Monthly Archives: May 2014

Inver to Inver – back to Knoydart.

Invergarry to Inverie (+ Ladhar Bheinn) index.

Day 1 – Invergarry to East Glenquoich Forest, 17 miles.
Day 2 – East Glenquoich Forest to Wester Glen Quoich, 14 miles.
Day 3 – Wester Glen Quoich to Barrisdale, 14½ miles.
Day 4 – Barrisdale to Inverie, 9 miles.
Day 5 – Ladhar Bheinn circular, 15½ miles.
Day 6 – Brockett Memorial / Knoydart in a Nutshell.
Plot of track, camp-sites and elevation.
Downloadable GPS routes.

******

Return to Knoydart.

Inverie and Loch Nevis seen from the Brocket Memorial

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man having been to Knoydart once must be in want of going back again.”

Day 5 – Ladhar Bheinn circular, 15½ miles, 5374ft ascent.

day5sBeing out of the tent and in a very comfy bed didn’t help me get much sleep last night – the curse of the bunkhouse / hostel kept me awake throughout – the snorer!
Normally I wouldn’t mention it and take it as par-for-the-course that you’re likely to encounter a snorer, but this occurrence was something else! In fact in our room there were three snorers (all mates as it happens) and they came together like an evening chorus of randy toads. One snored ‘normally’ and consistently, another one chipped with occasional grunts but one of them – the one nearest me of course! – was making the most bizarre and loud noises I’d ever heard emanate from a human being. If you’d not witnessed it you and heard the sounds out of context you’d never guess they were coming out of a man. He sounded more like an angry asthmatic walrus choking on something, or the death throes of the most irate of cheap 70s Doctor Who monsters. My shock and bewilderment kept me awake as much as the sheer volume. I got up to sleep in the lounge, but it was raining and I suspected the noise of a drain outside the door would be just as bad. Just as well too as the lounge was shortly taken over by a rather boisterous stag night. (Stag nights in Inverie… whatever next!?) I returned to my bed, and with the pillow clasped around my head waited for dawn as patiently as I could.
It was also during the restless night that the cost of marching through the bracken & heather in Glen Garry a couple of days with my trouser legs rolled up became apparent. A price paid in scratches, bites and ticks! Nice.

But at least that meant I had no hope of an accidental lie-in, and therefore was away nice and early again at bang on 8am.

My plan was to leave the Barisdale path at somewhere near the Brocket Memorial and head NE and upwards, hopefully ending up at Mám Suidheig and from there head along the ridge to Aonach Sgoilte. Well, that was the plan. Progress up the hill was very slow, as usual very lumpy with lots of water and hidden rivulets. My compass-bearing route was also often blocked by creeks and rocky outcrops. And with the morning sun beating down on my back it was very hot.



The memorial soon disappeared from view, but the loch seemed to getting no further away! The photo above was taken some 2½ hours after setting off.
Apart from the train, this deer was one of only four that I saw. Its location was duly logged and passed onto the Knoydart Foundation.
After losing my (reserve) hat and having to back-track to find it – good old GPS! – I realised that I’d been drifting NW rather than NE. So the temporary hat-loss was actually quite serendipitous as it forced me back on route.



It was still a real slog getting up the hillside, although we’d got more than 1600ft up – nearly half way to the summit! (As the crows flies vertically). By now I’d also veered someway away from the route I’d planned, so was for the first time using the “off-route” feature in the GPS. Quite handy. Some maps also show a path from further up the Barisdale path, but this misses out most of the ridge, but with hind-sight might have been a better option.
The rocky patch above was the last push to get to the ridge.

So nearly four hours after setting up we were on the ridge. Some 2200ft up and perhaps just four or five miles horizontally from bed! The sun had long gone, but views that the gaps in the mist afforded were fantastic. The mist and rain would continue to roll in and roll out for most of the day now.



Heading along the ridge to the summit of Aonach Sgoilte I got myself into a bit of a pickle. Walking through the gap between the two ridges in the above-left photo (for which there’s a name but can’t remember what it is now) a clear path led up to the left to the top, which I obligingly and unthinkingly followed. But when the end of that ridge came I found myself a bit stuck at the top with a pretty much vertical drop down to the path which I could clearly see at the bottom. My GPS said I was on the path, or as good as, but I just couldn’t see how to get from where I was to where I was supposed to be next. The above-right photo is looking back at the ridge from the far end, and the two red lines show my abortive attempts to clamber down before realising this couldn’t possibly be right. After much pondering I realised that the path that had led me up here was a red-herring and I should have just continued along between the two ridges, shown by the green line which is steep but not nearly as steep as it might look. And my GPS had fooled me because although I was about 50 or 60ft above the path, I was only about 15ft away horizontally, and therefore it looked like I was more or less on it! Very annoying – beware clear tempting paths!

Just as I recovering from the shock and bother of straying off-route, and a considerable misty climb, the clouds cleared and I was presented with a view of what was to come – Ladhar Bheinn herself. And she looked enormous. I was convinced that there’d be no way I’d be able to get up it. Although only 600ft or so higher than I was at the moment, there was still a bit of descent to go too. I really couldn’t believe how big it looked! I’d been going 4½ hours by now and having seen the immediate future would’ve turned round and gone home – if there was any point.



But just then a nice little fillip – the cairn at the top of Aonach Sgoilte, 2800ft. And shortly after that the point at which the path turns an all-important right angle and the direction changes from NE to NW – we are now in the third part of this five-part day. (Up, along, across, up, down.)



Dropping down into Bealach Coire Dhorrcail and the mist was still coming and going. But when it went the view of the next bit persuaded me to sit down for a bite to eat, it had gone 1pm by now so lunch-time it was. Except the last of my jam butties, designed to last a week, had suffered slightly by being in close proximity to the fire-lighters for a the last four days. Eugh!



