knoydart day 3-52Date walked: 8th June 2016

Distance: about 12 miles

Map used: OS Explorer 413 – Knoydart, Loch Hourn and Loch Duich

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I had had quite a decent night in the tent on my level grassy pitch not far from the Inverie River. Decent by camping standards that is, which is never great.

Wild Camping on Knoydart penisula, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Nice spot- though probably not advisable to camp near a river ‘cos of the midgies

After my failed attempt to climb the Munro Luinne Bheinn (3,061 feet) yesterday with all my camping gear on my back, today’s Plan B was to tackle a different mountain, leaving my tent and its contents behind. I intended to make for Ladhar Bheinn (3,346 feet), which, given that my starting point was around 100 feet above sea level was a fair old climb; my route would take me through the hills hidden by the low cloud in the above picture. But first I made a cup of tea, miraculously unbothered by midgies. Another banana breakfast. Self-catering in a tent does have its limitations; sturdy plastic trowel proved to be  a useful addition to my equipment. I set out around 6.30 am.

As yesterday, the path was an easy walk at first – a wide, reed-lined track.

Path to Loch an Dubh-Lochain on Knoydart penisula, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Knoydart was not over-populated with walkers

I  passed a large corrugated iron clad shed that must have had something to do with water, though what exactly, I couldn’t tell.

Shed near Loch an Dubh-Lochaine, Knoydart penisula, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Couldn’t have been sewage treatment – perhaps an old water supply

Over to my right, a small herd of deer eyed me cautiously but I was so far away from them that they knew I posed no threat, and they carried on grazing.

Herd of deer on Knoydart penisula, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

They are very easily spooked – quite understandably since we shoot them

The track met the quiet river at several points as it meandered in the valley bottom…..

The Inverie River, Knoydart penisula, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

…. before reaching Loch an Dubh-Lochain.

Loch an Dubh Lochain, Knoydart penisula, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

According to the rather crude map I had with me from my friend Bridget’s book of Munros, I needed to climb from here towards Mam Suidheig, about 1600 feet above me. Encouragingly, a grass path leading to a ruined cottage led me to think that I was at the right place to start the climb.

Torculeaiann, above Loch an Dubh Lochain, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

No mistaking the path

The cottage – on the map given the name Torculeaiann- inside suggested a recent previous life as something to do with fish-farming.

Inside Torculeaiann above Loch an Dubh Lochain, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Google has not been able to shed any further light on it’s history.

But here my path ran out, so I began to make the most direct route I could up the thickly grassed and mossy hillside.  The lush vegetation hid many small brooks trickling down towards the loch, making for slightly hazardous walking. It was pretty steep and slow going but as I progressed I had an increasingly good view of my surroundings.

knoydart day 3-14

After a while I lost sight of Torculeiann, and the vegetation thinned somewhat, revealing the bedrock. This was clearly a good habitat for the Cotton Grass, many clumps bobbing around gently in the warm breeze.

Cotton Grass above Loch an Dubh Lochain, Knoydart penisula, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Pretty stuff

I made much better progress than yesterday, though still felt pretty weary by the  time I reached thickly-peated saddle near Mam Suidheig.

 

MaM Suidheig, Knoydart penisula, Scotland, phtographed by Charles Hawes

It resembled a peat crater in the middle

Time to take stock. The route to Ladhar Bheinn from here would have involved a nearly two mile scramble up  a ridge called Aonach Sgolte to around 2,800 feet and then another two mile scramble to a summit hidden in the clouds. I could see no sign of a track on the map or on the ground.  I felt daunted by the prospect – actually a bit scared. I am used to walking alone in some fairly remote spots but factor in being in the harsh environment of these hills and I was flooded with personal insecurity.

View towards Aonach Sgoilte from Mam Suidheig, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

somewhere above here is the ridge walk

To my left the mountain rose steeply to a peak called Stob an Uillt- fhearna.

Stob an Uillt fhearna from Mam Suidheig, Knoydart penisula, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

The Corbett called Sgurr Coire Choinnichean is about a mile beyond this and 400 feet higher

 Ahead of me, the ridge that would have been the route down from Ladhar Bheinn was in the clouds.

View to Ladhar Bheinn from Mam Suidheig, Knoydart, photographed by Charles Hawes

So I suspected the Munro itself would also be in the clouds

At the base of that side of the mountain-side was a path that was not only on the map, but which I could see. The path would head due West for a few miles before making a circuit  though a wood and then turn south to bring me back to Inverie (where, if you have been reading my last two posts, you will know is a pub).  And thus I formed plan C. This trip was not some kind of self-punishment or penance or test of myself. I was on holiday and I like walking and that to me looked like a good walk.  With a drink at the end of it. Decision made.

After a steep section, the way down was relatively easy, albeit with a few deviations around boulders and various lumps and bumps.

