Rocky Mountains, Large Fjords and Rugged Islands – Cape Wrath to the Kyle of Lochalsh

Bordering the Northwest Scottish Highlands – the mountain range between Glen More in the south and the Loch Eriboll region in the north – this is arguably one of the most extreme coastal landscapes in Scotland, let alone the British Isles. With high cliffs, steep mountain slopes rising from the shoreline, numerous coastal lochs and peninsulas, this coastal landscape is amazing, and draws in many visitors during the summer months. Like with much of western Scotland, this coastline also boasts its own microclimate – due to its closeness with the Atlantic Gulf Stream, both the sea and air temperature are warmer than they should be, considering the latitude.

Although the northern part of this section (close to Cape Wrath) is associated more with rugged and towering cliffs, with headlands, coves and rocks making up many of the shoreline features, the further south one travels, incredibly large hills and mountains rise up from the coastline. With their large rocky crags, and steep granite sides, they make for a very scenic picture postcard-like landscape.

Beach and Cliffs at Covehithe
Ben More Coigach
By Ike Gibson, CC BY-SA 2.0,

One of the many possible examples of these is Ben More Coigach – dominating the landscape of the Coigach peninsula, and located 10 km (6 miles) north-west of the port of Ullapool, this table-shaped mountain rises like a massive craggy wall from the shoreline. Great views can be seen of the surrounding area from the top of this 743 metre (2,438 foot) high mountain [1].

Mick Garratt / Applecross Bay

Another example is the mountains on the spectacular Applecross peninsula – positioned 14 km (9 miles) to the north of the Kyle of Lochalsh, the mountains of Meall Gorm and Beinn Bhàn are incredibly impressive, with their craggy cliff-like drops near the top of the mountains forming distinctively glacier-carved U-shaped valleys. The 700+ metre (2,300+ foot) summits give great views of Loch Kishorn to the south, other mountains to the east, and the Isle of Skye to the west.

sylvia duckworth / Loch Kishorn and the Applecross peninsula

Along the coastline, many loch inlets (or fjords) stretch inland from the Atlantic Ocean for several miles. These are formed by much glacial carving during the many Ice Ages that have occurred over the past 2.4 million years. Many of these are significantly wide and deep, and are flanked by steep mountain slopes – the landscape along the lochs is incredibly impressive.


Loch Torridon by Oliver Clarke from Newmilns, East Ayrshire, United Kingdom, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

For example, Loch Torridon stretches eastwards into the Scottish interior for around 21 km (13 miles). A popular destination for hill walkers, photographers and holiday makers, this fjord is seen as one of the most dramatic locations for scenery across the entirety of the British Isles, as well as a quintessentially Scottish loch [2]. The steep slopes of several mountains on both sides flow down to the shoreline, with rocky crags being rather commonplace. The coastline of the loch is rather rugged in places – this is not a fjord with straight or slightly curved sides, but instead it contains several rocky headlands and a rather rocky shoreline. Although many other fjords exist along the north-west Scottish coastline, Loch Broom is also worth a mention, as parts of the mountain slope on the north-eastern side are covered in coniferous forests. The small town of Ullapool sits on the north-eastern side of the loch.

Hundreds of small islands exist just off of the coastline along the entire stretch – with their rather rocky and rugged nature, some of these are large enough to sustain an area of grassland on top, or even the odd building or two. This is true for Loch Laxford near the northern extent of the coastline, which contains many small islands, and the Summer Isles. However, some islands only consist of a rock stack or crag that stands above the waves, as can be seen just off the coastline between Loch Carron and the Kyle of Lochalsh. There are, of course, occasional islands that are much larger than this – the coastline near the Kyle of Lochalsh, for example, is only 750 metres (2,500 feet) away from the Isle of Skye, a vast island that makes up the northern extent of the Inner Hebrides, an archipelago that borders a significant part of the western Scottish coastline.

Old Man of Stoer at the end of the Point of Stoer  by Bert Kaufmann from Roermond, Netherlands, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Peninsulas and large headlands are also rather numerous; the largest of these are the Coigach and Applecross peninsulas. Other headlands include the Point of Stoer, which is located at the end of a sandstone peninsula. A rock stack on the shoreline named the Old Man of Stoer shows the many horizontal layers of sandstone rock that exist underneath the soil surface [3]. Rubha Rèidh is another example of a large headland. With a solitary white lighthouse on top, the scenery of the rugged cliffs on this headland is truly remarkable – a small sandy cove named Camas Mor is tucked in below the towering sandstone cliffs. Natural arches and rock stacks also dominate the coastline here [4].

Clashnessie Bay By Hugh Venables, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Although sandy beaches are few and far between, small arches of sand exist in some small bays and coves. Clashnessie Bay is one examples of these – with a sandy shoreline at the head of a rocky inlet, the clean beach is surrounded with rocky crags and rolling hills [5]. Achnahaird Bay is similar, and is rather peaceful and tranquil; behind the sand and rockpools, rolling craggy hills stretch back for a couple of miles until they meet the rugged mountains of the Highlands [6]. Applecross Bay, however, is larger in size – nestled within close proximity to two mountains on the Applecross peninsula, it consists of a nice expanse of sand intermitted by a small mountain stream. The small village of Applecross borders the south of the beach [7]. Furthermore, at the small hamlet named Sand – located around 5 km (3 miles) to the north-west of the village – archaeological remains have been discovered, strongly suggesting that a Mesolithic settlement existed here around 9,500 years ago [8].

Despite north-western Scotland being sparsely populated, several small towns and numerous villages exist along the coast. Located on Loch Broom and nestled below a mountain slope, Ullapool is a small tranquil town that overlooks the beautiful fjord – it is no surprise that this is a popular tourist destination, and contains various bed-and-breakfast style hotels [9]. Poolewe sits at the head of Loch Ewe – comprising of a main street of mainly white-rendered building, this is a very attractive village which overlooks great scenery [10].

By Bert Kaufmann from Roermond, Netherlands – Kyle of Lochalsh, CC BY 2.0,

Marking the southerly extent of this coastal stretch, the Kyle of Lochalsh is a small town that borders Loch Alsh – with a great scenery of mountains, the loch and the Isle of Skye just opposite, this is a great town for visitors.

British Coast
Plockton By Wojsyl – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


The coastline that stretches for a few miles to the north of Kyle of Lochalsh is also amazing – not only for its wooded slopes that slide down to the shoreline, but also for Duncraig Castle, a beautiful mansion that overlooks the sea, and the picturesque village of Plockton [11].
































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