Trekking in Knoydart

After our ear1ier attempts, early in 1981, to sample the delights of Knoydart in north west Scotland, and the three days soaking we received for our efforts, you’d be excused for thinking that we’d be in no hurry to return. But years of winter excursions to Scotland have hardened us, to some extent, to the foul weather she is capable of throwing at us. ‘To misquote. a famous saying, ‘With Scotland you’ve got to take the rough with. the rough’.

So early in December 198l two of us loaded up the car and headed north for our first stopping off point in Glencoe. The tent pitched and a quick meal devoured, we spent the rest of. the evening drinking in the Clachaig. The following morning dawned a bit dismal undeterred, we packed up camp and drove to the western end of Loch Aricaig and packed our sacks with provisions for four days ‘Wilderness Wandering’.

Walking in was, as we expected, soggy and wet. I’d remembered the ordeal of wet boots and even wetter socks from our last trip in the area and this time I’d come prepared. The previous week I’d hammered the old credit card and invested in a pair of Yeti gaiters. These fiendishly clever gaiters cover the whole of the boot and seal round the edge of the sole, thereby keeping most of the mud and wet off the boot upper.

Due to a latish start (a consequence of being a Red Rose member) it went dark just as we completed our last river crossing. We noticed that the fixed rope, which had previously spanned the river, had now been removed, but luckily the level was down and we crossed OK. The last mile to Sourlies Bothy was easy to negotiate in the dark as the terrain was flat and sufficient light remained to just about let us see where we were going.

At the bothy we unpacked cooked a meal, then amused ourselves by reading through the bothy log book. As usual these priceless documents are an endless source of witticisms and cryptic comments relating to walking and the surrounding area. One, interesting topic was the removal of the fixed rope from the river crossing. I found the rope a great help the last time I used it, but it transpired the reason for its removal was the result of an unfortunate accident about twelve months ago - a walker was washed away at the crossing and drowned. As the rope was apparently blamed as a contributory factor in the fatality, someone had taken it on himself to remove it. If this reasoning were applied to everyday life then if a car mounts a pavement and kills a pedestrian ‘then presumably we should all walk in ‘the middle o the road! Many people echoed similar views in the log book.

On a lighter note, someone had entered ‘Conquered Sgurr na Ciche a 3 thousand foot peak east of the bothy’. Another person had taken exception to the word ‘conquered’ in relation to a mountain and had written in bold print ‘You never conquer mountains. Sometimes they let you climb them’. My sentiments exactly.

Unfortunately we had to share the bothy with a family of rats who had taken up residence under the sleeping platform. One consequence of this was the most putrid smell imaginable percolating through the boards. If we pass this way again we’ll sleep in the tent outside!

Next day we continued our journey by traversing the headland to the estuary of the River Carnoch where a new suspension bridge had been constructed by volunteers. Many man-hours were required to complete the project, and mules were used to carry the cables, concrete and timber from the nearest point where they could be landed by sea. It’s amazing .how the absence of a road and vehicles can magnify a relatively simple job into a mammoth undertaking.

We were heading for Inverie, the only inhabited settlement for miles, and our route went over a pass nearly 2000ft. high which started almost immediately wes crossed the suspension bridge. Fortunately, the old drove road went over the pass and all we had to do was follow its zig-zag route up through the heather towards the sky. .Although steep and unrelenting, we arrived at the top fairly fresh due to a slow steady pace. Walking shouldn’t be rushed with 45lb packs!  

The descent of the other side was easy and impressive. Away in the distance we could see the tiny hamlet of Inverie, it’s buildings dotting the edge of Inverie Bay. Approaching the bottom of the glen we came across a couple of deerstalkers who were out culling. They looked the part with their hats,
rifles and a couple of moth-eaten ponies. ‘Have yae seen any deer’ they asked. ‘Yes, several hinds up on the north side of the glen, we answered helpfully. Then with quickened pace we set off for Inverie to catch the general store before it closed.

As it turned out we arrived long after closing, but as expected in these parts opening hours are very much open to negotiation. The storekeeper had gone on the ferry to Mallaig to do some shopping and had left her husband in charge. He was very helpful, but as he didn’t know the price of anything he was unable to sell us anything! We thanked him for his help then shuffled outside to sit dejectedly on the bench by the road, dreaming of the meal that might have been. Corned beef, bread, cheese, chocolate etc. He must have taken pity on us a he soon reappeared with a price list he’d found. This he handed over saying that anything we could find the price of he’d sell us. We didn’t need telling twice! With rucksacks topped up with goodies. we set off towards the ever more remote arts of Barrisdale.

We’d hoped. to reach the summit of the intervening pass, but darkness caught up with us a few hundred feet below the top. Never mind, we had a good pitch and with corned beef hash etc. for tea, what more could we ask?

Part 1 of an article by:-   Boyd Harris.

Part 2 in next edition   Part 2



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