Monthly Archives: January 2015

Skye and Knoydart, September 2014.

Skye & Knoydart – Cuillin off in the Looney Bin.

Black Cuillins and blue skies

Day 1 – Sligachan to Rubha an Dùnain.
Day 2 – Rubha an Dùnain to Glen Brittle
Day 3 – Sgùrr Alasdair & Eas Mor Falls
Day 4 – Fairy Pools & Bruach na Frith
Day 5 – Skye to Knoydart
Day 6 – Meall Bhuidhe & Luinne Bheinn
Day 7 – Last day in Inverie


Day 6 – Meall Bhuidhe & Luinne Bheinn. 16½ miles, 4792ft ascent.

After last night’s village hall revelry I wasn’t up quite as early as I’d have liked to be and by the time I was suited and booted and up and away the sun was above the hills and pleasantly warming my face. “Ahhhh the sun always shines in Knoydart!” I was thinking as I set off.

On the familiar stroll up the track towards Barisdale a lady passed me on her bike. She was doing Meall Bhuidhe and Luinne Bheinn but in the other direction. She was going to cycle up to Mam Barisdale, ditch her bike and walk back while her husband at some point after a nice lie-in would walk up the track and collect the bike. Sounds like a good idea on paper, but this uneven rock-strewn track seems to me to be a nightmare to cycle on but she seemed not to struggle as she peddled off.

She went on her way and turned off the NE Barisdale track to head eastwards over the Inverie River and the Allt Gleann Meadail – and right in to the sun, which by now was getting worryingly warm. Just where this path crosses the Gleann Meadail there’s a very pleasant-looking wild-camping spot, which although can be no secret is definitely worth checking out at some point. Shortly after that though then things got pretty unpleasant – the assault on Druim Righeanaich. It was steep, pathless, uneven and very hard-going and reminded me a lot of the slog up Mám Suidheig when tackling near-neighbour Ladhar Bheinn earlier in the year. The difference here being that you’re constantly wading through thick tenacious ferns all the way up, which although often made for useful anchors and handles to hoist myself with, I wished I packed my machete as they wrapped themselves round my ankles and knees, not at all keen on letting me pass. And with sun now getting very hot I really wished I packed my sun-hat. Oh what kind of fool would try to predict Highlands weather?!
And just to make this 800ft-or-so ascent even more testing was the constant attention of some strange little insects that I’d not encountered before. They would land on you but then just hunker down and do nothing. They had the appearance of an Apache helicopter but and as they didn’t seem intent of inflicting any damage or taking any of my blood I wasn’t that bothered, and would just brush them off. But boy, did they take some brushing off! I later found out that they were in fact deer keds and was soon to get very bored with them.

I was mightily relieved to be up on the bottom of the ridge. The view back to Inverie is always lovely, but that was all behind me now. In front of me was another 2000ft ascent up roughish moorland. Heading into the sun the deer keds were constantly coming to say hello. And I mean constantly. It was no exaggeration to say that as soon as I’d brushed one off another came along. And they took a lot of brushing off being seeming made of tough rubber. Normally not killing an insect is quite tricky, but although I wasn’t going out of my way I don’t remember killing any of them they were so tough. Very tedious. Eventually I became quite paranoid and would confuse a trickling bead of sweat with a ked and vice-versa.

The view looking north over Loch an Dubh-Lochain was that of Aonach Sgoilte and Ladhar Bheinn and I got to see what I couldn’t last time I was there because of the mist. But as the sweat was running down my face and neck I could have really done with some mist today. The weather is always greener on the other side of the hill, as they say!
The view as we slowly made progress also included the long track back down from Mam Barisdale to the pub, and was a constant reminder of the long slog back after we’d conquered the peaks. Best not to think about that just yet.

I can’t be sure, but I think that’s our first glimpse of Luinne Bheinn there in the distant. Doesn’t look too far off actually… does it??

I had earlier hoped for some really cracking views given the clear skies, but the air was heavy and eventually cloaked everything with a dirty haze.

As I remember, although I knew it must be close, the cairn at the summit of Meall Bhuide appeared quite suddenly after one last upwards push and I was very pleased to see it. Worn out with the considerable heat I was looking forward to a good 10mins of pure sitting on my backside doing nothing up here.