When the wind did take the mist away and the sun and blue skies broke through, the views down Coire Dhorrcail looking out towards Barisdale Bay were lovely.



There was some serious scrambling and indeed some full-on clambering to be done to get up the other side of the bealach. And this rather phallic looking rock-sausage came in very handy to hoist oneself up. I expect that every walker passing this way has their hand gratefully grasped round this. Long may it stand proud!

Looking back over Coire Torr as Asgaill, the valley far below, gave us a good view of the ridge we came along a couple of hours earlier – and acted as a reassuring progress report.



But looking back is no good – we need to look forward! Still quite some way to go, and the long ridge stretching out ahead past Stob a’ Choire Odhair looked both fun and daunting. Just time for one more glimpse over Loch Hourn and Barisdale Bay though.



Perhaps the most daunting bit of all was this sheer lump of rock-strata as we got near the summit. The photo on the left is looking vertically up, and climbing up it was akin to climbing up a slippery stone ladder. But it was worth it – just over the top was a cairn!! Hoorah!



A cairn! We must be at the summit! Phew. Time for a couple of well-deserved selfies, and a moment to sit down and enjoy the view in between mists.

Ahhhh. We made it! But wait …. what’s this!!??

As the mist cleared, what appeared a little further on and a little higher up…? Another cairn?! What the heck???



So on we trudge another quarter-mile or so along and another 100ft or so up to the real cairn. What a nasty trick to play on a hill-walker! It turns out that pretty much every guide and write-up of Ladhar Bheinn mentions the ‘false cairn’, and I’d read a few so I’m not sure why I’d somehow missed this minor detail. Anyways, mission accomplished and time for the pub. It was 3pm, and there no time for faffing about for selfies here, especially as my arrival there was timed to meet with a wave of mist.




The stretch along the ridge towards the trig point was impressively ridgy – and relatively easy-going.

You feel a bit sorry for the trig point – shattered and not even at the summit.



Time to head down now, and this is where it gets boring! It’s a long way to go and going down is no fun, the wooded area above is what we were aiming for.

The rain looking out to sea didn’t spoil the view of Eigg and Rum.



And the sun picking out the woods we were heading for didn’t make the current rough marshy steep-downhill grass seem any nicer. Very dull and neither knee was enjoying itself any more than either of my wet feet. The ground was much like on the way up, except it wasn’t as sunny, there were no dead deer (that I saw) and I could see where I had to aim for.



From the trig point down to the bottom of the valley took the best part of an hour and a half, a vertical drop of some 2800ft in under two miles. Those ear-pops are reassurance that you’re getting somewhere! Looking back up at the Ladhar Bheinn and the ridge it all looked pretty tame from down here, but no matter – I was just so happy to be back on a decent track.



A quick change of socks and one last breather before leaving Gleann na Guiserein and entering the woods for the final triumphant march back into Inverie, and the pub. Woods that containing a log-bearing tree.



Leaving the woods at Folach Gate – marked by the two boulders – there was little point in trying to hitch a lift back from the main road in to town.



I’d just have to walk it.

The views on the way back were still nice, with the mist having left us now. But I can’t quite remember what view this is. I’m fairly surely that’s the Sound of Sleat and Skye in the background, but if it is I can’t figure the loch and the islands in the middle. Answers on a postcard please… although I think this sheds some light on it.

But the most pleasing view of all was Inverie again and the Old Forge in the evening sunshine. It was 7.30pm and my day had begun at 8am – I was ready for boots-off and refreshments.

Finally after a hearty evening in the pub, back at the bunkhouse as I was arranging my damp hosiery in the drying room I noticed that someone else had rather greater ambitions than me for the abilities of the dehumidifier!

Night night – my last night in Inverie.

Top

Day 6 – Brockett Memorial / Knoydart in a Nutshell / Highlands misc.

My last night but oh dear… it was much the same as the previous night concerning the snorers. But at least I was so tired I pretty much slept through it all until about 5am. I noticed that a couple of my room-mates had left for the lounge. I decided to stick with it best I could. But for those not trying to sleep at the moment (and I’m sure a good proportion of readers are asleep by now!) here is a brief video of said snorer.


In this clip he is in ‘normal snoring’ mood, ie. not unearthly grunts and rafter-ratting snorts, but none the less he was about 5ft away from my head.

So I was up and away fairly early. After boozing with some of the locals last night I usefully found out that there is more than one ferry a day between Inverie and Mallaig. I’d previously thought that if I missed Bruce Watt I’d be stuck for another day, but it turns out that there’s SeaBridge as well who dart to and fro several times a day. So I had a few hours to kill now before I had to head to Mallaig, where I’d also have a few hours to kill.

The Brocket Memorial stuck on its lonely hillock had always looked quite interesting so I went to take a closer look…


… stopping off for a sit-down on a nice damp chair cut out of a tree in the woods. But alas me being in the way makes it look just like a tree stump rather than a tree. Fool. It still smelled funny round here though.



Another thing that had piqued my interest as I’d walked past is the rather impressive pipeline which provides the water for Knoydart’s hydro-power scheme.



Right, to the memorial.  And two surprises, firstly I’d thought it was a memorial to the men of Knoydart who’d died in the first world war put up by Lord Brocket.



It’s not, it’s a memorial to Lord Brocket’s family, put by Lord Brocket, presumably thanking them for all the lovely land he inherited. For me there’s a more worthy memorial in Inverie.



The second surprise was that you can get inside. I’d seen the top of the entrance from below but hadn’t figured it was a doorway. So if you get caught in a storm, leg it up the hill for shelter.





