Hiking Suilven – the most epic mountain in Scotland
I wanted to visit the Suilven mountain ever since I saw a photo of it on Instagram. I quickly started to do some research about how to get there. I thought it was the coolest looking mountain in Scotland and I was determined to snap a photo on the top.
If you don’t believe me, just watch the Hollywood movie Edie, which truly shows just how beautiful this area is!
As it turns out there are several routes to reach the summit and they all come with challenges. The Assynt area is wild and remote. Climbing Suilven (pronounced Sool-ven) requires a steep ascent. It’s 731m high and rises straight up from sea level.
Despite the difficulties, it is well worth the hike thanks to the spectacular views across the Highlands. In this post, I describe the different ways to do the Suiven walk, so you can decide which one suits your capabilities best.
You will be able to plan your own adventure with the help of this guide. I will describe the three most popular ways to reach this mountain. You can either hike in from the nearest town or paddle in by canoe/kayak. Either way, you will be in for an unforgettable experience. If you would like to greet the sunrise from the summit, you could take camping gear and spend the night on the top. I suggest you only do this if you are an experienced backpacker who is used to carrying heavy gear.
Hiking from the north
Start: Glencanisp Lodge near Lochinver is the starting point of the easiest route to the top. There are signs pointing you in the right direction and the path will be obvious most of the time, but having some form of a map is essential in this remote area.
You will walk for several kilometres on rugged, rocky landscape. After about 4 km you can choose to go on a little detour to the Suilven Bothy. This is a great place to spend the night or hide for a bit if the conditions are harsh. Please be respectful and follow the bothy code when visiting.
The path is not particularly difficult, but it is long, hence good endurance is needed for this hike. The ascent of the gully might look intimidating at first. It is very steep, so take good care. After a short section, the gradient will ease as the path zigs-zags up.
Once you reach the top you will have fantastic views to the south towards Stac Pollaidh.
Parking: If you arrive early you can park near Glencanisp Lodge on Cansip Road. Otherwise, parking is at Lochinver.
Duration: 18 km return hike from Glencanisp Lodge with about 950 m elevation gain. Estimate a full day (8-10) hours for this hike.
Scramble from the south
Start: You start your hike from the car park near Inverkirkaig. You follow the path along River Kirkaig. After about 4 km you will reach the Falls of Kirkaig. You keep walking along the path on the north side of Fionn Loch. Once you get to the base of Suilven the scrambling begins. The path isn’t always obvious and some parts are rocky. Take care when you make your way up.
Parking: There is a large car park about 1 km down the road from Inverkirkaig. It is just before you reach Achins Bookshop.
Coordinates: 58.121489, -5.251821
Duration: 22 km return hike from the car park with about 950 m elevation gain. Estimate a full day (9-11) hours for this hike.
Canoe wild camping trip to Suilven
Start: The start of this adventure is at a small village called Elphin. There is a track down to a fish farm, which is where you can put the canoe on the loch. The track is about 700 m from the road. The white gate is locked most of the time, so you will have to lift the canoe over. A trolley will make your life easier for this section, but if you are only planning to do Suilven and not venture over to other lochs, then you won’t need it for the rest of your adventure. So if you are parked nearby, then I suggest you take it back to the car, to save yourself from carrying it unnecessarily.
The paddle: It’s a 10 km paddle from Elphin to the bottom of Suilven mountain. Loch Veyatie is about 7 km long. It connects to Fionn Loch by a slow-flowing river. When the water level is high enough you can paddle downstream easily.
Portages: On the way back, you might have to portage for some part or pull the canoe in the water. We decided to portage for about a 600 m section, as the water level was too low. The rest of it we could paddle upstream.
Parking: There are a couple of laybys where you can park your car near Elphin. We used one of these for car camping the night before our trip, You can also seek permission from local landowners. The community hall often lets people park there if asked in advance. In this case, a small donation is encouraged to put through their letter box.
Duration: 10 km paddle from Elphin to the bottom of Suilven. (2,5-3 hours) Then a 7 km round trip hike to Suilven with 670 m elevation gain. (4-5 hours)
Wild camping at Suilven
If you decide to wild camp, then please respect nature and wildlife. Leave no trace!
Gear you’ll need:
– Canoe equipment – If you don’t have your own, you can rent one from In Your Element in Inverness. We hired a 16ft canoe for 5 days to give us some extra days in case of bad weather. They also provided us with a canoe lock, bouncy aids, paddles and a trolley. Some of the best inflatable kayaks might also be suitable to tackle this trip.
– Dry bags or barrel
Wild Camping Equipment:
– Water filtration system. We use WaterWell bottles
– Camping equipment: tent, sleeping bag, mat
– Cooking equipment – we use a jetboil
– Expedition food – we eat camping meals like Real Turmat and Wayfayrer
– Satellite communicator – this is essential for your safety as there is very limited signal along the way. We use a Garmin inReach Explorer+
– Toilet essentials – toilet paper, trowel and hand sanitiser
– First aid kit with tick removal
– A portable power station if you want access to electricity
Reception at Suilven
There is no reception in the village of Elphin or on the paddle to the bottom of Suilven. Once you start hiking up the mountain you will have some signal. We even had 4G before we reached the top of Suilven. For your safety, I suggest you take a satellite device with you, so you can notify energy services in case of an accident. The area is quite remote and there won’t be many people around to help you if you are in trouble.
Best time to climb Suilven
Typically the best to do this hike is in the spring, once the snow has melted, but before the midges arrive. In the summer months you can get a lot of midges near the loch, so take midge repellent with you! In the winter the elements are very harsh and only experienced alpine climbers should attempt to do this hike.
Paddle and hike to Suilven Map
You can spot native red deer and mountain hares on this trip.
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