Loch Assynt, Scotland, United Kingdom

Lake Locations:

United Kingdom - Scotland - Highlands & Moray -

Hidden away in a remote corner of Northwestern Scotland, Loch Assynt offers a scenic vista consisting of nearly 2,000 acres of sparkling cold waters, several nearby mountains, a castle in ruins, a small settlement and plenty of solitude. The nearly 300-feet deep loch connects to the North Atlantic via the River Inver at the fishing village of Lochinver. Water flows into Loch Assynt from the River Loanan, from Loch Awe and a number of smaller streams. All of this clear cold water makes Loch Assynt one of the Highlands’ best trout waters and a favored place for visitors to enjoy mountain trekking, wildlife watching and exploring. A number of small islands in the loch are no longer inhabited.

The peaks of Beinn Uidhe, Quinag and Canisp overlook the loch basin. Several steep and strenuous hiking trails begin on the northeastern shoreline near the ruins of Ardvreck Castle. The castle, built in the late 1500s by the McLeod clan, stands as testament to the long history of human struggles at Loch Assynt. Nearby, the remains of several ‘chambered cairns’-megalithic burial chambers-give evidence that humans lived here long before recorded history. The tiny village of Inchnadamph at the eastern end of Loch Assynt hints at the much larger population that once farmed these lands, grazing their livestock along the slopes.

Now, only a few remnants of the settlement remain, some converted to vacation rentals and lodges. Small boats can be rented; fishing is permitted on both the loch and adjacent rivers for trout, and during the annual runs of salmon and sea trout. Permits for fishing rights are sold for river frontage space along the streams by the local historical association charity as a means of supporting their archaeological and preservation work. Fly fishing is an art that is celebrated among these high valley visitors, and the cold water fishery is fiercely protected.

The storied past of the Assynt region reveals itself to observant visitors. Many archaeological digs are in the process of uncovering ancient human history in the area, including the burial cairns, remnants of daily Iron Age life. Other archaeological projects are uncovering the secrets beneath the many massive round houses or broches and smaller crannogs found throughout the Assynt area. Evidence of Viking invaders remains in place-names and the rare artifacts found. Legend says the area was first granted to the McNichol clan, but soon passed to the McLeods. The history of the clan system is obvious in the ruined castle built by the McLeod Clan, who imprisoned a Mackenzie chieftain within its walls. History also tells us that the Mackenzie Clan was the ultimate winner in these struggles, with the wife of a Mackenzie wanting-and getting-a newer, modern house at some distance from the cold and drafty castle. The grand Chalda House, now in ruins, was the first classical-style house built at Loch Assynt.

The old Parish Church at Inchnadamph holds the remnants of a large 9th century cross. The fertile limestone fields maintained a relatively large population in the Loch Assynt area for many years. However, financial reversals and bankruptcy led to the land being sold to the Sutherland estates; the notorious ‘clearance’ of the land in the 1800s forced the majority of historic tenants from their farms and transplanted them to the coast or even as far away as America. The hills around Loch Assynt became sheep farms. Today, efforts have been made by a few of the descendants of displaced families to band together and buy out portions of the surrounding lands and reclaim a piece of their history.

Loch Assynt is the ideal place for a Highlands nature holiday. Many of the vacation homes and residences are available for rental on a short-term basis. A small resort hotel offers lodging, hiking, hunting and fishing. Although there are a number of sandy beaches, the water remains too cold for such activities as water skiing or swimming. The scenery is excellent and the ambience decidedly rural Scotland.

Many small inns, pubs and lodgings in the Assynt region make for a welcoming vacation, although often a rather chilly one. And no visitor will want to miss the interesting Kirton Heritage Trail which begins at Inchnadamph. The trail passes a waterfall, several examples of unique geological formations and the remains of the settlement of Kirton, where the residents were evicted in the late 1800s for ‘clearance’ purposes. The Eadar a Chalda Heritage Trail begins near the parking area for Ardvreck Castle and also passes by the remains of early farmsteads and the ruins of early structures. The hikes are strenuous and the views awe-inspiring. Other hiking trails exist in the area which highlight the history of early residents, including Iron Age sites.

Loch Assynt is accessible by road from Lochinver and A837 Highway. Both Glasgow and Edinburgh are about 250 miles away. Loch Assynt is certainly not a place where you will find crowds of vacationers and sightseers, but will definitely keep you busy reaching for your camera or pondering the long history of this remote and storied land. Come to Loch Assynt and you will be forever changed.

* All statistics appear to be derived from a book of early lake surveys titled, “Bathymetrical Survey of the Fresh-Water Lochs of Scotland, 1897-1909” at the National Library of Scotland and no longer available online. The bathymetry map is still available and listed in the sidebar.

Things to do at Loch Assynt

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Water Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Ruins

Fish species found at Loch Assynt

  • Salmon
  • Trout

Loch Assynt Photo Gallery

Loch Assynt Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,977 acres

Shoreline Length: 16 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 217 feet

Average Depth: 101 feet

Maximum Depth: 282 feet

Water Volume: 200,434 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 43 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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