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.
Day 5 – Ladhar Bheinn circular, 15½ miles, 5374ft ascent.
Being 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nice views are to be had from the memorial mound too, west to Our Lady of Loch Nevis and east towards Druim Righeanaich.
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.
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
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!