The Knoydart peninsula, Scotland. Day two

August 7, 2016 · 16 comments

Date walked: 7th June 2016

Distance: about 10 miles including the trip to the pub

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


I didn’t have a great nights sleep.  I never do when camping – there’s just so many factors that make sleeping well unlikely. But an invasion of midgies was not, I am pleased to say, one of them. My tent had kept them out. I did not even risk a middle of the night attack, using instead my pee bottle that usually lives in the glove compartment of my car for when I am stranded in a 20 mile tail back. You laugh, but wait ’til it happens to you and you have to pee in public or wet your car seat. I woke before 6 and braved the outside not long after.  Which was clearly midgie breakfast time; I found myself in a cloud of the buggers as I somewhat frantically broke camp (after taking this quick snap for the record).

Camping on Knoydart, Scotland, with view to the Brocket Monument, phtographed by Charles Hawes

That’s the Brocket Monument, in case you didn’t read my last post

No leisurely cup of tea or instant porridge for me – my breakfast was a banana. My plan was to follow the path I was on to near the Munroe called Meall Buidhe and then climb up its flank and go on as far as I could from there in the direction of another Munroe, Luine Bheinn.  I had no difficulty with my route- the wide track was unmistakeable.

Path approaching Meall Buidhe Munro, photographed by Charles Hawes

Nice path

A  decent wooden bridge with rather snazzy sides, crosses the River Inverie.

Footbridge over River Inverie, Knoydart, photographed by Charles Hawes

The boulder-strewn river might have made for a refreshing ablution but I could not see a safe way down so I continued in my unwashed and no doubt slightly smelly state.

River Inverie, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

For a short section , the path was flanked by an avenue of Alders.

Path approaching Meall Buidhe Munro, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

These led to the quite substantial but empty Druim Bothy. The door was locked and carried a notice about how to go about using it – though with no mobile signal one would need to book such a stay in advance.

Druim Bothy, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Have a look at the link if you fancy staying there

This was easy walking and the track began to climb gently in the narrow Gleann Meadail valley.

Path in Glen Meadail, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Below me to the left was the burbling stream of Aalt Gleann Medail – it’s always pleasant to have a walk accompanied by the sound of moving water (although rain is less welcome).

Aalt Gleann Medail , Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

A wooden bridge crossed this brook at the narrowest part of the valley, the path’s gradient now beginning to pick up a little.

Path approaching Meall Buidhe, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

The hillside shed numerous little brooks that crossed the path to join the main stream and from one of these I stopped and filled my water-bag; with no sheep or livestock of any kind in sight I reckoned it was safe to do so without treating the crystal clear liquid with sterilising tablets.

Stream in Glenn Meadall, Knoydart, photographed by Charles Hawes

Rough grass and fern were the main vegetation but there were also many patches of Cotton Grass bobbing around in the breeze.

Cotton Grass on Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

This is pretty stuff and I saw a lot of it from the train on my way up to Mallaig. For once I managed to get a reasonable close up.

Cotton Grass on Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Eriophorum angustifolium for the botany interested

The day was quite overcast – which suited me fine – I was anticipating some strenuous climbing presently and this would be so much harder if it had been sunnier. Ahead, the higher parts of the hills were a little misty.

Path approaching Meall Buidhe Munro, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

From time to time the path crossed the smooth surface of massive boulders, their contorted  strata  revealing the extraordinary way in which the land has been twisted and turned many millions of years ago.

Rock on Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Almost impossible to believe that the ground could be so distorted

Looking back I had a fine view of Loch Nevis, now about 1000 feet below me.

View to Loch Nevis, Scotland from Knoydart, photographed by Charles Hawes

I saw also the very slow moving figure of another solitary walker; my pack was slowing my usual pace somewhat so I thought it possible they may catch me up. And on one of my increasingly frequent rests a wizened man did appear and stopped with me for a chat. This gentleman must have been at least 10 years my senior. He had climbed all the Munros on Knoydart in the past and on this trip was tackling the Corbetts (those Scottish peaks above 2,500 feet). He was Scottish himself and his accent so broad I found him difficult to understand. I did get that he needed not to sit too long as his knee replacement had a tendency to seize up if over-rested.  I asked about my route; I didn’t understand much of what he said but the word “fierce” came up a few times in his description.  At around 1.500 feet I took another rest and began to scan the mountainside for my route up to Meall Buidhe. Nothing obvious presented itself and yet my GPS was quite clear that it would be around here that my serious climbing needed to begin. As I sat, a couple in their 20’s appeared, carrying next to nothing on their backs and nothing unnecessary in their physiques. They, too, were seeking the route up to the Munro and were equally unsure of the way. Undaunted, after a brief chat they started climbing. If you look very hard you can see them at the vey bottom of this picture.

View towards Meall Buidhe munro, knoydart, Scotalnd, photographed by Charles Hawes

I want to point out that this photo gives a totally misleading sense of just how steep this hillside was. It was much, much steeper than it appears and this couple’s progress was very slow. After making a few hundred feet the guy shouted back that “I wouldn’t go this way”. This was not encouraging as even if theirs was the wrong way I could still not see the right way.  Rested and daunted, I began to pick my own way.  Half an hour of scrambling later had gained me just a hundred or two feet and had all but tired me out. There was at least another 1,000 feet above me and I had to face the fact that I wasn’t up to it. This was not easy. I hate back-tracking and it was hard to face up to my physical inadequacy but at the same time I really, really didn’t want to get three quarters of the way up and find that I couldn’t manage the last quarter. Pitching a tent was not going to be an option at that point.  So I began my retreat.