Nice views are to be had from the memorial mound too, west to Our Lady of Loch Nevis and east towards Druim Righeanaich.




Back at the bunkhouse to get my bag before kicking out time, the numerous local avians caught my eye.



I was pleased to see the Morris Traveller was still there, but seemingly they’d not got a Knoydart vehicle permit for it yet. As I left the snorers were only just getting up and packed! How come they get the best night’s sleep???

A couple more hours to kill, and no pub to go to the tea & bacon rolls consumed I had a wander round the damp verdant woods behind Inverie for a the Knoydart in a Nutshell walk.









A quick look at the Long Beach campsite – an option for next time perhaps, to avoid night-time disturbances! A rather nice and well-equipped campsite it is too.



One last look back from the ferry…


And after food in Mallaig and drink and a nice chat with the driver of the Jacobite in Fort William, me and my fellow Cally Sleepers settled down for a nocturnal trip back to London.




So it’s fare thee well Knoydart – until next time you lovely old place…! Top

Post Script.

When I finally made it through the morning rush-hour at Euston and got home, I checked the daily Fred Basset update, as is my wont, and as ever Fred has something relevant to add.

I can sympathise with those Tucker twins!

Home.

Inver to Inver – back to Knoydart.

Invergarry to Inverie (+ Ladhar Bheinn) index.

Day 1 – Invergarry to East Glenquoich Forest, 17 miles.
Day 2 – East Glenquoich Forest to Wester Glen Quoich, 14 miles.
Day 3 – Wester Glen Quoich to Barrisdale, 14½ miles.
Day 4 – Barrisdale to Inverie, 9 miles.
Day 5 – Ladhar Bheinn circular, 15½ miles.
Day 6 – Brockett Memorial / Knoydart in a Nutshell.
Plot of track, camp-sites and elevation.
Downloadable GPS routes.

******

Return to Knoydart.

Inverie and Loch Nevis seen from the Brocket Memorial

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man having been to Knoydart once must be in want of going back again.”

Day 3 – Wester Glen Quoich to Barrisdale, 14½ miles, 3239ft ascent.

day3sSurprisingly I slept for about 10 hours, but the next morning it was still very wet. I sensed a lull in the rain and rose, packed away the tent, breakfasted and freshened up in the Coire an Doire Leathain, just like the men of the shielings would have done many times before.



We were away at around 8am, but just before I set off I spotted that after only (almost) 30 years my rucksack had shockingly broken!! Have I still got the receipt somewhere??



I decided that my rucksack should be ok and headed off past the memorial to Peter Brown, high up above me.



The rain was stop / start, but everywhere was soaking wet. After a short while we left the nice(ish) track that ran through the glen and started to head up to Coire Sgoireadail, crossing the burn via another of these ‘fords’.



It was a short, sharp and steep climb up to the top. And a wet one! So by around 9.30am we knew it was all downhill from here. All downhill but not much fun. As is often the case it was steep and lumpy and the path often disappeared when it got close. The sections of motorway crash barrier weren’t doing an awful lot for the drainage, but they were a nice gesture!



The walk down the valley was fairly featureless, apart from a very impressive old fence driven into the rock, usefully keeping us away from the often deep crevice of the Allt Coire Sgoireadail. I had earlier toyed with the idea of tackling the two Munros just on the south-east side of valley, Sgùrr Thionail and Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich, but wisely decided very quickly that they could wait for another day. The pylons that drop down from high above us, down in to the valley and then back up and away in to the distance are the same ones we’d camped by two nights ago, carrying juice from the underground hydro-power station back at Invergarry. Odd to be towering above the pylons.



Soon after the pylons the scenery changed and we were in the more wooded surroundings dropping down towards Loch Coire Shùbh. A welcome change from the exposed marshland we’d been tramping through for past 3 hours but still very wet!
When we got to the bottom we reached another ford, this one across the Loch Hourn river. At barely even 1.5miles long, the Loch Hourn river must be the shortest river in Scotland.
The fording-route looked good, but it was wide. I thought I’d taken a photo of it, but it seems I didn’t. I did however take a video.

Impressively, I make it look very difficult.



After crossing the river it was so nice to be back on some decent tarmac – and back on the same road we’d already been twice before. I figured here would be a good time & place to have a bit to eat and change my damp socks. Which is quite an involved procedure, but soon we were refueled and rebooted and the walk continued. But not for long. Almost immediately with every step something began digging into the end of a toe and was most uncomfortable. I was going to have to stop and de-boot all over again, I could carry on as it was. It turned out that the offending object – which I was assuming was a bit of gravel – was actually the short but lumpy seam of a darned-over hole in the sock! After some oakum-picking style unpicking the hole had returned and the nasty lump had gone. And on we went.



On the way to Kinloch Hourn we passed the point of the Kinloch River that would have had to been crossed had a taken a short-cut to avoid the ford. The ford was definitely the better option! And passed the busy car-park of Kinloch Hourn and its defunct manually pumped petrol pump.
At this point I was under the impression that this nice wide well-surfaced track was going to continue all the way to Barisdale, and the stroll along Loch Hourn was going to be very pleasant – albeit rainy. I was sadly very mistaken!



By now the water seemed to have got in to my camera and it was behaving very oddly indeed, and wouldn’t do anything except take one photo as soon as you turned it on. So sadly I was unable to zoom in on what looked like could’ve been the Loch Hourn monster. Or a duck. We’ll never know. What didn’t need zooming in on was a stupid almost-sheer-drop of slippery wet rock that I had to get down, and once false move and we would have been in the briny. I decided that using the bum-slide method here was probably the best way to go.



