It was a simple goal really. Complete the River Inver Loop, a short hike of 6km circling the village of Lochinver.
We saw the signpost pointing up the road towards Glencanisp Lodge and set out for a pleasant afternoon hike. The road to the Lodge was clear to follow and we happily strode along hilly stretches alternating with flat admiring the views of Suilven and Canisp ahead.
We soon reached the lodge passing signs of "Walkers welcome" and we followed a wooden sign marked River Inver pointing to the left at the start of a clearly marked track going straight ahead. We turned to the left and followed the sign to - nowhere. We came upon an area full of logging equipment and a sign forbidding entry. Turning back the way we had come there were no clearly marked tracks or paths in sight and no markers to follow.
Making our way back to the first path we had seen we followed it thinking that it would loop around and take us back to Lochinver. So we hiked while Canisp and Suilven grew ever closer and we headed further and further away from Lochinver.
I will add at this point that we had done the unforgivable in hiking and had set out without any maps or guide books with us assuming that this village trail would be clear and easy to follow. First rule: never assume anything!
We continued until we had clocked just over 4km and arrived at a section where the track rose steeply and still seemed to be heading away from Lochinver and more towards the mountains. At that moment we saw a walker coming from the other direction, carefully negotiating the steep rocky slope as he approached.
With nothing to lose I asked him if the track led back to Lochinver. The short answer? No. We were heading in a straight line on a track that would eventually take us between Canisp and Suilven and if we kept walking till nightfall would bring us out on the road to Ullapool! He had also heard of a loop track but he had never followed it.
The man went on his way and we soon followed, retracing our tracks back to Glencanisp Lodge and eventually back to our starting point in Lochinver. By now Alex had a blister on her heel and I had not brought the first aid kit, so we trudged homeward. When we arrived back at the lodge there did seem to be a vague path heading into the trees that we had not seen before as it was to the left of the newly constructed log building and blocked from view. We could only assume that this was the path we should have taken.
On the home stretch, which was fortunately all downhill, we tramped ever-closer to the starting point weary and footsore after our leisurely walk turned into a 9km hike never having found the elusive River Inver or the Loop! We did, however, get some fantastic views of Suilven and Canisp.