The jagged pinnacles of Stac Pollaidh are an incredible sight on the Assynt landscape. Its unusual form sticks out like a sore thumb, looming large over the beautiful Loch Lurgainn. Indeed, the Stac Pollaidh hike is one of the most popular in the West Highlands of Scotland. And, despite being classed as only a Graham, Stac Pollaidh near Ullapool still manages to rival any Munro.

In this guide, we’ll cover all the details on how to climb Stac Pollaidh. We’ll start with where to find Stac Pollaidh and then provide a GPS map and trail description. Next, we’ll talk about how to get there, the best time of year to hike Stac Pollaidh, where to stay and answer a few FAQs.

To see footage of the hike to Stac Pollaidh in Ullapool, please watch our NC500 Hikes YouTube production. For your convenience, when you press play below, the video will start exactly at the section showing the Stac Pollaidh trail, and its incredible Assynt wilderness. Although, feel free to watch more for some North Coast 500 inspiration.

For more incredible hikes along the NC500, be sure to check out our Beinn Alligin, Suilven, Quinag and Beinn Eighe NNR hiking guides. Otherwise, read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post, where we talk about 18 excellent NC500 hikes.

How to Climb Stac Pollaidh, Assynt

Stac Pollaidh (also known as Stac Polly Mountain) is actually one of the easiest mountain hikes to conquer in Assynt and along the NC500. Reaching the eye-catching pinnacles of Torridonian sandstone is a short but steep climb, ascending a well-made and maintained trail. Interestingly, the true summit of Stac Pollaidh (the western summit) can only be reached via a difficult climb or scramble. It should only be attempted by climbers or those with experience in high-grade scrambling. That being said, the eastern summit of Stac Pollaidh, for everyday hikers, is still mightily impressive. Certainly, the views over Loch Lurgainn and the surrounding Assynt landscape are absolutely mesmerising.

At 612 metres, scaling this mountain is a fantastic beginner option for mountain hikes in the West Highlands. Classed as a Graham (2000–2500 ft [609m–762m]), this well-known and equally well-loved natural landmark in the Ullapool area makes Stac Pollaidh a very popular mountain to climb. The hike takes less than two hours to complete, and, as we found, is utterly perfect at sunrise.

Sunrise of Loch Lurgainn at Stac Pollaidh Assynt

How to Pronounce Stac Pollaidh

But first thing first, how do we pronounce Stac Pollaidh? Well, if you’ve read any of our other NC500 and West Highland hiking guides, you’ll realise Dan and I are not that great at pronouncing Gaelic names. If you’re as bad as us, you’ll likely pronounce Stac Pollaidh as stack-poh-lay. This is incorrect. To save you the search, the correct pronunciation is actually slightly simpler – stack-polly. Of course, that makes sense as to why Stac Pollaidh is sometimes anglicised to be spelled, Stac Polly.

Where is Stac Pollaidh, Scotland?

The incredible hike to Stac Pollaidh is found in northwest Scotland. Often visited as part of Scotland’s famous NC500 drive, it’s understandably a popular place to tick off. Sitting on the banks of Loch Lurgainn, this jagged mountain sits perfectly within the Assynt landscape of cnoc-and-lochs (hills and lakes).

It’s a good idea to have access to a Stac Pollaidh OS map or have a GPS trail to follow. Feel free to use ours below.

Stac Pollaidh Hiking Map & Preview

  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Distance: 4.3km
  • Time: 1.5–2 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 475m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Stac Pollaidh Car Park
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Stac Pollaidh Hiking Trail

Stac Pollaidh is possibly the best short hike along the NC500. Better yet, hiking at sunrise is an absolute treat in good conditions. Prepare to marvel as golden hour over the surrounding mountains and watery landscape, including Loch Lurgainn, put on a spectacular show for you.

Views from the car park at Stac Pollaidh Assynt

Dan and I found Stac Pollaidh the perfect short hike to speed hike, meaning we could fit more NC500 sights in afterwards.

What’s speed hiking? It’s a great way to cover a trail faster, for fun! Find out more about speed hiking here.

Stac Pollaidh Walk

From the car park, cross the road and head on the trail directly facing the mountain, leaving Loch Lurgainn behind you. After passing through a gate, continue along the well-marked path, which gradually gains in elevation.