A waterfall across the loch at Tor a’ Choit caught my eye, and for the last time for a some time my camera decided to oblige me with a zoom. I was later told that in summer you can swim in the pools of this waterfall.



Trying to capture the picturesque reflection here, I also manage to capture the exact moment when it started to rain again. Clever eh? Mind you there were so many such moments during the days I guess it was only time before I caught one on camera.
My dreams of a gentle easy walk into Barisdale were now firmly shattered, as the path changed from precarious to flooded, from overgrown to bare rock, with many ups & downs. And a brief map reading error gave me false hope, when I thought I was a mile or so further ahead than I actually was. Bah!



Passing Runival there’s a rather unwelcome 300ft lump of rock in the way. And at the top an odd old gate, that doesn’t open and isn’t easily walked around which was slightly inconvenient. After dragging myself up and around the gate, I went to lean against it on the other side for a breather only to suddenly realise that it was only attached to the posts at opposite corners. It nearly flipped me over and sent me back down to the bottom! Stupid gate, and then to make matters more annoying a short distance ahead after dropping back down to loch-level, there was another 300ft lump to get over! Sigh. At least the misty views looking back were nice.



In fact the misty views ahead of me were quite pleasant too – almost jungle-like.



Approaching Barisdale Bay there was one last climb up, but the path didn’t get much better. In the photo to above right, the water is the path. The heather conveniently forcing us to splash through the middle of it.



But it was soon over, and we caught our first glimpse of the sandy Bay – and delightfully a proper track again! We fair skipped down the hill, and past the ruined bothy to join the proper track and be officially welcomed into Barisdale.



After the shock of the noise from some sort of pump-house (you soon get very used to the peace and quiet) I got to the bothy – which was unsurprisingly rammed. But no matter, as I was going to camp anyways – I just wanted somewhere to hang up my wet gear to hopefully dry out overnight, or at least get a little less damp. The atmosphere in the kitchen area was busy and steamy but very convivial. Lots of light-hearted banter regarding stoves, boots and choices of trail-food (“CoffeeMate… in tea!?”).
And as various tales came and went, I started regaling my story of the last time I was in a bothy with the two Germans who wouldn’t let me keep the fire going, and there was this mouse… At which point a Scouse voice popped up “Wait – did the mouse eat the Germans’ chocolate?? I’ve read this on the internet!” How nice to bump into someone who had such fine taste in walking blogs!! By the way, if you happen to read this Joe – this took me exactly three minutes to write :-)


So nice to pitch my tent on level ground with the approval of the local residents of course, and I was out like a light. Top

Day 4 – Barrisdale to Inverie, 9 miles, 2123ft ascent.

day4sAfter another good night’s sleep in the tent we were breakfasted, packed up and away by 7am bound for Inverie.



As we enjoyed the last bit of level ground for a while I pondered what to do today. The original plan had been to go via Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe, but struggling with my bag over the past few days I was beginning to wonder if this was such a good idea or not. In fact I’d been wondering that for a little while – but now it was decision time.



My legs were still fresh as the path out of Barisdale rose, so perhaps a couple more Munros were still possible later today….? With this nice early start anything was possible!



But predictably as the top of the pass at Mám Barisdale got nearer and the legs got a little wearier, I decided that perhaps today should be an easy day. Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe aren’t going anywhere, so they can wait. A wise decision.


Up at the top of Mám Barisdale it was clear and very blowy, so the woolly hat came out. Here as I had a sit down and enjoyed the views, I realised that although it was still a good few miles to Inverie without any distracting pesky mountains to get in the way I reckoned I could be in the pub for lunchtime.



So now with a spring in a step we headed downhill – this path takes us all the way to the pub! Hoorah! Even allowing for rickety bridges what could go wrong??


While up high I took advantage of the breeze to dry my socks out by donning them glove-style, as they’d not seemed to manage to rid themselves of much moisture in their overnight hangout of the cold fetid kitchen of the bothy.


The guardian of the Loch an Dubh-Lochain let us pass, and we were making the good time for the pub.



Down at lochan level now and out of the wind, so the hat could come off and the dry socks go away. Must take care not to step in the puddle of tadpoles though. I hope they sprout legs before the puddle dries out – mind you, round these parts it could be some time before any of the puddles dry out.



Just gone 10am and we might even make into town for a brunch never mind lunch! The digger was a reminder that we were nearing civilisation – an abandoned digger but it’s a sign of modern technology none-the-less.
I meet a couple around here leaving Inverie for a walk up the valley the other way, and they told me that the pub isn’t open at lunch-times at the moment. They don’t open until 3pm! Gutted. I’ve been rushing all that way for nothing. Still, I think with my pack on I’d rather reach Inverie with nothing to do than be struggling up Luinne Bheinn cursing “never again”!



Another obligatory highland moo cow photo, and when I get to the familiar nearly-there landmark of the Brocket Memorial I sit down for a breather. Not far to go now, and with no pint any time soon nothing to rush for. Just as well because after setting off I realise that one of my nice dry socks is missing! I must have dropped it somewhere. Bother (this wasn’t the actual word I said to myself, but it was along those lines) – I’ll be needing that tomorrow. So 180 degrees I turn and tramp back half a mile, and pleasingly find said sock. Must be more careful with my woollens eh? Don’t want to make that mistake again! Hmmm.



Through the woods, with some odd cut-out sections in the trees. Something smells funny in these woods, but I can’t see anything dead. But what I can see on emerging is a lovely view of Loch Nevis and Inverie below.



Knowing roughly where I’m going now, I take the direct route to the bunk-house through some pretty little woods. Passing the saw-mill with a poster which I think is about Scotland’s first king or something.



Like highland cattle, old tractors also demand a photo. Especially ones that seemed to be parked up near some gallows.


