‘Positively Mediterranean’ is how one Drumbeg resident described a nice summer’s day on the Assynt Peninsula. Admittedly it wasn’t yet noon and the pint he was drinking in Lochinver’s Caberfeidh pub probably wasn’t his first. But at Clachtoll Beach campsite, owner Jim’s tan is living proof that the Scottish climate can be kind.
Jim’s a sunny kind of guy – chatty and genial and always eager to help out. He’s not big on signs and instructions everywhere but he knows how he likes his campsite run and encourages folk to play by the rules just by using a little gentle persuasion. Not that you can’t have fun. He once organised a bus to take a bunch of Edinburgh Uni students to the pub in Lochinver, brought them back and let them party on the beach till 4:30 in the morning, after which they were as good as their word and tiptoed back through the site so as not to wake anyone up.
Clachtoll’s remote location and slightly tricky access (at one point on the 23-mile single-track road the maximum gradient is 25 per cent and it’s known as ‘the breakdown zone’) doesn’t dent its popularity. And come that Mediterranean summer the place can become a point of pilgrimage for anyone wanting to enjoy the seclusion.
The site’s around 100 metres or so from the sea, set into the march grass behind the shallow dunes, and it can feel the full force of the wind when it whips up, so be warned: digging out Grandad’s old army surplus tent from the garage might not be the best idea.
The beach isn’t the kind of huge sweeping bay you’ll find elsewhere, but a more intimate affair, sheltered by a fringe of black rocks and a high promontory on its left that does something to deflect the wind. Maybe that’s why the sheep rather like it and are often to be found wandering the sands looking vacant.
This part of the north-west coast is heaven for walkers, with everything from easy coastal routes to wander, to some of Scotland’s most remote and challenging peaks like Suilven and Stac Pollaidh (pronounced ‘stack polly’) within striking distance. There are even some woodland walks, which come as a pleasant surprise when so much of the area is completely treeless. One such wander takes you through the ancient Culag Woods by Lochinver, where birdlife such as herons and woodpeckers can be spotted going about their feathery business. Then there are all the watery things to do, from paddling in the surf to boogie boarding and coasteering (one for the adrenaline junkies; it’s a combination of rock climbing, scrambling and swimming around the coastline).
The Highland Clearances and natural migration to the New World did the job of winnowing out the population of these parts and it’s never really recovered. But what remains are some marvellous little hamlets and human outposts in the vast green desert of the hills. Drumbeg’s a fine example of a small thriving settlement, boasting an art gallery, a fine hotel and an award-winning little village shop with freshly baked bread, fair trade and local organic produce. You can even order goods over the Internet. As they say, every little helps.
To the south is the main town of Lochinver, more a string of houses along the lochside than a town perhaps, but it does have the benefit of the Caberfeidh pub with its small riverside beer garden and a really good Tourist Information office if you’re running short of ideas. Not that you should, though, with all that wilderness and water at your disposal. And what with the Mediterranean climate, there’s no excuse for skulking in the pub. Particularly not before midday.
FacilitiesPretty faultless. There’s a cosy block with a couple of showers and WCs (with nice wooden-framed prints in them), along with dishwashing facilities, a washing machine and a tumble-dryer. There is also a public loo that’s by the beach.
Food & Drink
The Caberfeidh (01571 844321) in Lochinver is a decent boozer in the country line with a modest beer garden out back, next to the water.
There’s 1 postbus a day (the no. 123 operated by the Royal Mail), which runs from Lairg through Lochinver and past Clachtoll up to Drumbeg. Go to www.royalmail.com and type ‘postbus’ into the search box for details. It usually costs between £2 and £5 for a single journey.
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