They claim it is ‘the remotest place in mainland britian’ and by ‘remote’, they mean it has no road connection. Having said all that we actually found it very accessible, all things considered.
Every year, my friend Andy and I try to have a weekend of adventure, preferably taking in some mountains and camping and walking. This year our expedition was to the Knoydart peninsular in Scotland.
It’s a little old fashioned and has probably lost a bit of it’s glamour, but i’m quite a fan of the caledonian sleeper service. It runs from London Euston to various places in Scotland, but particularly for this trip, it goes to Fort William in the Highlands. We got on the train at 21.15 on Thursday and were in Locharbor by 10.00 the next morning.
Friday: Knoydart Peninsular
From Fort William it was another train up to Mallaig. This journey, made famous by the Hogwarts Express, is one of the most picturesque in the whole country. From Mallaig it was a short 45 minute ferry over to Inverie on the Knoydart peninsular and we were there by 15.00, not bad for somewhere so remote.
The Knoydart is a large, wild, rugged and very beautiful area of Britain. It has three Munros and numerous other wonderful hills and mountains. It has a flourishing population of deer and many wonderful birds of prey including the Golden Eagle and Sea Eagle, although I didn’t actually see any of them (grrrr). What really attracted me was it’s remoteness and feeling of wilderness. I say ‘feeling’ as it is, like all of the Highlands actually closely managed, in this instance by the Knoydart Foundation. The foundation is good enough to supply a ranger service and runs an excellent bunk house/hostel.
After setting up our camp we made our way to ‘The Old Forge‘, the only pub in this here parts and enjoyed a wonderful dinner of locally caught langoustines.
Saturday: Munro bagging
There are three mountains over 914m (known as munros) in the Knoydart and we planned to climb at least one of them. Many people make it an ambition to climb all 284 munros and these people are called ‘munro baggers’. Whilst I think it’d be a nice thing to do, it might be tempting to miss out some other great hill walks below 914m and in any case with my 5 or 6 ‘bagged’ munros i’m a very long way off.
We set off on the saturday morning to climb ‘Ladhar Bheinn‘, which at 1020m looked fairly respectable. There is a 3-4 km walk in to the mountain on a very reasonable track that leads you almost to the base of the mountain. From here and for the next three hours it was just a relentless and increasingly steep climb.
The weather started fairly clear but the summit was cloud covered all day and as we neared the ridge of the mountain it started swirling around us. The wind started to take effect now as well, so fieirce that we could only just stay upright and a few times were knocked over. We eventually saw the trig point that marked the summit emerging from the mist, what a relief, we’d made it!
We’d originally intended to walk over to Barisdale and camp there. The path from the summit narrowed considerably now and with the wind it was clear neither of us fancied it and eventually I suggested that we should turn back. The very narrow path, the very high wind and our very heavy packs didn’t make for a good combination and I think we made a good decision.
My legs were really wobbly from exertion on our journey down the mountain and I was very glad when we made the valley floor. The walk back to Inverie seemed much longer this time of day and we only made the campsite just before sundown.
Sunday: Putting the amble back into ramble
It was a bit of a wet and windy night under canvas and we emerged in the morning feeling the effects of the tough walk yesterday. After a brew and breakfast we decided to go for a bit of a more sedate walk today. We had a nice walk along the coast of the peninsular returning to Inverie in time for lunch at The Old Forge. In the afternoon we walked back down the valley towards Ladhar Bheinn continuing to soak up the wonderful views.
We were into our third day without a shower so we thought it might be nice to have a night in the bunkhouse. This is a basic, but excellent value for money hostel, run by the foundation and it was so nice to get clean and feel human again.
In the pub that evening we had the bonus treat of a touring band double bill – Claes Cem a fine danish band and the Injuns a talented british one. I feel bad, but for me the danes edged it and were really good. A really great final evening.
Monday: Homeward bound
We would have liked to hang around longer, but we had no choice but to get the 11.00 ferry to Mallaig. It was a shame to leave so early as our sleeper didn’t leave Fort William till 19.00. This meant we had a long wait in Mallaig, which is a slightly depressing fishing town. Enjoyed the train journey again, god I love those mountains!
It’s always nice spending time with Andy, no matter what the conditions we manage to keep cracking jokes with each other. As a big bonus I got to see the mountains of Scotland, something that always makes my soul sing. It may be because I live in the city, but I really live for a bit of wilderness and this will keep me going for a while.
A top place and top trip!