And just after the woods, a short skip past the JB 1892 houses, and hoorah – we’re back at the welcoming Knoydart Bunkhouse, to be greeted warmly by the lovely Anna, our charming hostess for whom nothing is too much trouble. And it’s barely midday. But shock-horror – almost immediately I realised then that I’ve lost my woolly hat! As if a sock wasn’t enough. Anna was very sympathetic, so I chose a bed and dropped my bag and scampered back along my tracks to find it. I would definitely need that tomorrow! Although a tad annoyed about having to go back, now minus my pack I felt I could do another 10 miles! And after a while it seemed I might have to – a good two miles later and there was no sign of it. I hoped Anna was right and someone would pick it up and I’d see them later. I knew there’d be a few others passing the same way and I’m sure they’d be in the pub that night. Fingers crossed. Back to the bunkhouse, and a wee rest and a chance to sort my stuff out. The pub wouldn’t be open for another two hours yet.



Heading into Inverie and it almost feels like home. And weirdly it was at this very spot my camera started working properly again! I guess it just wanted to be here all the time. I stopped off at the Knoydart Pottery and Tearoom (“Don’t call it a tea-shop!” as I was told) for a bacon sarnie, and a packed lunch for tomorrow. I watched a dolphin or porpoise or some such thing swimming about akin to Jaws. I waited and waited for it to spring out of the water and athletically flip a beach-ball or something but then I saw the clock… it was pointing at the number three!


I dashed across the road, and into the lovely Old Forge and claimed my prize. Part one of the trip was over. Cheers Knoydart! Top

Next part…

Home.

Inver – Inver GPS routes.

Day 1 – Invergarry to East Glenquoich Forest GPS waypoints. (Right click / save as)


Day 2 – East Glenquoich Forest to Wester Glen Quoich GPS waypoints. (Right click / save as)


Day 3 – Wester Glen Quoich to Barrisdale GPS waypoints. (Right click / save as)


Day 4 – Barrisdale to Inverie GPS waypoints. (Right click / save as)


Day 5 – Ladhar Bheinn circular GPS waypoints. (Right click / save as)


Back to Inver-Inver Walk page.

Home.

Inver to Inver – back to Knoydart.

Invergarry to Inverie (+ Ladhar Bheinn) index.

Day 1 – Invergarry to East Glenquoich Forest, 17 miles.
Day 2 – East Glenquoich Forest to Wester Glen Quoich, 14 miles.
Day 3 – Wester Glen Quoich to Barrisdale, 14½ miles.
Day 4 – Barrisdale to Inverie, 9 miles.
Day 5 – Ladhar Bheinn circular, 15½ miles.
Day 6 – Brockett Memorial / Knoydart in a Nutshell.
Plot of track, camp-sites and elevation.
Downloadable GPS routes.

******

Return to Knoydart.

Inverie and Loch Nevis seen from the Brocket Memorial

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man having been to Knoydart once must be in want of going back again.”

So like Mr Darby in search of Elizabeth that is where I’m heading.

But how to get there? There’s (no still!!) no road access and not being a sailor the only other option is again on Shanks’s pony. A quick check of the modern-day Bradshaws reveal a combination of rail (the Cally Sleeper from Euston to Fort William) and bus (the 916 to Inverness) would get me to Invergarry by about 11am, and the OS sheets 413 & 414 promised a nice looking walk ahead to Inverie. Four days, about 50 or so miles taking in a few Munros, plus an extra day for Ladhar Bheinn. Inver to Inver. Let’s get back to the Old Forge!

Except I almost never even got past Euston Station! As I was getting my bits & pieces together for that evening’s departure, I realised when I went to print my train tickets out that they weren’t those sort of tickets. They’d supposed to have been delivered by post weeks earlier – but hadn’t! Hmmm. But after several increasingly worried phone-calls to ScotRail, and five fretful hours I finally spoke to someone useful (thank you Susan) and she sorted out replacements to be sent to Euston. Phew!
So off I set for the Sleeper, allowing time for a leisurely last English-pint for a week. Just as well too – the fax machine at Euston wasn’t working (who still uses fax machines?!) so they’d not received any of the necessary confirmations from ScotRail. By the time it was sorted I didn’t have time for that drink – but no matter, I had my tickets finally. And the moral of this little story is always allow time for a pint!

So, on the Sleeper and straight into the boisterous party atmosphere that is the 1st Class Lounge Car on a Thursday night. We’re away. Top

Day 1 – Invergarry to East Glenquoich Forest, 17 miles, 3175ft ascent.

Today’s route through Glen Garry. The bridge diversion is obvious!

The Sleeper and the bus got me to Invergarry bang on time, despite some train-spotter gawping in at the nice class 37 tractor “Fort William” from its eponymous bus-stop.



The locomotive-free bus-stop at Invergarry Junction marked the start of the walk, and after some minor initial problems finding my chosen footpath away from the road I was off to sunny Inverie.

I had a long day today given the late start (18 miles or so) so the plan was to get my foot down, and hoping for fairly easy walking I’d be able to make good progress so I could camp near the start of the South Glen Shiel Ridge to allow a full day tackling that tomorrow. A perfectly simple plan – what could go wrong…?



Past the charming Glengarry Church and a ramshackle shed that required not one but two satellite dishes, it was a lovely day as we headed over the River Garry into Mandally, leaving the road behind us.


Strolling through the lowland sheep farms I spotted a ewe that had become separated from her lamb by a wire fence. Both looked rather worried, or I’m sure they would have if sheep could express emotion. But it was fairly clear that the lamb wasn’t going to be getting much milk with the fence between them. So mustering all my best shepherding skills, I clambered over another fence and rounded the mother up, guided her along the dividing fence, round a corner and through a small gap from where she scampered back to her issue, and both looked very relieved and grateful for my good deed.