After 200m, you’ll reach a fork in the trail. Keep to the right-hand path to complete the hike to Stac Pollaidh in an anti-clockwise direction. This right-hand trail is also less boggy than the left and in better condition. That’s useful to know should you choose to hike to the summit as an out and back and avoid the bog, rather than complete the Stac Pollaidh loop.

It’s important to stick to the marked trails on this hike. It’s not just for your safety, but to help preserve and prevent erosion of the sandstone terrain on the way to summiting Stac Pollaidh.

As Dan and I hiked at sunrise, the golden hour glow over the surrounding landscape was completely magical. From this open moorland trail to Stac Pollaidh, be sure to stop and admire beautiful Assynt. Below, Loch Lurgainn and its sandy shores look like a tranquil haven, tinged slightly pink in the morning light. Directly behind Loch Lurgainn is the grand peak of Sgorr Tuath, and you might just see the orange glow of the sun hitting Beinn an Eoin and The Fiddler behind.

The Summit Ridge

As the trail climbs higher, it also begins to curve, left, around the base of the mountain. Loch Lurgainn will fall out of view. But, views to Suilven and out to sea will open up.

Eventually, at around the 1.5km mark, you’ll reach another fork. This is where you can either continue to the right and complete a loop, solely, around the base of Stac Pollaidh. Or, you can take the trail, left, and head up the mountain. Of course, you’ll head left, as that’s what you’ve come for, right?

The summit route to Stac Pollaidh feels steep, but is easy to navigate due to the purpose-built stone steps. If you’re hiking early in the morning, like us, keep an eye out for the local wildlife. We were thrilled to encounter a herd of deer tucking into a mountainside breakfast as we climbed.

Soon enough, you’ll reach the summit ridge. The views across Assynt and the Ullapool area from the Stac Pollaidh ridge are quite spectacular.

Dan ascending Stac Pollaidg in Assynt for views from the eastern summit

Stac Pollaidh Eastern Summit

To access the eastern summit from the ridge is a short walk, and involves just a small amount of low-grade scrambling. There are some fantastic lookout points from which to enjoy the surrounding landscape.

Although not the true summit of this fabulous mountain, it’s the most common one reached in which to enjoy the splendid views. That’s because to access the true summit, or western summit, of Stac Pollaidh, involves either some rock climbing or high-grade scrambling. If you have to ask yourself whether you possess the skills for this or not, it’s probably best not to attempt it.

But, rest assured, the views from the eastern summit are truly sublime. Dan and I were completely satisfied with the views from here. Not least because it was hella windy from the ridge and we didn’t feel up to the challenge of a tricky scramble in those conditions.

Dan at the summit of Stac Pollaidh Assynt Ullapool with Loch Lurgainn in the background

Summit Views

From the eastern summit of Stac Pollaidh, prepare to have your breath taken away. Directly ahead is an even better view of Loch Lurgainn below. The cluster of mountains encompassing the long body of Loch Lurgainn rise up sharply from sea level and look truly formidable on the horizon.

Behind, and looking north, is the grand peak of Cul Mòr and Loch Sionasgaig. On a clear day, you can also see Suilven, which, as we know, is another unmistakable shape in the Assynt wilderness.

Beck stands on the eastern summit of Stac Pollaidh

Stac Pollaidh Western Summit and Scramble

The western summit, or true summit, of Stac Pollaidh is out of bounds for everyday hikers. It’s important to listen to this warning. As mentioned previously, the ascent to the true summit involves climbing or high-grade scrambling over a series of rocky towers. In particular, the last tower of the Stac Pollaidh climb is somewhat troublesome, involving the ‘bad step’. If you don’t have the skill set, please do not attempt this climb.

Dan and I can confirm that the hike, views and feeling of utter satisfaction from the eastern summit are some of the best we’ve felt from any mountain in the Scottish Highlands. To that end, we know you won’t be disappointed in the slightest with not summiting the western ridge.

Stac Pollaidh Mountain Descent

After enjoying the views from the eastern summit, the trail begins to lead back down the mountain, following behind the pinnacles of the western summit. Soon enough, you’ll join back up with the circular path leading around the base of Stac Pollaidh, continuing to swing around the western end.

The trail descending from here can be very boggy in sections. That being said, the views back up to the pinnacles on the western summit are some of the best you’ll see of it from below. To that end, I’d say it makes the bog worthwhile.

Return to the Car Park

Continue to follow the trail back down through the open moorlands, facing toward Loch Lurgainn once again. Eventually, you’ll pass the first fork in the trail, and then continue back on this initial path back to the car park.

