Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
26th to 30th April 2007
Not quite trains, planes and automobiles but a backpack, ferry and train making a route from Glenfinnan into the rough bounds of Knoydart and back.
I had planed for a little while to do a long walk from Glenfinnan (just outside fort William) into the "rough bounds" of Knoydart. Knoydart is a peninsula off the west coast of Scotland jutting out into the sound of Sleat which separates it from the Isle of Skye. There is one small village in Knoydart, Inverie which boasts the most remote pub in Britain (The Old Forge). Inverie is the largest settlement (of about 60 people) in mainland Britain not connected to the road network and the only way to get there is via a long and fairly rough walk or via a ferry, usually from Mallaig. I drove over to the west coast on Thursday morning and left my car at the Glenfinnan monument car park.
Sgurr Thuilm to the east of Sgurr nan Coireachan
I then headed up and over the Glenfinnan Munros of Sgurr nan Coireachan and Sgurr Thuilm then down and into Glen Dessary where I spent my first nights camp. I woke in the morning to find there had been a fairly sharp frost but another sunny day looked likely. I had a hard day ahead taking in the main mountains on the way into Knoydart. From glen Dessary I followed allt na Feithe north to Doire nan Cluainean to climb steep slopes onto the ridge between Sgurr Mor and Sgurr an Fhuarain. Leaving my rucksack behind I climbed Sgurr an Fhuarain out to the east before heading west towards the distant conicle shape of Sgurr na Ciche.
Sgurr na Ciche (the pointed hill) as seen from Sgurr an Fhuarain
There was still a lot of climbing to be done, after Sgurr Mor my route took me over Sgurr Beag and An Eag before reaching the second Munro of the day, Sgurr nan Coireachan. A boulder strewn ridge saw me rise onto Garbh Chioch Bheag and along to Garbh Chioch Mhor and close up views of Sgurr na Ciche. The summit of Sgurr na Ciche was probaly 500m away as the crow flies but seeing as I'm no crow I had to drop sharply to bealach na h-Eangair. A last pull and I was on top of my last hill of the day, Sgurr na Ciche. My origianl plan was to follow the ridge of Druim a Ghoitein down toward Sourlies but it was now around 8 o'clock so I decided to make camp. The ridge levelled out around 650m and I managed to find a flatish place to stop with the smallest of streams nearby. There were some great views of the surrounding hills and I sat eating supper while looking across to the following days challenge, Meall Buide and Luinee Bheinn. It had been another long day and I was glad to lay down inside the tent and rest after nearly 2000m of ascent. I had tried to keep what I was carrying to a minimum but having to take 5 days food with me had added a few pounds to my pack.
Meall Buidhe and Luinne Bheinn from camp on Sgurr na Ciche
Saturday morning arrived bright and clear. After porridge I continued down the ridge for a while before traversing steep slopes in a northerly direction. Avoiding the crags higher up I worked my way through a small wood to the sound of Cuckoo's. My next obstacle was the fording of the Carnach river. I found a place to cross just on a bend where a fairly large pool had formed. It was pretty hot now and the temptation was too much, I had to go for a little dip. The water was a bit cool and took my breath away for a while, but it certainly got me feeling nice and refreshed. Bath time in such beautiful surrounding was just brilliant.
Bath time! With Ben Aden above the river Carnach
I could have stayed where I was enjoying the sunshine but I loaded my pack and followed the river course down to the ruins at Carnoch. From here a good stalkers path eased the way up to bealach Mam Meadail. A steep climb through a few crags saw me gain the top of Sgurr Sgeith and the start of a nice ridge along to Meall Buidhe. So far I had only passed three people in two and a half days, it now seemd positively crowded on the top meeting with another half a dozen.
Eigg and Rum across Inverie bay
After a bit of a chat I retraced my footsteps in the direction of Sgurr Sgeith before branching off toward to Luinne Bheinn.
Sgurr na Ciche from Meall Buidhe
A broad ridge meanders over bealach lle Coire and onto Meall Coire na Gaoithe'n Ear before heading north and north west to the steep slopes of Luinne Bheinn. After enjoying a welcome rest on the top I descended toward Mam Barrisdale before heading down to the shore of Loch an Dubh-Lochain to pitch the tent for the final time.
Camp at Loch an Dubh-Lochain
I couldn't believe my luck with the weather, another glorious day lay ahead and the sun would be shinning over my shoulder from dawn till dusk. Ladhar Bheinn was the peak I had been most looking forward to climbing. A previous trip into Knoydart had seen the weather deteriorate to such an extent that we stayed at low level trying to keep out of the wind and rain as much as possible. Leaving the tent and camp gear behind ensured I had a smaller load to carry which made climbing a whole lot easier. I had originally thought of starting the climb from Barrisdale as the route up through the Coire is highly regarded. This however would have meant sacrificing the 450m in height gained on reaching Mam Barrisdale. Talking to a guy the previous evening had convinced me it was worth trying an approach by heading north west from Mam Barrisdale. As I crossed the grassy moor and surveyed the cliffs of Stob a' Chearcaill on my approach I was a bit unsure if there was any way up. However a path appeared as I neared the face and provided, to my surprise, a fairly easy passage up to the top. The summit of Ladhar Bheinn looked high and mighty and a long way off and my view point masked a number of hidden drops along the ridge.
Ladhar Bheinn from Stob a' Chearcaill
Views down to Barrisdale bay and across Loch Hourn to Beinn Sgitheall kept me going even when the going got tough. The last short section is a nice narrow grassy ridgeline and after reaching the top I sheltered from the cool breeze a couple of meters down on the north west side.
Ladhar Bheinn Summit looking out to Skye
I spent a pleasant hour eating lunch and enjoying the views before I needed a quick stretch to ready the old legs for the journey back to the tent. The thought of a drink at the old Forge made final route decisions easy, I would head back via Inverie.
Barrisdale bay and Coire Dhorrcail from Ladhar Bheinn
I arrived at the Old Forge around 4 o'clock and sat down to enjoy a couple of pints of cider, it tasted like heaven. After leaving the pub it was an hour and a half walk up the glen to the tent. Monday morning arrived and I retraced my steps back into Inverie in time to catch the ferry to Mallaig. The school ferry was full so I waited an hour or so to catch the speedy rib.
Waiting for the ferry
Over in Mallaig I had an time to spare before catching the train back to Glenfinnan and the car. I ordered a pot of tea and a Mallaig kipper for breakfast enjoying them Al fresco in the gardens of a nice Cafe. It proved to be a nice change after eating porridge for four days. I took my time on the way back to Aberdeen stopping at Aviemore and Loch Garten to take a look at the Ospreys. It had been an excellent trip made extra special by some truly lovely weather and magnificent scenery.
Looking down Loch Sheil from GlenfinnanTop Of Page
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