Journeying to the rugged North-West

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A journey past steep-sided mountains, through wooded glens and along rugged coasts pounded by the Atlantic, brings together what is characteristic of the wild and rugged North-West of Scotland. A lovely time of year to be making this trip before the major influx of visitors and as spring is beginning to take over from winter. But the seasons are mixed in Scotland. Camping on the SW tip of Skye buffeted by strong winds and lashing rain made for a challenging start to the day. Knowing your terrain allows for sheltered walks. An hour later shelter was found in woodlands whilst looking out on the turbulent seas near Kyle of Lochalsh. By mid-morning the storm had died, clouds dissolving, making way for blue skies pulsing with a sunshine unknown these past 6 months.

The white-washed village of Lochcarron reached that lunchtime was reflected as a perfect mirror image on the still waters of the sea loch. Half an hour's drive further north revealed the impressive sheer corries of the Torridon Mountains above the shining waters of its sea loch. This is rugged terrain of ice sculptured sandstone that makes some peaks look unscaleable without a rope. But there is a way for the hill walker! This dramatic grandeur is softened by remnants of the ancient Caledonian pine forests, fine woodlands through which you can walk and still see views. This is no man planted forest where trees are crammed together for commercial profit, growing straight and shutting out light and life from the forest floor. These woodlands are a scattering of wind-shaped pines with blaeberry, heather and juniper whose scents, which the sun's warmth helps to unleash, compete with the heady smell of pine resin.

Further north is Assynt - an extraordinary landscape of many single peaks rising with a giddy steepness. This is a broken land of vast scared rock slabs, shattered boulders and so littered with innumerable lochans that makes walking in a straight line impossible. An ascent of a lovely peak called Canisp provided a fantastic vantage point to take in this stunning scenery. I have had the ambition to make it to the top of Canisp for 42 years, and the reward exceeded the anticipation. Other walks were enjoyed, combing along deserted sandy shores and rocky headlands then inland following the lonely stretches of sea lochs probing around the feet of dark brooding hills ribbed with snow. Away from the road, you can experience the solitude of the wilderness and be quietened and return changed with renewed perspectives.

martin haworth