It started early in the year when thoughts of the impending Royal Wedding celebrations seemed too much to contemplate. Knoydart in the Western Highlands was suggested as a suitable venue for escaping the terrors of the day and so a suitable party was assembled to explore the delights of this little known peninsula and the village of Inverie with its three neighboring Munros. The group’s affiliation was largely LDWA and Kendal Fellwalkers so some long days in the hills were planned.
After weeks of anticipation the initial party of ten had been reduced to eight and of this number half were to enjoy the delights of the West Highland railway as we travelled from Penrith to Mallaig. After a fairly mundane journey toGlasgow we negotiated the short journey between Glasgow Central and Queen Street stations with the help of a rather lame and noisy Geordie who had adopted us on the train. After tumbling on the street in his attempt to help us it was with some relief that after re-erecting him we parted company and started on what is described as one of the world’s most memorable train journeys.
Highlights are many and include Loch Lomond with its eponymous Ben and the arresting Cobbler above Arrochar. The crossing of lonely Rannoch Moor to scenic Loch Treig leads on to Fort William and the always impressive Ben Nevis and its many satellites. If possible the scenery then improves as the line crosses the Glenfinnan viaduct with numerous lochs and an increasingly stunning seascape out to the islands of Rum, Eigg and Skye. All too soon Mallaig arrived and we hurriedly embarked on Jon Sellars speedy sea taxi for the short trip to Inverie.
The weather seemed set fair and warm as we met the remaining party members and walked the kilometre or so along Knoydart’s solitary road to our digs in the bunkhouse where we were to enjoy communal living for the next four nights. Transport by sea with re-supply from Mallaig is the norm and so we carried in all our food requirements for the stay. Half the party had elected to self cater exclusively while the remainder slummed it in the pub at night.
Knoydart with its capital ‘city’ of Inverie and its 118 population must be unique in Britain as access is only possible by boat from Mallaig or by walking in from Kinloch Hourn – an arduous and long trek over a 450 m. col or bealach at Mam Barrisdale.
The Knoydart Foundation was established in 1997 and took ownership of the Knoydart Estate in a community buyout some two years later. There are more than 300 tourist beds and some 7-8 miles of single track road which does not really explain the apparent excess of Landrovers and 4x4s on view especially as it apparently costs upwards of £500 to ‘import’ a vehicle! As well as tourism red deer management is an important resource with income derived from stalking and culling and we were fortunate to see many of these magnificent creatures during our walks.
Our first full day continued the recent spell of amazing weather which was showing Scotland on its very best behaviour with long views, dry conditions and wall-to-wall sunshine. The most westerly mainland Munro of Ladhar Bheinn (Larven) was our prime objective and the group departed early to climb its western ramparts. The summit was reached in T-shirt and shorts for most and the high ridge was then followed for several kilometres first southeast then west until it ran out on the Corbett of Sgurr Coire Choinnichean. From there a steep and long descent took us back to Inverie in plenty of time for pre-dinner drinks – a day of 8+ hours, 15 miles and 1900 metres of ascent.
Day 2 was slightly cooler though still magnificent as we eventually left the village after two or three false starts up different possible exit routes! A typical long Scottish walk in eventually lead to Mam Barrisdale where a right turn onto steeper ground gave access to Luinne Bheinn (aka Loony Bin). An intricate twisting roller coaster of ridge made easier by good visibility and the now ubiquitous Munro paths eventually took us to the summit of Meall Buidhe – our third Munro of the week. The descent to Inverie was long and tortuous but eventually the main track back was reached after one of the party had enjoyed a quick visit to the Inverie river. It had been another long and superb day of similar length and duration to the previous. Thankfully there was still time for a thorough de-ticking session as relationships were strengthened by the mutual grooming this entailed.
As the pub food had been distinctly ordinary so far the non self caterers elected for a night on the tiles having heard of a restaurant out in the sticks. A taxi drive north had us dropped off at a signpost…’Doune here’. Did they not tell you it was a walk? After a downhill saunter towards the sea we eventually found mine hostess and enjoyed a superb meal truly away from it all. Even the walk back uphill afterwards and a stroll down the road in the dark and mizzle to meet our returning taxi added to the magic of the evening.
The party split for the last day of walking with two going off to visit the craggy viewpoint of Roinn na Beinne and the remainder joining Tony in his quest to bag yet another Marilyn. For the record this was Druim na Cluain-airighe from which an interesting ridge was traversed northwards toward the sea in less than perfect weather. Conditions improved as we turned west and discovered a fascinating ravine with many waterfalls as it dropped to the seaside hamlet of Airor. A straightforward plod back along the ‘Road to Inverie’ completed another day of some 15 miles though with less ascent than on previous days.
On reaching the village we discovered that the pub was closed due to a local wedding whose procession lead by piper'n all we passed on our way home. After a quick turnaround, dip in the sea for one, and G & T's as required the pub was revisited where a much better meal was enjoyed – perhaps the chef had been on days off! All too soon it was bedtime again for the last time which was no doubt a relief for those who had suffered the snorers on the previous nights.
All over bar the shouting, the next morning we reversed our outward journey with some sadness but with promises of further adventures to be planned for the future.
The LDWA organises many challenge and local group walks, as well as listing many more organised by other organisations. Challenge events are normally between 20 and 100 miles and must generally be completed within a defined time limit. Group walks are normally led walks of around 20 miles. Click here to go to the LDWA website.