We awoke on the penultimate morning again to wonderfully sunny weather, just as we had the previous two mornings and was set to hold until the evening. The first few days had been tough, yet we’d only covered 30km taken at a leisurely pace. We had two days left in order to get to Glenfinnan – and another 37km to cover, or a day and a half or so of walking. We’d intended in the planning to stay at Sourlies, but the number of people leaving would have meant that sleep would have been minimal.
So it was that we descended the excellent zig-zags to Carnoch, and surveyed the classic view up the glen towards Ben Aden, which is ‘only’ a Corbett! The River Carnach now needs crossing, with the only option being the rickety bridge under normal circumstances. This bridge has a sign warning those that dare cross that it isn’t safe, with one end being blocked off today. I stepped tentatively across, then decided that I could easily ford the river without getting my boots wet and decided to do that instead.
Well, fording the river sounds rather a grand word as the rivers were so low this week as to make river crossings easy and dry. Even the bogs across towards Sourlies Bothy were largely dried up, and so it was that we probably had the most favourable crossing of Knoydart under the most benign conditions possible.
It is a strange feeling for anyone used to hill walking to descend directly to the seashore and to get salt water on one’s boots. I had intended to stop here and possibly do some foraging, and there were plenty of mussels to be found without looking too far.
There were plenty of camping spots, and a few tents pitched here and there. Next time, I told myself, I’m going to charter a boat direct from Mallaig or Inverie to Sourlies, camp for a week with all the supplies I could ever need, bag all the surrounding mountains and return on the same boat at the end of the week.
The climb across towards Glen Dessary was easy on paper, but proved to be a struggle. Half the height of yesterday’s bealach, it was inexplicably tougher, with boggier sections and vanishing paths in some sections. At one point I had to consult the map as it seemed that the way ahead was blocked by a steep cliff and I considered that we’d climbed up the wrong valley, but on approaching it there was an easy path around.
Finally it was a relief on reaching the twin Lochan ‘a Mhaim, it would have made an awesome wild camp with the mountains rising steeply on all sides.
It was downhill now, with an option of popping into A’ Chuil bothy for the night. The track was initially rather boggy, apparently illegal 4×4 damage, and has a number of fords that could pose a problem under normal conditions, but once in the forestry made for really easy going and we were at the bothy in no time. Not before initally mistaking the lodge of Upper Glendessary for what would be the most salubrious bothy in Scotland. A’ Chuil Bothy on the other hand is reached by a steep path down from the track. As we were in need of a good night’s sleep we took one look in and found it full and turned on our heels! Those inside must certainly have wondered what we were up to, but we just wanted a night’s kip lads!
Instead, we forced ourselves to stop and drink a litre or so before being forced onwards by the midges towards an unknown stop for the night. It was a rather tedious hour’s walking compared to the rest of the trip, and we were glad to finally get off that and onto an exceptionally muddy forestry path that led to a bridge over the Rive Pean. You do get to within 1.5km of a minor road at this point, but you wouldn’t realise it!
Streap dominated the next section along Gleann Cuirnean and whilst we were tired we knew that we needed to keep going as high as possible to get away from the midges that were for the first time today being a bit of a nuisance. About a kilometre up we camped on the first flat bit of ground and were immediately set upon by the dreaded midge. I set up tent, threw in my pack then followed it, boots and all, staying in there till well after dark! The forecast had been spot on, and it rained at dusk, though only enough to plaster the midges onto my flysheet. At least it kept them from biting for a while.
The final day again saw the weather hold, and was even pleasant at times, even if the ascent up to the Bealach a’ Chaorainn was a bit of a slog. A descent to Glen Finnan and a brief stop at Corryhully Bothy, where there’s even an electric kettle and was initially meant to be tonight’s shelter. But a lack of accommodation at Fort William for the Friday night due to the MTB World Championship, meant we had to head there tonight in order to shower and so on.
The final section was torture, tarmac for the first time in almost a week, and it was a relief to finally reach the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Not as much of a relief as it was to reach the Glenfinnan House Hotel on the lake and still further that we weren’t turned back at the door as by this time, I was uncertain if the most appealing was a whisky, a steak or a bath. As the bath was still two hours away in Fort William, a couple of Jura single malts provided instant gratification whilst the tenderest steak I’ve ever had provided further comfort.
We’d made it alive from Knoydart, but of course the weather and conditions underfoot had been in our favour. We crossed so many dried burns and tried to imagine how different the walk would have been had the rivers been at normal levels, let alone in spate!
If you want to travel to Knoydart, then you’ll find the following links useful:
Scotrail – for your train times and tickets. We recommend the Caledonian Sleeper in order to maximise your time in the hills.
Sea Bridge Knoydart – £10 each way – – They run when the trains do, so provide the most convenient way of getting to and from Knoydart with minimal waiting around.
Knoydart Ferry Service – another ferry option that operates during the week only.
The Old Forge – Excellent food, beer and atmosphere. We only wished we could have been there a little longer.
And of course the route we took:
Days 1 – 3 – Ladhar Bheinn from Inverie
Days 3-5 – Inverie to Glenfinnan