!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. There is plenty of space (the beach is 1.5 miles long) for your dog to run around and the whole walk was extremely quiet. There are no poo bins, so please pick up after your dog and take it away with you to dispose of.

The River Inver

Later on in the week we headed down to Lochinver to visit the famous Lochinver Larder where Sam had memories of amazing pies on childhood family holidays. The Lochinver Larder is unfortunately not dog friendly, however, they do operate a takeaway service and we were able to pop by and pick up one or two (or six) pies to take with us on our walk. We were able to park up in Lochinver (free parking on the waterfront by the church) and then headed out of the town along the River Inver. The route we followed was from our Pocket Mountains guide but a similar route is available on walkhighlands.

I had heard that there are otters living along the river Inver so I was desperate to see one, but unfortunately we were out of luck – unsurprising given that we were walking with a very noisy spaniel who was desperate to get in the water at all costs! This was a lovely walk along the river, through woodland and then out onto some open moor with absolutely awesome views of Glencanisp and Suilven.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This is a great walk for dogs, it is almost all off-road and the woods offer plenty of exciting smells! However the river can be very fast flowing and given how much Merry loves the water, we needed to keep him on the lead for a lot of the walk to stop him jumping in and being swept away!

Tongue

We visited Tongue on a day when it seemed like it was pouring down in the whole of Sutherland, and we therefore decided to visit Tongue as it was the only place within a two hour radius where it wasn’t forecast to be absolutely sloshing down all day.

Tongue is a postcard picture village pretty much as far north as you can go (we drove past signs for Cape Wrath on our way there). There is free parking in the centre of the village. From the village we walked up to Castle Varrich, a ruin on a high ground with great views over the Kyle of Tongue. This was quite a short walk but we saw plenty of wildlife, including a golden eagle which was an amazing experience – it just flew out of a tree about 10 metres away from us! The castle is free to visit and the ruin has a staircase inside which you can climb to make the most of the views.

On our way back to Kinlochbervie we stopped off twice, once at the Smoo Cave, and secondly at Ceannabeinne beach. Smoo Cave is a massive sea cave and has lots of interesting facts, including the fact that it was inhabited in the Mesolithic period. We only went into the first part of the cave which is free to enter but you can go further in on paid tours. Ceannabeinne beach is a pretty little stretch of sand where we stopped off to stretch our legs. The car park is right next to the road and the beach is immediately adjacent.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. All of our walks were quite short and either involved road walking or being close to a round, so not ideal for off lead walks. However, all of the places with the exception of the cave were dog friendly, so we were happy having a wander to explore the area.

Ben Stack

During our visit the weather was what I would call ‘hit and miss’. There was only one day when we had the classic deluge associated with Scotland, but we only had one day where it was forecast to be dry all day. Ben Stack was therefore the only mountain we attempted, although sadly, we did not reach the summit after turning back due to the rate the wind was picking up. There are no car parks near the start so you will need to leave your car at the road side while you walk.

The route on Walkhighlands takes a fairly short approach to the summit – do no be deceived though as the path is non-existent in places so map reading skills are a must. We did do our fair share of tramping through the heather trying to find the best path to the summit! It is also very boggy so make sure you wear your waterproof boots.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Merry absolutely loves jumping through heather and it was the perfect way to wear out a crazy spaniel! We didn’t see any livestock on this walk and there were no styles, however, there are plenty of deer in this area so make sure that you check your dog for ticks when you get home.

Oldshoremore Beach

Oldshoremore beach was by far my favourite beach we visited! It was about a ten minute drive from our cottage and is easily accessed from a car park (no charge) if you don’t fancy the walk to Sandwood Bay!

It was absolutely pristine with no litter, people or signs of humanity! It was so completely wild and remote feeling and I felt a bit like we had cheated not having to walk a few miles to get there!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This beach is dog friendly and oh so wonderfully quiet! There were quite a few jellyfish washed up on the beach when we were there, so if your dog is likely to try and eat them, make sure you keep an eye out! As always please pick up any dog poo to keep the beach this lovely for the next person.

Lairg

Lairg is a small village at the end of Loch Shin which is famous for the ‘wee hoose’ you can see on an island in the loch as you drive through. We found a few walks in the area in our Pocket Mountains book, which were perfect for doing two walks in one day, without having to rush back to the car to get to the start of the next walk. Since returning from Scotland I have also discovered that Lairg is a potential impact location for a meteorite that hit the Earth 1.2 billion years ago!

To get a good view of the potential impact site, climb The Ord, a small hill by Scottish standards which is also home to a suspected prehistoric burial chamber. It’s a very short and easy walk to the top of the hill, and you can extend it by adding a stroll through Ferry Wood on to the start of the walk. There is free parking at Ferrycroft Visitor Centre.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This walk is all off road and there are plenty of opportunities to let your dog off the lead. Quiet despite it’s proximity to Lairg.

Once we’d finished our walk up The Ord we headed East to visit Ravens Rock Gorge, another site which offers free parking. This mixed woodland was extremely atmospheric and Merry absolutely loved it (as did Sam and I). There are two short trails you can follow – don’t follow the longer trail like we did as this is actually no longer accessible due to fallen trees caused by a landslip. We didn’t notice the warning signs and ended up climbing over tree trunks on the path and jumping over gaps in bridges! It was fairly challenging (it felt a bit like we were in Tomb Raider in places) and probably not safe for the public to access, hence the warning signs. So if you visit makes sure you stick to the paths!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. There is lots of space for your dog to explore off the lead and you will hardly encounter any other people. Merry loved this walk and had to be bodily lifted back into the car to leave!

Map of Locations

The map below shows all of the places we visited on our trip. I’ve summed up where places are below and included a dog friendly rating.

  1. Inchard Barn Cottage – dog friendly rating 4/5.
  2. Sandwood Bay – dog friendly rating 5/5.
  3. Lochinver and River Inver walk – dog friendly rating 4/5.
  4. Tongue and Castle Varrich – dog friendly rating 3.5/5.
  5. Smoo Cave – not dog friendly.
  6. Ceannabeinne beach – dog friendly rating 3/5.
  7. Oldshoremore beach – dog friendly rating 5/5.
  8. Ben Stack – dog friendly rating 5/5.
  9. Ferry Wood and The Ord, Lairg – dog friendly rating 5/5.
  10. Ravens Rock Gorge – dog friendly rating 5/5.

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