Life as a hermit: 'My life is a great adventure'

For nearly 30 years, Jake Willams has lived as a hermit in the Scottish wilderness for thirty years. He explains why he could never go back to a 'normal' life

I always fancied being a hermit. There was a tradition in the 18th century to pay hermits to live on your grounds and entertain the guests; I would have liked that. I live alone in an old house in the Scottish wilderness, near Aberdeen. There's an old stove that's the heart of the house and two bigs barns full of wood and useful things I've found.

I've lived like this since I got the house in the Eighties. I did it because I was sick of dealing with landlords. I was living in Aberdeen with friends, we'd made the place nice and then suddenly had to move out. It was a nightmare. I decided I would save money by any means to buy the first place I could afford. I always thought people would come and live with me eventually – it's not me that's impossible to live with, I'm very friendly – but it just hasn't happened yet.

I was a merchant seaman and a technician in 1973. I went round the islands at the north of Canada where you couldn't even go as a tourist back then and I got paid for it! I did that for a while, then in 1980 when I wanted to just save money I went back to that company and saved up enough to get the house.

I don't think my life is unconventional. I am just an owner-occupier. I did the work first and saved up rather than buying a mortgage for three decades or whatever. My expectations of where I could live were crumbling and my earnings were increasing and then they crossed over. I moved in the first day I got the place. There weren't any windows and it was very damp. It hadn't been lived in for 20 years. Somebody had stored hay at one end of a long, thin shed and I moved in and camped in it. Then I started making fires and getting the house dried out. That was about Halloween so I needed to get it ready for winter. It was a happy clappy adventure.

I've got a garden with a lot of kale – it's like a primitive cabbage. It's 1,000ft up where I live and that affects the climate. I'm not very good at growing carrots here, but I've got a lot of redcurrants. I consider myself to be a hunter-gatherer, so if I'm stopped at a layby and I see some wood, I pick it up. I don't like to miss a chance to get something for nothing. I've reached a level of incompetence in my own life... have you heard of the Peter Principle? You get promoted and promoted, or take too many things on, until you end up not doing anything very well. That's me. I like to do a lot of different little jobs. I am always busy boiling a pan of tatties on the fire for tomorrow or looking for something I've lost.

I'm a kind of half-arsed hermit; I've always had an open house and people visit me. I've been in Scottish dance bands, I write letters and freelance articles for The Leopard [a magazine on sustainable living] and I was even standing for the Green Party this month in the elections – I got 6 per cent of the votes, which they told me is quite good. But mostly I spend my days alone.

Summer is the best time. You can slip outside and cook with an outdoor fire. It's lovely. It's an easy life. If I want to stay at home I can. I stock up on food and firewood so I won't starve if I don't go out.

Three winters ago a bloke from Latvia was with me and the cold was nothing to him. We went skiing in the hills and had a great adventure. Having two people was good because we could keep the fire nice and toasty.

Then two winters ago it was a hard life... it was a hard winter everywhere. Somebody had tried to sue me and I had to go to Aberdeen to the court. I had to ski six miles in, then stay with a friend and then ski six miles back home regularly for about five months. I'd come home and the fires would be out and you're cold and wet. It was a nightmare. It's usually not that hard, that year was the exception, but I've survived.

To me, this seems like normal life. Having a career seems slightly odd. My main reason for doing this is just meanness. It seems inefficient to work in a job and take money home. This seems more straightforward or easier than that. It's just a blowing in the wind thing. You just do as good as you can, making the best of what's there. That makes it sound sort of depressing, but it's not – it's a great adventure.

Interview by Emily Jupp

Jake Williams is the star of the new documentary film, 'Two Years at Sea', out in cinemas now

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine