In and around Lochinver

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September 12th 2010
Published: September 15th 2010
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I’ve been in Lochinver now for over a month, and despite working all but 4 days in that month I’ve still managed to get around the area and check it out. Lochinver itself is a decent little town. As you come in the town is split in two through the water bed that leads out to the sea. In terms of shops, it has two groceries, a deli, two restaurants (one of which is Michelin star rated, the other is Inver Lodge), a whole bunch of B&B’s and two pubs. There is one set of traffic lights for a pedestrian crossing which is always on green (actually I have seen it red once, some foreigners had pressed the button even though there were no cars. They were probably Spanish). Needless to say in terms of entertainment, there’s not much going around. The pubs close at 11 except Friday when they close at 1am and Saturday at 12am. And pretty much most nights everyone finishes at around 11, so it makes it a little hard to socialise after work. I should just head down to the pub when I finish early, maybe start talking more to the locals. Out of my bedroom
River InverRiver InverRiver Inver

The river that splits the town
window I can see the river that leads out into the ocean, the trees and scattered houses on the other side of the river and a graveyard. The air is fresh and on a clear night you can see all the stars in the sky. Up at the Inver Lodge there is a magnificent view out over the town to the sea. There is also the Culag woods, which is further into town and backs onto the coastline. There are a few clearings where you can go for a swim or sit around on the shore.

When the weather is good, it is quite a pretty area. Good weather though, like it seems with all of the UK, is hard to come by. It’s often very erratic and I didn’t think it was possible, but much more erratic than Melbourne. In fact, the weekend coming up has a forecast for snow. Snow! In early autumn! And from what I got told, earlier this year through January to March there was constant snow up here. So much so that it was impossible to get in or out of town. It obviously isn’t really normal weather and at the moment it
Loch Inver at sunsetLoch Inver at sunsetLoch Inver at sunset

Loch Inver, where the river opens to the sea
doesn’t help that the hurricanes near America are causing a backlash here, constantly causing ridiculous gale force winds. In the last couple weeks I’d guess that we’ve had more extremely windy days than not. But even still, throughout the few months of “summer” I’ve had in the UK I’d say I’ve had less than a week of sun. It hasn’t stopped me from stubbornly wearing shorts all the time though. I’ve hardly ever worn pants here, on a few occasions when I’ve gone out but mostly shorts all the way despite the shitty weather. I hate pants. Or maybe it’s more that I like wearing shorts. My family can attest to it. I use to turn up the central heating during winter just so I could wear shorts at home. So I pretty much refused to wear anything but shorts because it was summer and I should be wearing shorts, and now its early autumn but I’m still doing it anyway. Even today, with the cold gale force winds and the rain I was wearing shorts. And I’m the only one game/stupid enough around here to do it. Hell, even when it was summer and probably in the low twenties I was walking around in shorts and t-shirt, while the locals were rugged up and had rain coats on. It’s probably because even though it’s sunny and nice, at any given time it can turn cold and start raining. That and the midges. Midges are pretty much tiny gnats that bite you, and are as frequent and annoying as mosquitos. Like mosquito’s they have a tendency to completely ignore me and I don’t get bitten at all (pretty much because I’m awesome). Unlike mosquito’s, when it’s windy they’re nowhere to be seen because they’re so small they get blown away. So anyway, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet to myself to wear shorts until the end of season here, which is October 31st.

I have been lucky enough on a couple of my days off to have some fantastic weather. With a local walking guide bought for two pounds down at the tourist centre, I’ve gone out and done a bit of exploring with Simon. The first day off I got I hired a bike and we headed off to the walking track that leads to Achmelvic beach. And yes, it was called a walking track for a specific reason. A fair bit of it was spent pushing our bikes up rough hilly terrain and through bog and dirt. But we did get to ride through most of the track, thank god. I’m not sure how much distance we covered to get to Achmelvic beach, but it didn’t really seem to matter. The scenery through the mountainous terrain was stunning. We got clear views of the whole area, rode past streams, rivers and lakes, and up and down quite a few hills. Before I had gotten to Achmelvic, pretty much everyone told me that the beach is stunning. And it truly was. I would never have associated white sand beaches and crystal clear water with the UK, so naturally I left my board shorts at home.

