“There are two seasons in Scotland. June and Winter...”
- Billy Connolly
Hiking in North West Scotland
The week can be summarised around delicious food, soggy but stunning hikes, with dramatic weather, breath-taking scenery, and more delicious food and excellent whiskies in cosy pubs.
To start, you the reader should know; I am from New Zealand. I grew up with mountains (real mountains) 20 minutes’ drive from home. I have high standards of nature, and I expected very little from the UK when I moved here.
My sole experience here was 6 grey days in London in November. I didn’t think you had decent outdoors here.
I can happily say, I was ignorant.
I have been overwhelmingly surprised; the UK has some decent outdoors. It’s not all tame rambles on rolling hills. The main reason I know this, is because of City Mountaineering.
When I say I have had a good fix of nature, and that City Mountaineering know how to provide a decent time in the outdoors, this is New Zealand standard, not just a Sunday amble in rolling hills.
From when I learned of the trip, I knew going to the North West Highlands was going to be a treat. A soggy treat wrapped in high winds and dramatic weather, but a treat nonetheless.
After pick up from Inverness, all the treat dreams came true when we arrived to our cottage for the week on Loch Torridon.
This place has views:
Not only views, but also an open fire, a fully stocked fridge, and a sun room (for all that Scottish sun). To be honest, it was a little hard to leave that cottage. But leave we did.
The first jaunt was simply to get to the pub. It was an ease into hiking hike around the coast, past old ruins, lochs, and bays. It was hard to believe how good this pub/restaurant was, hidden in a tiny village on a bay which seems like the sort of place that has 5 people, 2 dogs and a donkey.
This is NW Scotland though, and a place like this was worth walking/driving hours to get to.
This is the sort of drama the weather likes to put on:
Walking back from the pub via the road
Surprisingly, this place with its dramatic and sometimes unforgiving weather was home for many, many people, which was cleared over 200 years with what is known as the Highland Clearances, a mix of English oppression, economic disasters, and overpopulation.
The Highlands now are one of the least populated areas in Europe. It’s evident. The ruins are everywhere, and its strange to think how one of the most isolated places in Europe use to be teeming with people. But now, this is the perfect escape for Londoners sick of people. There is no one.
While the weather decided it wouldn’t behave for the original plans for the next day, Stu decided on a crowd pleaser, the formidable looking Suilven, near Lochinver.
Hiking in Assynt
The day prior, we first dined on the best pies in Scotland, then walked into a bothy, lit the fire and shared a few yarns over some wine.
Me, Lara and Aggi, keeping warm
The crowd pleaser, the distinctive looking Suilven:
Since Suilven is only a Graham, the next day, Stu took a couple of us to climb some Munros behind the cottage, on the Horns of Alligin circuit.
There is no making the Scottish weather behave though, we saw very little. Not that it stopped me celebrating! That was my first Scottish Munro. I brought whisky for the occasion.
You can’t see it, but the wind was ferocious
Our last days involved deer spotting, and hiking to Sgurr a’ Chaorachain before another hearty pub feed.
We had seen very little sun all week, and it was harder for some of us than others. But for this day, Stu promised us sun by late afternoon.
We were all dubious of this claim, and even more so when we reached the top of the ridge. We even sat and waited for the sun.
We drunk whisky and waited. Waited a little more. We gave Stu a little grief, but he was adamant about this sun… and it came! Eventually!
Stu promised us sun. We drunk whisky and waited. And waited.
It came! The weather behaved.
You know it’s been a decent trip when you want to return, even to the same mountains, and they are now bookmarked in my mind.
As always on these trips, there was also good company, delightful conversations, and new friends. If you see this trip pop up next year, you must go.
Rock band shot:
We will be returning to North West Scotland at Easter (April 2019!) - If you want to join us, check out the trip here