But how was my good deed rewarded by the Gods of Garry?? By the path being totally blocked by fallen trees, overgrown undergrowth and goodness knows what else, that’s how. The path goes right to left in the photo below, past the brush wood and under the two birch trees.


Fruitlessly I tried to battle through, but with my pack on there was no way – and I even thought I might get stuck, like a walker-fly in a spider’s web of flora! I went back and went to take a detour which involved climbing over a very wobbly fence at the top of a steep banking. Dignified it wasn’t! But at least we were on a nice wide track now and could make some good progress at last.


Good progress that is until we came to a missing bridge! It was still marked on the map and you could see where it was went, but no explanation on the ground. A chap whose house was next to the ex-bridge explained to me that I wanted a diversion just a little way back – I sensed it wasn’t the first time he’d explained this to walkers. I had seen a footpath lead off to the right but had no idea I should walking down it, surely some sort of notice would have been useful? But no probs – we were shortly marching on again.



The sun spilling through the tall native pines of the Garry Forest was nice, but the detour to the waterfalls would probably be better after a couple of days of heavy rain. But there was no rain today! It was baking hot, and as we climbed upwards all layers of clothing had to come off, whilst retaining decency of course.


I would be regretting rolling my trouser legs up though a few days later…



The forest carried on pleasant but uneventful, just how we like it. No need for the picnic shelter today!



Like wild haggis and Nessie it is of course obligatory to photograph Highland cattle when in these parts. I wonder what they do with furry hides post-slaughter? Surely they’d make lovely cosy rugs – but I’ve never seen one.

I had been promised red squirrels in these woods, and maybe even Scottish wild cats. But all I saw was this slow-worm basking in the sun. This was the most interesting piece of wild-life I was to see all week, until the next slow-worm. No golden eagles on this occasion.



Stopping off for a rest at Garrygualach at what seemed like a bothy, I was amused by their take on an “upstairs toilet”. Ho ho. Everything was going fine, and although I still had some way to go I was bang on time for my valley campsite that evening. But then… disaster struck!
Another bridge out! Well, not totally out but not looking very healthy. Rotten and over-grown it clearly hadn’t been used for some time, it was even supported underneath by a solitary leaning Acrow. Hmmmm. I thought about it – and it probably would have been ok, but with a fair drop underneath and being on my own it just wasn’t worth the risk. So I walked upstream to the next bridge marked on the map (although so far that hasn’t meant an awful lot!) or maybe a crossing point on the way.



I looked at a couple of places, but they weren’t good. There was a weir with a beam across it which might have had potential but I couldn’t be sure what was supporting the beam and again with big drops on either side it wasn’t worth it. So onwards to the bridge – double bridge indeed indicating how wide the river was here. This had added a good mile to the journey, and thrashing through the heather and bracken hadn’t done my bare legs much good.


But things got worse still! The next mile or so was unbelievably marshy. It was so difficult to walk on it slowed me right down. No fun at all. I’d lined my boots with plastic bags, so my feet were dry-ish but it was still very hard going.

As a slight aside here let me mention my boot preparations. My trusty old Brasher Hillmasters had done my proud for 100s of miles up to now, but the leather had become cracked between the toes and the laces, and this is where they leaked water. So I had spent some time figuring out a way of repairing them – I am always determined not to bin something if it can be fixed. After a little research I bought some Shoe Goo and happened to have some patches of leather which conveniently was the same colour as my boots. So I cut out some strips to fit and glued them in place.


And although not the neatest looking bit of cobbling, after 20 miles of testing and much Nikwaxing they seemed to be as good as new. That is until the boots got wet! After stomping through the marsh the water inevitably soaked in to the leather, and the Shoo Goo just turned a cloudly colour and slowly came away. Revealing the cracks as before. By the end of the week both patches were flapping around, half off, so I ended up ripping them both off completely. Leaving my boots back to square one! Any suggestions? And don’t say “Buy some new ones.”!

As the path veered up away from the marshy ground and back into the forest I found the track completely blocked again by fallen trees – completely blocked with huge pine trees, and on either side the still-standing trees were so densely packed with low tangled branches there was no way through there either. I thought I’d taken a photo but seems that I was a bit fed up by now as if I couldn’t get through here I may have to back track some way. But I decided there was only one way to get through. The low branches on many of the trees were dead, so I just put my head down and barged through. And with much cracking and splintering and rucksack snags and twigs down my boots I managed to get through to the track on the other side of the fallen trees. Never trust forestry commission land! At least I was past the worse now… or was I?!

When the track came to a river – the Allt Choire a’Bhalachan – guess what??


Yup – ANOTHER bloody bridge was out!! And seems it had been for some time. This time I was having none of it – thankfully there was a decent enough crossing just nearby, although I’m sure how good it would be after some heavy rain. So I was across, and into a large a clearing where forestry operations were going on, with signs telling me to keep out. But with no-where else to go what was the point of them? I ploughed on as the track faded into piles of stumps and logs, twigs, branches and all sorts of other tree-felling debris that isn’t very nice to walk on. Again I was slowed right down by this, and it was clear now I wasn’t going to make my intended destination.
I made for the edge of the clearing and caught sight of a track, that seemed to be going the right way. It was heavily overgrown with moss, and very squelchy but at least it was a track so I kept to it. Then the inevitable happened – my foot went down into the squelch well over the ankle. I fell forward and the track was so uneven I ended up on my chest, and thought for a second I had actually gone in to my chest! But no, it was just a wet boot and ankle I had to worry about it. Very wet though.

The track eventually lead me down to the road and over the River Garry as planned. I sat down here to change my socks – and boot-bags!