Recap

Stac Pollaidh is a wonderful hike, start to finish. Whether you’re a less experienced hiker, looking for something manageable to conquer, a hiking fanatic (hands up over here) looking for something to kickstart the day, or an experienced climber, looking for a challenge on the western summit, Stac Pollaidh has you covered.

The well-marked trail is easy to follow, access to the trailhead is very straightforward and the views across Assynt and especially down to Loch Lurgainn, are some of the best you’ll experience from any hike in this rugged corner of Scotland.

Views of Sgurr Mor in Assynt

How to Get to Stac Pollaidh

The best way to access Stac Pollaidh is with your own transportation. Whether hiking as a day trip from Ullapool, or as part of the NC500, you’ll find relying on public transportation a lengthy process.

Travelling to Stac Pollaidh from Ullapool is a 30 minute drive. Ullapool is just 15 miles (24km) from Stac Pollaidh, with the drive across the Assynt landscape rather beautiful. From Ullapool, take the A835 heading north out of town, passing Ardmair en route to Drumrunie. At Drumrunie, take the right turn and continue along the road, past Loch Lurgainn, before accessing the car park on your right.

Not only does Ullapool make a great base from which to hike Stac Pollaidh, but it also makes a great base from which to hike many other Assynt mountains in the area like Suilven and Quinag, as well as visit The Bone Caves and Falls of Kirkaig.

You’ll find the Stac Pollaidh Car Park, Ullapool on the banks of Loch Lurgainn. The address is IV26 2XY.

Of course, if you don’t have access to your own set of wheels, then we recommend hiring something. When hiring a car, we always get the ball rolling with a search on RentalCars.com. Booking a car with Rentalcars.com is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.

Parking at Stac Pollaidh

The car park for Stac Pollaidh, Ullapool has room for fewer than 20 cars. With that being said, I would always recommend arriving early to ensure a spot. But, given how short the hike is, the turnaround of visitors can be quite high. So hopefully, parking shouldn’t be too much of an issue whatever time of day you rock up.

Public Transport

If travelling via public transport, you’ll find a bus that leaves Ullapool twice daily. Bus line 811 between Ullapool and Achduart leaves once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Although an infrequent service, it only takes around 35 minutes to reach Stac Pollaidh Car Park. You can check the bus timetable here.

What’s the Best Time to Climb Stac Pollaidh?

If you want to experience the splendour and tranquillity of Stac Pollaidh and its breathtaking Assynt views in peace and quiet, you should consider hiking early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Dan and I hiked at sunrise, and besides the fabulous golden hour creating the most beautiful hues of pink and orange, there wasn’t another soul in sight. And considering this was August, that’s quite something.

With that being said, I believe a sunset hike would be equally as magical. In addition, Dan and I were lucky enough to see plenty of wildlife out and about first thing in the morning, which really added to the enjoyment of the whole trek.

Stac Pollaidh Weather

It’s possible to hike to Stac Pollaidh any time of year. Indeed, I’ve seen some absolutely beautiful pictures of the mountain hike in the snow. I imagine even just a loop around the base of the mountain to be quite spectacular in a fresh dusting.

Nonetheless, if you’re not used to hiking in wintery conditions, it’s best to leave that to those with more experience. Truly, winter weather can be unpredictable and you never know when specialist equipment might be called upon. Certainly, if you do hike in winter, do not attempt the western summit climb.

To that end, the best time to hike Stac Pollaidh is in the summer months. These include April, May, June, July, August and September. During these months, you’ll find the weather to be much milder. Although, as mentioned, mountain weather can always be a little unpredictable.

For an accurate forecast of Stac Pollaidh, Ullapool, you can check here. You can also check the mountain forecast here.

Accommodation

Given Stac Pollaidh’s proximity to Ullapool, this town makes for a great base from which to hike the mountain. That being said, there are plenty of other options closer, including great campsites. We’ll take a look below.

Camping at Stac Pollaidh

Dan and I camped for a few nights at Ardmair Point Holiday Park. The facilities are fantastic, the grounds are spacious and the views across Loch Canaird at sunset are drool-worthy. From Ardmair, it’s just a short drive to Stac Pollaidh. Other excellent camping spots can be found at Achmelvich Beach. These include Shore Caravan Site and Hillhead Self Catering Caravans.

