Welcome to Lochaber

Fàilte gu Loch Aber

After many twists and turns it’s fantastic to welcome you to Lochaber 2021. This hasn’t been the easiest year to plan a multi-day sporting event. And although Lochaber 2021 isn’t quite on the scale of the Olympics it’s certainly had its challenges.

This year we only secured the Day 6 area as the first snow fell on the top of Creag Meagaidh and the 1st drafts of two of the maps weren’t completed until the start of this year. We then ran into lockdown and travel was severely restricted for planners and controllers. Two weeks ago we lost the Day 4 area.

On more than one occasion we thought that we would have to cancel the event as the risks seemed too great. And we’ve only got to where we are today due to the enthusiasm, energy and commitment of the many volunteers who have continued to work on the event despite the uncertainties. It’s risky to acknowledge individuals as someone is always left out, but this year it seems important to thank a few members of the Central Organising Team who have gone above and beyond to make this event possible. David Nicol in particular has spent many days squeezing a quart into a pint pot allocating start times given numerous constraints and requests. Donald Grassie has done a tremendous job of coordinating the mapping, the templates, and the printing as deadlines have changed and changed and changed again. Margaret Dalgleish has put heart and soul into thinking about COVID precautions and acting as Day Coordinator. Behind the scenes Keith Brown and the ever reliable and knowledgeable Robin Strain have been pulling together everything SI and Andy Llewellyn has been doing the same with equipment. And we’re all grateful to Michael Atkinson for doing a great job of managing the website and encouraging us all to communicate effectively along with Ross Lilley who has done a great job of pulling together a great looking programme at very short notice.

It would take too long to list all the planners, organisers and controllers who have put up with numerous changes but are now ready to put on all 6 days on some great areas. Some old, some new but we’re sure they’ll all be enjoyable. Unfortunately some people’s work hasn’t come to fruition – the day 4 planners had some great courses ready to go but they’ll have to wait for another day, and Emma Young was ready to order some beautifully designed merchandise but our decision to stop this shows how risky things felt back in May. We should also mention that this will be Colin Matheson’s last 6 Days after 10 years as the Assistant Event Coordinator and he’s looking forward to retiring from the unseen hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make the event happen.

Finally, the whole event would simply not have gone ahead without Richard Oxlade’s eternally optimistic and pragmatic leadership as the event co-ordinator.  Richard led the negotiations with sportscotland to ensure the event met the latest twists and turns of covid guidance whilst also retaining as much of the ethos that we all expect of the 6 days. He has worked tirelessly to keep us all focused and motivated on the end goal, fielding all our difficult issues, and finding solutions.

This year we are also more dependent on the landowners than ever. They not only give us permission to run on their land but are also part of the local communities and we are very grateful to them for the trust they are putting in us to run the events responsibly. In particular we would like to thank:

  • Sarah Troughton at Ardchattan
  • The members of Fort William Golf Club and Rosemary Macintyre in particular
  • Jonathan Hart of Jahama Highland Estates and Sarah Hunt of Forestry & Land Scotland
  • Hughie Macdonald and Dougal Gillies at Arisaig
  • Angus MacPherson at Creag Dhubh. Without his support we would have been down to 5 days
  • Sarah Tyson representing Cluny Estates by Creag Dhubh
  • Lizzie Richards and Rory Richardson of NatureScot at Creag Meagaidh

It is easy to assume that we are intruding on the local communities in the Highlands. However, our orienteering locals like Ross Lilley and Jo Cumming make the point that many welcome us and the custom we bring. Given this we were tempted to run the event with 2000 per day but on reflection we decided that we should keep things low key. This is the first major event in the Highlands since the pandemic began and other important events were cancelled long ago (e.g. Newtonmore Highland Games & Hill Race, Ben Nevis Hill Race). Unfortunately this isn’t the year to advertise our presence. We hope you enjoy 3 days of great competition and understand the difficult decisions that we have had to make.

We have had numerous conversations with different bodies including the Scottish Government, sportscotland, Local Authorities, local councillors the police etc. There is overwhelming support for the event although we have had to accept a few conditions. The most important are that it is COVID compliant and we would ask that you make yourselves familiar with Scotland’s COVID guidelines which are different to other parts of the UK: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance – gov.scot (www.gov.scot). In particular we have been asked to make sure competitors disperse as quickly as possible after finishing and that we avoid gathering in local communities. This may seem tricky when we have “No exit before 1300 restrictions” and we ask that you use your judgement and don’t gather in large groups which exceed the guidelines both at the events and in the community. At the end of the day how we appear to people unfamiliar with the sport is as important as how we abide by the rules.

So with 24 hours to go before the first starts we hope you have a great time in this stunning part of the world and look forward to seeing you during the week.


Dave Kershaw

On behalf of the board of the Scottish Orienteering 6-Day Event Company