View north-west from Mam Suidheig, Knoydart, photographed by Charles Hawes

I felt happier with every step!

On my way I saw many little purple flowers with yellow leaves that reminded me of an orchid…..

Flower on Knoydart penisula, photographed by Charles Hawes

I don’t think that I have ever seen this before- any suggestions?

 …. and countless more near-white flowers that I knew to be orchids…..

Orchids on Knoydart peninsula, phtographed by Charles Hawes

All of them were white or off-white

…. and. of course, a lot of cotton grass.

View to Gleann na Guisserein, Knoydart peninsula, Scotlan photographed by Charles Hawes

This valley is called Gleann na Guisserein

When I reached the  Allt Coire Torr an Asgaill river (these Scottish place names are a right mouthful)…..

Allt Coire Torr an Asgaill, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

….. I celebrated my non-Munro-climbing status by taking my boots and socks off and giving my feet a long soak in the cool clear water. It was probably more refreshing than an ice-cream.

Do you think I should see someone about my bending in big toes?

The little track followed the course of the stream; its burbling sounds continuing to refresh at a distance.

Allt Coire Torr an Asgaill, Gleann na Guiserein, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

It passed through a group of low walls which I would normally interpret as sheep folds; perhaps they were but Knoydart does not appear to currently have any sheep.

Ruined walls in Gleann na Guiserein, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Perhaps the remains of a small settlement?

With the Munros now behind me, I was able to enjoy this wild landscape for its lower level beauty.

Allt Coire Torr an Asgaill and the Gleann na Guiserein, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

The river had widened now and flattened out.

Allt Coire Torr an Asgaill and Gleann na Guiserein, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

This river was joined by another called Abhainn Beheag which flowed in from another valley running north.

Abhainn Bheag, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Loads of cotton grass in the foreground

Shortly after this confluence of rivers I stopped for a rest and some rather soft chocolate and to take in the warm sun. It was entirely quiet, save the gentle noise from the stream.  On the side of the hill opposite I could make out a low-walled enclosure, more convinced now that sheep must have been here once.

Sheepfold in Gleann na Guiserein, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

I could see a sheepfold marked on the map, so I was right about that

The path had become a wide track, winding ahead of me through a  plantation wood of coniferous trees.

Plantation near Inverie, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

It was really quite hot now and I was flagging and glad of some shade as I walked through the wood.

Plantation near Inverie, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

The track though the woods was now heading due south offering me a view of Inverie Bay and a renewed fantasy of a pint at The Old Forge.

Approaching Inverie on track from the north, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

As I neared another plantation I could see a solitary figure making their way off the hill to my left. I recognised this as Chris, who I had met on the ferry. We walked and chatted together as we dropped down to the village. He had “done” the Corbett that I had earlier rejected and declared it to be quite challenging. As we neared habitations a post lady raced up in her van to the drive of a timber clad cottage and raced off again.

The pub was closed, which was a bit of a blow. The tea room  nearby was open, though and the best news was that they would be serving food that evening. Chris was either on a tight budget or was not feeling sociable and he resolved to go back to his bunkhouse by the bay to cook some food he had brought with him. I was not unhappy about this; he was emerging as very dull. So I enjoyed a very long sit on their balcony until they were ready to feed me at 6pm.

Knoydart Tea room, Inverie. Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Fabulous spot

I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t remember what I ate (something with salad) but it was very nice.

By 7pm I set off back to my tent. It was the most beautiful evening, the low light shining sideways through the trees.

Track from Inverie, to Loch an Dubh-Lochain, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

View to Inverie Bay from track from Inverie, to Loch an Dubh-Lochain, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Track from Inverie, to Loch an Dubh-Lochain, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Track from Inverie, to Loch an Dubh-Lochain, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

I still had an hour or so of light left. In my tent I had several anti-midgie rings that you light and they smoulder and give off fumes that put off the blighters. I set them up all around me, lathered myself with my anti midge cream of choice -“Smidge”-  and then went to get something else that I had no intention of taking home -a half-bottle of  honey-laced Jack Daniels.   Time for a sit and a think.

In truth I had made this trip quite hard work for myself. I had gone with a very naïve idea of what climbing Munros would be like and very unrealistic expectations of my ability to do so with full camping gear. When I look at the map now it strikes me that I should  have chosen to explore this beautiful place on its paths and tracks in the valleys and coast rather than its hills.  But hey, you live and learn.

Charles Hawes at his camp near Inverie, Knoydart, Scotland

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Thumbnail image for Cambrian Way: Day 8 – Lord Hereford’s Knob to Crickhowell

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Thumbnail image for Cambrian Way: Day 7 – Forest Coalpit to Lord Hereford’s Knob (or Twmpa for the more delicate reader)

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Thumbnail image for Cambrian Way Day 4: Pontypool Park Folly to Llanfoist

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Copyright Charles Hawes (2012)