Of course, wild camping is permitted in Scotland. So, you could park up your camper overnight in the Stac Pollaidh Car Park, ready for a sunrise hike, or find a nice patch to pitch your tent on.

Nearest Hotels For Stac Pollaidh

If you love a hotel stay, your best options are in Ullapool. The Eilean Donan Guest House is a popular choice, with rooms coming with private bathrooms and guests loving the cooked breakfast. Remember to request a mountain view with this one!

For the more budget conscious, The Ferry Boat Inn is a great option. Located right in the heart of town, this hotel is in a great location to explore both north and south of Ullapool and is just a 30 minute drive from Stac Pollaidh.

Stac Pollaidh Self Catering

For a slice of home away from home, sometimes you just can’t beat a self-catering stay. Top House, at Ardmair Point, is a fantastic self-catering cottage, just a 20 minute drive from Stac Pollaidh. The location, on the waterfront, is particularly peaceful.

Alternatively, you could stay in a delightful pod at Acheninver Hostel in Achiltibuie. These self-catering chalets are right on the seafront and overlook the Summer Isles. A stay here feels remote and relaxing. I can’t think of a better place to unwind in Scotland.

Views of Stac Pollaidh from Loch Lurgainn

FAQs

Below, we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions in regards to the Stac Pollaidh hike in Assynt, Scotland.

How Difficult is Stac Pollaidh?

Excluding the western summit, which we’ve already established shouldn’t be attempted without adequate experience, Stac Pollaidh is a relatively easy summit to conquer. The simple trail, short distance and low elevation gain (for a mountain anyway), makes this a great beginner’s hike. It’s also a fantastic bang-for-buck hike, given the extraordinary views from the top.

How Long Does it Take to Climb Stac Pollaidh, Ullapool?

The Stac Pollaidh hike takes around two hours to complete. Plenty of time left in the day for more hiking! Dan and I went off to hike Quinag afterward.

How High is Stac Pollaidh?

Stac Pollaidh stands at a height of 613m. It’s a good 100m+ shorter than its famous neighbour, Suilven, with an elevation of 731m. The accumulated elevation gain during the hike to Stac Pollaidh is 475m.

Is Stac Pollaidh a Munro, a Corbett or a Graham?

For those unaware of these terms, mountains in Scotland are generally classed as Munros, Corbetts or Grahams, depending on their height. There are names for even smaller mountains too, but we won’t get into those here. To be classified as a Munro, a mountain must be over 3,000ft (914m). A Corbett classification means a mountain with a height of 2,500–3,000ft (762–914m) and includes a drop of at least 500m on all sides. A Graham is a mountain with a height of between 2,000–2,500ft (609–762m). So, as you’ve probably worked out by now, and based on what is written at the start of this post, Stac Pollaidh in Ullapool, is a Graham.

Dan stands and admires the views of Loch Lurgainn from the eastern summit of Stac Pollaidh Assynt

Five Hiking Essentials

These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Stac Pollaidh hike near Ullapool. Certainly, for a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Alternatively, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip to Scotland and the North Coast 500, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.

Hiking Essential


Why do you need this?

See it in action


These hiking boots are comfortable and durable, making them well suited to the rugged terrain of walks on the NC500

This camera is hands down the best compact digital camera on the market. Lightweight, durable and easy to use, the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes fantastic photos and high-quality 4K videos

This is Scotland guys! A waterproof jacket is a non negotiable

A great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of storage capacity and a convenient compartment for your hydration bladder

The DJI Mavic Air 2 is an awesome drone that takes incredible aerial footage. With newer models now available, you can buy the DJI Mavic Air 2 for a very cheap price

You should also pack at least 1–2L of water, snacks and sunscreen.

Bonus Tips

  • Assynt Mountains: for other cracking mountain hikes in Assynt, be sure to check out Suilven, An Teallach, Quinag, Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe NNR (guides coming soon).
  • Waterfalls: Assynt is awash with stunning waterfalls. Some of our favourites include Wailing Widow Falls, Falls of Kirkaig and Eas a’ Chual Aluinn).
  • Leave no trace: remember, what goes up a mountain with you must come back down. To that end, keep an eye on your gear, and if you see any litter, bring it back down with you.
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Stac Pollaidh was easily one of our favourite hikes on our NC500 road trip. Others include Beinn Alligin, Suilven and Quinag. Have you hiked these mountains?


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