My spirits lifted now a little by knowing I had some good firm surfaces to walk on I sped up.


Ascending the grandest stile I’d seen for some time, I was back on the same road (sort of) I’d been on in Invergarry. I wish I’d just kept to it now. In fact whilst waiting to hear back from ScotRail about my tickets, I started making contingencies. It was possible that I may have to get the next Sleeper to Fort Bill and would arrive in Invergarry a couple of hours later. This would mean a taxi ride along the road to get this point, rather than the supposedly pleasant red squirrel fest through the Glen Garry. I almost wish that had been the case now!
After about a mile I took the turning for Strathan – reminding me of my last trip to these parts. The climb up the hill towards the East Glenquoich Forest took its toll quickly. There was still a good hour of daylight left, but I set up camp as soon as I saw a good spot, next to the Allt a’ Ghobhainn with plenty of firewood to attend to my socks, aided by some firelighters – although it was all pretty dry. It’s not quite East Glenquoich Forest but I’m not sure what else to call it.

Despite an unhurried but sumptuous tea of noodles & baked beans (quite tasty actually!) it was only just starting to get dark when I went to bed, but I slept well! Top

Day 2 – East Glenquoich Forest to Wester Glen Quoich (via South Glen Shiel Ridge),
14 miles, 5618ft ascent.

Today’s route over the South Glen Shiel Ridge. Zig-zags are not fun!

Early to bed and early to rise… I was up before 5am and was soon full of porridge. My morning ablutions in the Allt a’ Ghobhainn were nothing if not refreshing! We had struck camp and were away by 6am.



The slog up to the valley below Mám Na Sellig was slow and quite boring, the early morning grey light and light mist doing a good job of veiling the views. The views down the valley were dominated by the electricity pylons running east-west anyways though. But at the top we got our first glimpse of today’s challenge – the South Glen Shiel Ridge with its most westerly peak Creag a’Mhaim (rock of the large rounded hill) rising into view. Gosh, it looked big! But it was still a long way off yet – getting down the other side of the valley was the immediate challenge. And again it wasn’t pleasant walking, steep, lumpy & bumpy, and very marshy with some wide streams to get over. I’d also been looking for a wooded area shown on the OS map that the path was supposed to pass through, but as you can see from the above-right photo it had gone (it should have been just behind the fence) and this sent me wandering off-route slightly. I saw kind of stile looking thing at the far end of the fenced-in area and made for this, and I was back heading the right way to meet the ford across the River Loyne. Ah yes – the ford.



Fords round here funny things. My understanding prior to my last trip was that a ford is a point where the road/track/path crosses the river for the sake of track user. Here it seems to mean the converse – somewhere where the river goes over the path to suit the needs of the river user more. I’m sure fords are a totally meaningless concept in winter here too! So we got to the fording point, as confirmed by GPS and it did look like there was a path on either side, but at no point up or down stream was there any way of getting across. Getting across with dry feet anyways. So, the boots and socks had to come off the trouser legs rolled up and a-paddling we went. Blimey, the water was cold and the rocks were hard! I’m sure it only took 15 seconds to get across, but seemed like a long time – and it hurt! Mind you, I’m sure the feet didn’t mind a freshening up. Whilst I was sat down to dry my feet and re-boot I had my second breakfast of the day – a cold toast Marmite sandwich and a homemade sausage roll. Deeeelicious! (The rest of my diet consisted of muesli bars, nutty-chocolate and jam sandwiches which might get squashed but I reckoned would last the five days.)
Two hours gone, and we were now ready to start ascending the mighty 3107ft of Creag a’Mhaim – two hours later than the original plan though. We were already about 600ft above sea-level so just another 2500ft and we’d be up there.



It was tough going up, my rucksack was a real drag. I hadn’t weighed it but reckon it was a good 30lbs. After not very long I decided on a strategy. Every 250ft (of ascent!) I would stop for a breather, and every 500ft would stop for a proper bag-off sit down rest. Yes, this would mean maybe ten stops on the way up but whatever it takes! Breaking it up into chunks like this really helped, and a steady ascent was soon well underway, at 8am time isn’t really of the essence just yet. The 500ft rest stops slowly became 500ft-when-we-find-a-good-rock to sit on which served to spread them out more, and also has extra mini-targets to aim for on the way up. We were soon past Creag Liathtais, which more or less marks the half-way point to the summit (half-way from sea-level that is!) and is from where the above photos were taken. On the left is (I think) looking north towards Meall Breac, and on the right is Loch Loyne and the River Loyne below. Roughly half-way along the straight stretch between meanders is where I’d got my feet wet, about two hours earlier.



As we carried on upwards I heard voices – the first human voice I’d heard since the bloke told me about the first bridge yesterday. And they were miles away – with a wind and peace & quiet people’s voices really carry for a long way up here. Quite annoying – I was hoping to have the mountains to myself! I hadn’t realised at the time of booking this was going to be a bank holiday weekend.
We were getting some nice views too now, as the zig-zags faded and the path straightened and steepened and the top neared. I’m not sure where the above-left view is now (I’m guessing looking south, over Glac Raineach and Beinn Bheag?) , but the above-right is to the north looking over Loch Cluanie.

Creag a’ Mhaim

Then quite suddenly today’s first summit suddenly appears! And unbelievably has taken me the best part of six hours to get here since setting off, so quite deserving of a selfie at the cairn of Creag a’ Mhaim I think!



After such a long slog, it was so nice to be up on top at last. I was expecting a relatively easy-going ridge walk, seen stretching out ahead of the cairn to the above-left so hopefully we should make some good progress now. I was already calculating daylight hours left (even though that figure was currently nine!). The views were cracking, I think that’s Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach over Glen Loyne to the above right.