On another bike trip, we had ridden up about ten or so miles to Stoer lighthouse and along the way stopped at Clachtoll beach and Stoer bay and let me tell you both these beaches were just as stunning. This ride however was on the open road which obviously was more comfortable, and often at times because the road had small rises and deviations you could just cruise along. Riding through Clachtoll and Stoer gave some awesome views. I did much prefer the road out to Stoer lighthouse, it’s just a nice cruise down the west coast of Scotland with nice clear open views of the sea. Of course it helped that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, hardly any wind to speak of and a nice balmy low twenty degree day. Looking back from the lighthouse to where we’d come from you could see a beautiful mix of the green open land, the shimmering seas and the coastline and in the far off distance the imposing mountain ranges looking like strange blue jagged shadows on the horizon. The walk to The Old Man of Stoer was just as awesome. We walked right along the coast through tall grass, sheep shit and bog, and up and down little valleys. All along you could see the twenty or thirty meter high cliffs made up of grass and rock. When we got there we ventured off along this narrow of cliff to grab a better view of the stack. At most you had about a foot of path while on either side you had nothing but a brutal 30 odd meter fall to death.
Simon and his bikeSimon and his bikeSimon and his bike

Simon crashing on the walking path to Achmelvic beach
Some parts got as narrow as one and a half foot widths. Those were the parts where you’d drop as low as you can and cling on to the rock as if your life depended on it, pretty much because it did. Still it was fairly easy to navigate and I guess I was a lot more ignorant of the relative danger than I should have been. At first it was like there’s no way I’m gonna go out, then it was I’ll go out for a bit and then it turned into fuck it let’s just go all the way. I have to give credit where it’s due, Simon did lead the line on this one. It turned out to be totally worth it, we got a clearer, fuller view of the stack and the pride of taking a stupid and potentially lethal risk and winning. By the time we got back we clocked up about six or seven hours of adventure. This was pretty much also six or seven hours of exercise. Almost my entire flight from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur. Something I’d never thought I could be fucked accomplishing.

As nice as this area is though, sometimes it would be good to just be able to go somewhere else for a day. But without a car it’s pretty much impossible. On a day off, you have to really just hope that the weather is good enough to be able to go out exploring. You can almost guarantee that the weather will be fairly poor most of the time. At first I had pretty good motivation to head even in bad weather, which Simon and I have done. We rode down to Ardvreck castle, which is about 12 miles or so out of town on a pretty cool, windy, overcast day. It wasn’t the easiest of rides either, at points being quite hilly. Getting there was fine, the ride back was a bitch. It ended up pretty much raining the whole ride back and we hadn’t noticed having the cold wind to our backs on the ride in. For 12 or so miles back we pretty much had frozen hands and faces. And it didn’t help with Simon’s shitty bike. Now I just realised that I haven’t written about Simon’s shitty bike. The shitty bike that cost him 510 pounds. In truth, it’s actually a really good bike, but it’s designed only for downhill racing and freestyle pretty much. Its custom built with shocks and suspension everywhere, extremely thick tyres and only nine gears. What it’s not designed for is everything that doesn’t involve downhill racing. I was rolling down hills faster than he was pedalling. So you can imagine how much effort it takes to ride this bike on a normal road and up any hill. On the way back from Ardvreck castle, I stopped at what I guessed was about half way to Lochinver. I waited for ten minutes before Simon finally caught up with me. This was pretty much the point where Simon had given up on his bike, and on our next adventure he would hire one. So anyway back to where I was getting to was that at first I was motivated, but now not so much. Even though there’s a lot to see and do, I’m also limited by having no real means to get anywhere and there’s also the shitty weather. And after working for six days, on my feet for on average 9 hours a day my legs grow a little weary and I do feel worn out. I’ve also come to realise that doing a lot of the nature stuff is much like going to all the magnificent cathedrals in each city, after a while it all looks the same. So all this pretty much rules out walking anywhere or doing anything on a shitty day. The one thing I do really want to do though is hike up one of the surrounding mountains. It’d be heaps easier if I had a car, so I could drive to the base and hike up from there. I can somehow picture myself as being one of those people that come completely unprepared and getting stuck/lost/dead somewhere up on the mountain, so I should probably do some research into the area before I do go. And of course as much as I plan it all out, it will depend on the weather.


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