Achmelvich, just three miles north-west of Lochinver, is an idyllic place of white sands and blue or turquoise seas. People visit for the sublime coastal scenery and for the inland views of the improbable summit of Suilven, which from this angle looks like a giant policeman's helmet made of rock.
But there's another reason why some people visit Achmelvich, though it's a much less obvious one. We have to admit that we'd been visiting for years, and even stayed here more than once, before we'd even heard of Hermit's Castle, still less visited it.
Hermit's Castle can be described in many ways. It's been called Europe's smallest castle: though, despite the name, calling it a "castle" is stretching a point a little. A possibly more accurate description is that it is a remarkable concrete folly built in a Brutalist style that blends in a very surprising way into its rocky shoreside setting. What adds to its attraction is the slight air of mystery that surrounds it. The bare facts behind its presence in this location are fairly clear (though not universally agreed upon), but the important question about why it came to be built here seems to have gone unanswered. (Continues below images...)
The story goes that in 1950 (there is some debate about the date, but that's the one used in official sources) an architect from Norwich, David Scott, decided to build himself a small concrete bothy here. It is said that he brought materials in by boat and that it took him six months to single-handedly build the structure whose remains can be seen today. When originally built, the square holes that dot one side of Hermit's Castle had glazed inserts, and there was a door, presumably a little way in from the outer opening, where there is now a doorframe.
This all rather overlooks questions we've never seen answered. Why did David Scott want to build his Hermit's Castle here? And, having spent six months building it, why did he - as the story goes - spend just a weekend staying in it before leaving, never to return? If the story does have its mysterious aspects, then for us it also has a slight sense of sadness. We've also never seen it established whether its builder had gone through the process of getting planning permission for his folly before erecting it.
Finding Hermit's Castle is fairly straightforward if you know what you are looking for, and where, but we suspect it would also be very easy to overlook in an area that has a number of rocky headlands. The most direct route is in a straight line over higher ground from the west end of the beach at Achmelvich, but that seems also to offer the potential to miss the castle. A more reliable approach is to follow the outside of the fence delineating the end of the camping/caravan site until you reach an very broken down old ruin (shown in a photo on this page) before cutting across the rocky promontory it sits on. The "What3Words" location given on this page was plotted while standing beside the castle, so can be relied on.
What you find when you arrive is a truly unique structure, whose size is very difficult to understand as you approach. It looks like it should be much bigger than it turns out to be. The narrow entrance is around the seaward side of the structure. This leads you into a short passage and, beyond the doorframe referred to earlier, to the single small room, just large enough for a concrete single bed platform and a fireplace that (oddly) seems to include shelving. Welcome to one of the strangest and most intriguing buildings you will ever visit!
Visitor InformationView Location on Map
Grid Ref: NC 052 248
Hermit's Castle In Fiction
A Tangled Web by Ken Lussey (15 November 2023).
A fast-paced thriller set in northern Scotland. Callum Anderson returns to Sutherland to help Jenny Mackay investigate the death of her
husband. The authorities say he committed suicide but she’s convinced he was murdered. If she's right then they're both in danger.
The Hermit's Castle is visited by the central characters as the story develops.