Snow high above Loch Cluanie

As I descended from the summit Creag a’ Mhaim a North American couple sped past me heading up, and I marched on westward ho! The cloud was staying pleasingly high, and views of the numerous remaining snow patches were grand.
And the ridge itself made for a fine sight stretching out in both directions.


To the left looking back at Creag a’ Mhaim and to the right looking forwards towards the next summit, Druim Shionnach (ridge of the fox). Some people were already up there – possibly the chaps I’d heard earlier on the way up. Hopefully they’d be long gone by the time I got there!

Cairn at Druim Shionnach

And indeed they were! But no time to linger enjoying the peace & quiet of the Druim Shionnach summit, must keep cracking on. The ridge was looking very long.



More nice views, although again I’m not entirely sure of what. Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach again to the left I think, and Loch a’ Mhaoil Dhisnich to the right.


The terrain started to get a bit rougher now – looks like the eastern end of the ridge was a gentle introduction. This rocky scramble towards Aonach Air Chrith wasn’t going to be the last of the day. Or indeed the week!



But still the nice views continued. Not sure how many people would be trying to cross the snowy south-running ridge above Coire nan Leac, but there seemed to be plenty of snow in store for us too as our ridge continues to the east.
I stopped for a rest here, and the American couple came past me again, with a speedy pace and much chattering. I don’t know people can find the breath to talk and walk at the same time. Possibly in better shape than me perhaps?!
Also 6 or 8 men all in black lycra shorts, black tops, black boots, and little black back-packs wielding black stick scuttled by at a right rate of knots, sweating and huffing and puffing as they went. They resembled a kind of giant angry robotic mountain centipede as they went. Surely this is not the way to enjoy the hills?! Each to their own I suppose.



Then the snow got very close indeed, right in the way in fact. Thankfully there was footprints to follow so hopefully they’d be no huge voids underneath! But the snow was actually quite useful here. It’d had been quite warm so far and I’d drunk all my water already, but there was nowhere really up here to get some more. Except the run-off from the snow. Glen Shiel Glacial Melt Water! You could probably charge a fortune for it in the fancy shops in town. Mind you it didn’t taste very nice (compared to the sparkling stream water that is the usual source in these parts) but it was all there was, and both my bottles were nicely replenished with ice-cold funny tasting water. (I did of course thoroughly check all the snow that none of it was in any way yellow!)
After the snow the ridge continued to stretch out ahead, gently rising for some way.



The ridge rose all the way to Aonach Air Chrith (the trembling hill) which at, according to my GPS, 3339ft is the highest point of the ridge. It was two o’clock now, over eight hours’ walking done and I was getting a bit tired but at least it all downhill from here!



Well mainly downhill with plenty of uphill bits in-between! And some of the downhill bits were very downhill indeed. These rocks above-right  were a near vertical scramble downwards, and I was quite worried that I’d catch my rucksack on something behind that would then sending tumbling forwards. Thankfully I got down fine, apparently impressing the Americans whom I caught up with here. I told them that they must just have glanced up at me at the one moment when I wasn’t clinging on for dear life fretting about descending head first much quicker than I’d like!



A short while further on I was to meet two Geordie lads – Dan and Kev I think – who were doing a mountain leader course which involved having to clock up 40 days’ out on the hills, of which this was one. “It’s this or buy a dog and take it to the pub!” they joked. I ended up walking with them a for while, only about half a mile though but it was the only time I’d walk with anyone for the whole trip. That’s them in the above-left pic I think just coming down to the vertical rocky scramble above.

Loch Cuaich and (I think) Gairich and Sgùrr Mòr

Getting on for 3.30pm now and about half way along the ridge I was getting pretty tired. If I didn’t bail out soon I’d have to keep on until the end of the ridge – unless I wanted to forge my own way down, which I didn’t really. So I decided on one more summit after which there was stalker’s path heading down back in to Glen Quoich where I’d be camping that night, although it was still quite a walk to where I’m planned to stop but easier walking on the nice track down there than up here.



As I looked back I saw the American couple coming over – I hope they happen to stumble across this as they’re rather nice photos! Even if I do say so myself.

One final slog upwards now and I’m at the final summit of the day – Maol Chinn-dearg (bald red hill). The fourth Munro of the day! Not bad going I think.



It was here that I was to head south and down, the Geordies were heading north back to their car to look for a pub (it was a Saturday night after all!) and the Americans were planning to carry on west to the end of the ridge. I hope they made it! In the photo on the right you can see the path carrying on just under the peak with someone coming this way, and just below that you can just make out my path taking me back down through Teanga na Féinne to the glen.



And a very steep horrible descent it was, the path soon disappeared, even at the crossing point over the stream there was no sign of. So I did end up having to make my own way through the lumpy marshy grass, dodging rocks and crags. Never the most fun you could imagine! As I got to the bottom there was a funny smell… it was a big dead dear just behind a small ridge by the stream, seemingly marked by an Easter Island style rock sculpture.
The rain was starting to come down now, so I pitched up on the first decent looking bit of land I found. By the moody looking old shielings of Doireleathan, (the hamlet by the broad grove) again a couple of miles away from where than I’d planned. But it was coming quite heavy so it world have to do.
By the time the tent was up it was gone 6pm, I’d been walking over 12 hours – the rucksack was really slowing me down. I’d toyed with the idea of a couple more Munros tomorrow – possibly. But had planned to do two more on the way in to Inverie (Luinne Bheinn and Meille Bhuide). Wasn’t feeling too sure now. I was knackered and as the rain came down I dined on beans straight from the tin and I was tucked up by 8pm. I slept soundly for the next ten hours! Top

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