There wasn’t a whisper of a breeze in the air here – how often can you do this with a map on top of a Munro? I’m sure it would’ve quite happily would have stayed in situ for the entire 10 minutes of my intended sit-down. But that wasn’t to happen, something very unpleasant happened instead.
As mentioned the keds had been constant all the way up and although tedious and irritating they weren’t a real problem and I’d almost got used to them. But on the top here there was nothing less than a swarm of them. Suddenly I had dozens and dozens of them all over me, a plague of Biblical proportions! Sort of. On my arms, chest, face, in my hair, in my ears, in my mouth when I opened it to curse them… I’d never seen so many things on me all at one time. I wouldn’t have been surprised if there were hundreds of them. And they were coming back as quickly as I was frantically brushing them off. No place for a rest then and after stopping for less than a minute I was forced to carry on. I felt like a cartoon character being chased by bees running off to the nearest pond! By now I was not a fan of these little blighters.

Thankfully though after the steep drop down from Meall Bhuide the keds seemed to thin out a bit, although they were never completely absent for a good while yet.

The section between Meall Bhuide and Luinne Bhein was uppy & downy and very rocky. And also very warm. The thin cloud cover was little use for shade and sun was unrelenting.
Around here I bumped into the cyclist lady from earlier coming the other way and she looked in much better shape than I was. I told her about the climb up to (down for her) Druim Righeanaich and the impossible deer keds but she told me she hadn’t encountered any. Maybe like the midges they just liked me much more than everyone else! Typical.

Looking down to a little lochan with strange weed growth and looking up to more rocky upwards bits – in fact that might be Meall Coire na Gaoithe ‘n Ear – I can quite recall now. But that’s the last major ascent and descent before the Loony Bin itself.

When Luinne Bheinn loomed into view it was clear how much more we had to go up – about another 1000ft to the top. Could my poor legs make it!?

On the way up my attention was caught by a couple of interesting things, one an ancient rock carving depicting a lady surfing on a giant wave and the other an old derelict fence going effortlessly scaling any peak it its way. How on Earth did they build such things back in day? They were made from sterner stuff than me – which at this point wouldn’t have been difficult!

The haze wasn’t shifting as we made our up. But it was nice to see the “volcano lochan” I’d heard about before, although I still can’t pin-point it on a map.

The top! We had arrived in the Loony Bin – and my Munro count was into double figures!! But wait – what is that in the distance…? Another cairn!? Apart from the weather this IS just like Ladhar Bheinn! And assuming the further one was the real one I plodded on.

Now we were at the top. Despite the haze the views were grand. And there was even a slight breeze in the air which was keeping my friend the keds away, so a well-earned breather was taken.

But sadly my slow progress up to here – I had been averaging 1.5mph for some while had put me behind schedule – I was due to be meeting a friend in the pub at 8pm and to be honest I was feeling the chill a bit up here as the breeze took the perspiration away. So, downwards and onwards.

The way down LB was rocky and at times a tad precarious. The above rock formation caught my eye – how did that happen? And I thought I better take a snap of a deer ked, as at the time I had no idea what they were. I was wondering if they were related to the star of the 1980s BBC Micro gaming scene Repton…?

After straying a little off route through a boggy area underneath LB I was finally back on the Barisdale track, and was muchly envious of the folks setting up their camp for the night in very nice spot – nice if it wasn’t a windy night anyways!
It was 6pm now I had 2 hours to get to the pub which was still come 6miles away – would I make it?! It was all downhill, but even the path was rocky-going and I was tired…
I eventually got there at 8.10pm and was very glad, despite the surly landlord. Beer and fodder and comfy sit-down were most welcome. I bumped into the cyclist lady again, who reassuringly agreed with me about (for her) the drop down Druim Righeanaich – and she even got plagued by deer keds pretty much all the way after Meall Bhuide! So it wasn’t just me. I proudly mentioned that I was now into Munro double figures… “That was my 10th Munro!!” I told her. She told me that MB was her 282nd Munro – so well done her!
As I sat at the bar I felt something in my hair – it was the last ked of the day!
After a plenty more Belhavens, a couple of malts and some eaves-dropping on a heated discussion between two stalkers about ‘changes’ on the estate (they reckoned I must have been from the Oban Times!) sleeping wasn’t a problem. The heat and keds had made this a long day. Top

Plot of the day’s walk:

Day 7 – Last day in Inverie

In the morning when the ranger came round to collect the camping fees I got the full story about deer keds. Apparently they were early this year – lucky me. And have you noticed what “deer ked” sounds like if you say it quickly? Sums up what I think of them.

With a couple of hours to kill before the ferry across the water I went for a short stroll.

This is what a phone box looks like in Inverie. Actually it might just be over in Kilchoan.

The old graveyards in the Kilchoan Estate. I wish I known about the cross then.

The ferry whisked us away just as the weather set in. So farewell Knoydart until the next time! Top