Size Matters

This is Suilven, the extraordinary mountain sticking up out of nowhere in the Scottish Highlands.

I first saw it from seaward on the way from Skye to Loch Nedd. That was supposed to be an easy day’s sail, reaching in a force 6-7 all the way. But it turned out the southeasterly of the forecast didn’t have much south in it. Clearly, I wouldn’t be getting there in daylight.

However, Lochinver was an alternative. I could be tucked up in there by teatime – no contest, really.

And Lochinver is the basecamp for Suilven. Of course I wasn’t going to climb Suilven. All I wanted was to make up for COVID scuppering the family walking weekend in the Peak District by taking a circular stroll around the River Inver (5kms, estimated time 1.5hrs according to the tourism website).

How I ended up on the path to Suilven, I have no idea but there it was, defiantly in the distance, changing colour as the afternoon sun played on its western face – always there and never getting any closer no matter how much I kept walking towards it.

In fact, I walked for two hours, pausing at the “honesty shop” at Glencanisp Lodge where you can make yourself a cup of tea and post the money through a hole in the wall. Then you can drink your tea while leafing through a book showing how a bunch of volunteers spent two years re-making the path and manhandling huge blocks of granite into a giant’s staircase to the summit. Clearly this was a serious undertaking but the more I walked towards the mountain, the more of a compulsion it became to get to the top: It was just so big – so impressive…

In the end of course, common sense re-established itself and I turned round. It was going to be two hours back again and dusk would be falling. Already, there was no longer anyone coming the other way wielding walking poles to dodge while keeping our social distance. This was no place to get lost overnight.

It was not until I was halfway home and met a man loading his mountain bike onto the roof of his car that things got shuffled into proportion. I explained that I would have to come back another time to get to the top. He said it was an eight-hour round trip from where we were standing – that meant ten hours from the harbour.

Ah, I was on a boat… that wasn’t me he had seen coming up the coast yesterday in a tiny little boat?

Well, not that tiny – almost ten metres if you don’t mind.

But he had watched me bashing to windward at the same time as a big ketch was heading south with hardly a scrap of sail and going like the clappers. He was impressed. He said: “Well if you can come up here in that weather in a little boat like that, you’ll have no trouble getting to the top of Suilven.”

So that’s settled then. Next year… It’s a matter of pride.

I suppose she is a little boat. That’s Samsara in the middle – Durgan Bay on the Helford River.

9 Responses to Size Matters

  • A hill like that becomes part of you. Even when you’ve been ‘on top’ it still owns a part of oneself. Be wary of that one when there’s ice about. It exacts a toll.

  • John I so enjoy your posts and get, but I guess, a brief glimpse of the ruggedness of Scotland and your adventures.
    I suspect that I will never get the opportunity to sail those waters.
    Wonderful photograph of Samsara lying at anchor in the bay.
    Talking of adventures how did you finally resolve your engine problems of some weeks ago?
    -Graham

    • Engine trouble was probably down to the fuel I bought in Liverpool Marina. They had a big sign up advertising their amazingly cheap price per litre
      No wonder, they hadn’t sold a drop in three months…

      • That reminds me of the boat owner that we met in Greece who had filled up with “cheap” diesel while in Albania. But in his case he had twin super charged engines and had purchased 1000’s Euros worth of diesel. Net result he had to replace all his injectors, empty and clean his tanks and a hefty mechanics bill to boot.

  • On my trip up the east coast this year in my Corribee it made me chuckle as I was always the smallest or one of the smallest boat in harbour and often couldn’t actually see her at all amongst the rest. But she was mine!

  • i love reading your updates. I’m an ex marine from plymouth who’s lived in the far east for 30 years – with a yearning to sail the seas one day again !

  • John, that is a cracking view of Suliven. A mountain that is still on my ‘to do’ list.
    May be next year after all this mayhem has quietened down a bit.
    Keep reefing,
    Steve Taylor

  • Little but good

  • You’ll have loads of us observing you – so better make sure you do!

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