View down Glenn Meadail from below Meall Buidhe, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

Half way down the path I stopped for a while and unpacked the tent. It was still wet from the morning dew and as I shook it in the breeze I formulated plan B. I would return to near where I started the day, make camp and walk back into the village for a pint. In my experience the prospect of a pint and something cooked to eat does wonders for my mood. I was also uncomfortable that I had been unable to phone Anne to let her know that I was OK, so at the pub I could at least email her.  And tomorrow I would leave the tent and try another Munro ascent, but this time just carrying my back pack, emergency essentials and food and water. Yes, that was a good plan.

So this is where I stopped – just a few hundred yards  from where I camped last night but now on a nice flat spot.

Wild camp on Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

And by six o clock I was back at the village.

Inverie Bay, Knoydart, Scotland, photographed by Charles Hawes

The pub was fully booked for food but with a little persuasion they agreed to stick me on a little table near the door and true to form I felt quite a happy bunny at this point. By 9pm I was back at the tent. The midgies were bothering someone else so I even had time to brew up a cup of coffee and enjoy some chocolate and a sit before turning in. Overall, it had not been a bad day.

Charles Hawes on Knoydart, Scotland.

Pretty cool having a seat, eh!




{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

John Kingdon August 7, 2016 at 4:47 pm

You woke up then.

Ah yes, the old “pee in the car” story! Many years ago I was driving to North Wales. Knowing there was a convenience on the way from Llandrindod Wells to Newtown, I had emptied a flask of coffee. As I approached the convenient location, the psychological pressure built up. It was closed for maintenance! The presence of a camper van in the car park, and it’s occupants playing a game of tag with the kids, precluded relief around the corner so, I drove on, under increasing pressure, to a point where I knew there was a quiet turn-off where the odds were in favour of managing “it” without disturbance. I made it …. just!

I was standing in front of a tree beside the gently sloping road when I realised I’d forgotten to put the handbrake on. Muscles could not interrupt the flow so I was chasing the car down the hill and …. well you can work out the rest! I now carry a bottle in the car.

Beautiful scenery. The midges probably stayed away as they do have noses, you know! Sleep well but remember to wake up in 2 weeks.


Charles August 7, 2016 at 5:52 pm

Thanks for sharing that, John. Did you really smash up the car cos of your peeing? I think that somehow one would find a renewed bladder muscle to cut it off…..Will try to get you part three in two weeks time. ZZZZZ.


John Kingdon August 8, 2016 at 6:19 pm

I caught it in time – gentle incline = slow roll. But, you know, sometimes it’s like John Humphrys – you start and you’ve just gotta finish!


Robert August 7, 2016 at 5:18 pm

Always a joy to read and view your walking articles;even the ones without me in attendance.
I must confess to a lingering sense of itchiness which only Guinness will alleviate! (Still in Ireland)


Charles August 7, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Honoured to have dragged you away from your Guinness, if only briefly. Cheers.


Anne Wareham August 7, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Ooooo…. failed the climb! Like your cheerfulness about it. xxx


Charles August 7, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Yep. One has to face up to these things!


Julia August 7, 2016 at 7:38 pm

You said it ‘pretty cool post’ – variety, simple text and explanatory pics. Who could ask for more.


Paul Steer August 7, 2016 at 8:17 pm

I have no problem in returning whence I came – especially if there is a pint and a pie at the end of it – I am proud of you !


Charles August 7, 2016 at 9:52 pm

Ashes to ashes….it was a Burger but l’ll not make light of your pride.


Kev the Yank August 8, 2016 at 2:03 am

The photos were quite stunning Charles! Thank you for those! now, as for the pee issue… one day I was assisting another Trooper (state police in Illinois start out at Trooper rank) at an accident scene on an interstate highway within spitting distance of Chicago (directing traffic, filling out forms, etc)… and since coffee is a mainstay of a cop’s diet, the old storage facility was soon BEGGING for a reallocation of resources. Couldn’t leave my post, so I walked up the embankment of the road to a patch of prairie grass, knelt down, and put on my sternest scowl so that the motoring public would think I was angrily overseeing the traffic flow… it was the OTHER flow that was the center of my attention, I must confess…


Charles August 8, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Nice story, Kevin. Put a smile on my face. Any more peeing confessions anyone?


Ian Thorpe August 8, 2016 at 7:41 am

Knoydart is tough. When I was relatively young and fit a friend and I did a five day trek around the Knoydart Munros in October. Everything – weather, navigation, camping conditions, weight of pack – was challenging. We managed to miss Beinn Bhuidhe thanks to a navigating error which took us halfway up a neighbouring hill before we realised our mistake. (I did return to bag it a couple of years later.) It’s a wonderful part of the world – great to have your account and imagery to remind me of it.


Charles August 8, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Hiya. Well I really couldn’t complain about the conditions, which were near perfect. I have to say, I wonder if my heart medication might be holding me back but then I did manage quite a challenging climb up Pen-Y-Fan and some of its neighbours with full camping gear recently. Just. Maybe I was just having an off day….


David Marsden August 9, 2016 at 6:02 am

A noble retreat, Charles – I would have done the same. Shame you couldn’t use the bothy – I thought the whole point of them was they are left open for anyone to use (at least the ones on the Southern Upland Way are I, believe). D


Charles August 19, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Much appreciated, Dave. I guess there are bothies and bothies.


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