Written September 2012


This was to be my only trip to Scotland in 2008, since the rest of the year's holiday was taken up with the GR20 in Corsica and three-week trek in the Everest region of Nepal. I chose the aptly-named Rough Bounds of Knoydart as the focus for this Munro trip. This area includes a self-contained group of eleven Munros, which would fit into a trek lasting just over a week.

Knoydart is a large peninsula on the west coast of Scotland facing the Isle of Skye, formed by the fjord-like sea lochs of Loch Nevis in the south and Loch Hourn in the north. It is one of the least accessible parts of the highlands, cut off by mountains and sea from the rest of the mainland. In fact the village of Inverie in Knoydart is the most remote village in Britain; it is not connected to the main road network and the only way to reach it is by ferry from Mallaig. For those with a car, the closest you can get from the mainland is either from the head of Loch Arkaig or from Kinloch Hourn, then a long walk-in along established rights of way. I planned to enter and exit from the south, from points along the railway line from Fort William that terminates in Mallaig.

No doubt due to the remoteness, Knoydart is well served by a collection of no less than seven bothies, famed in bothy lore. In addition to the eleven Munros, I had a secondary objective of visiting all the Knoydart bothies on this trip.

Of Knoydart, the Cicerone guidebook states "This is truly rugged country: rough, rocky, demanding and with a wild beauty that casts a spell over walkers and draws them back time after time to experience its magical charms. Steep-sided hills and wild corries abound. The rock here is stripped naked from the hillsides and strewn around the landscape like a huge experiment gone wrong. The walking is hard and rough, but immensely rewarding, as it takes you through some of the most glorious scenery in Scotland".

The Challenging Walks book is more succinct: "Knoydart: the wettest, roughest, remotest and wildest peninsula in these islands. Any expedition to Knoydart is an adventure."

Sunday 11th May 2008

Saturday was spent packing, and at 8pm on Sunday evening I took the sleeper train from Euston, going all the way to Fort William. I was sharing a cabin with a chap called Henry, who worked for a company specialising in small hydro schemes. He was heading up to Scotland to investigate the potential of several streams, to see if they had sufficient flow to support hydroelectric generators. I told him where I was going, and he said he was rather jealous and wished he was going on the adventure with me. He had arranged a hire car in Fort William and kindly offered me a lift to the start of my trip, as he would also be heading towards Mallaig.

Monday 12th May 2008

The sleeper arrived on time in Fort William, we located the hire car and set off. Before we headed off towards Mallaig, Henry needed to travel briefly in the opposite direction, to Spean Bridge to investigate a hydro project there. He wasn't meeting anyone, and the only details he had was the name of the stream. He couldn't locate the map on his computer, so we hunted aimlessly around Spean Bridge, until I spotted a road name that was clearly derived from the stream name. Henry headed off into the undergrowth, following the watercourse upstream. While I waited I had a good view towards Ben Nevis, that still had a fair amount of snow in its corries, although the ridges were clear.

Henry returned 10 minutes later saying that the stream didn't have enough flow to support a generator. I'd been rather concerned about how long this diversion was taking, so was quite relieved when we set off in the right direction. Soon we passed Fort William, and continued along the road along the banks of Loch Eil. I asked Henry to drop me off a few miles beyond Locheilside station at the entrance of Gleann Fionnlighe. My original plan had been to get a taxi to this point, so I gratefully thanked Henry and wished him luck with his hydro work.

I set off up Gleann Fionnlighe, passing a warning sign from the Scottish Rights of Way Society reading: "TAKE CARE. You are entering remote, sparsely-populated, potentially dangerous mountain country. Please ensure that you are adequately experienced and equipped to complete your journey without assistance". I followed a good track up the glen, along the Fionn Lighe burn, through a forest plantation and scattered patches of birches. Higher up the glen, there were several deer carcases, evidence of the severe winter.

Today I was aiming to climb Gaor Bheinn (a.k.a Gulvain). The long nose of this Munro splits the glen in two, and rises rather steeply. There is no path marked on the map, but being the main route up the mountain, was actually well-defined. The weather was sweltering, and I had to stop frequently for breaks, enjoying the good views back towards Ben Nevis. I was carrying nine days worth of food, so my pack was quite heavy, making the ascent tough work.

I reached the south top, marked by a cylindrical trig pillar, and stopped for a rest. The true summit was nearly a mile further on, but a descent to this evening's camp was only feasible from the south top. So I left my pack, and continued along the narrow ridge, dropping to a saddle, then up to the rocky summit of Gaor Bheinn, marked by a chunky cairn. Returning to my pack, I descended a short distance to a camp at 550m, disturbing a herd of deer in the process. This proved an excelled viewpoint for a spectacular sunset.

Approaching the south top of Gaor Bheinn
Approaching the south top of Gaor Bheinn
Sunset from Gaor Bheinn
Sunset from Gaor Bheinn

Tuesday 13th May 2008

Today was to be a connecting day: I needed to get in position to climb Gairich on Wednesday. To reach this point would require three descents and re-ascents, due to the complex nature of the terrain I was crossing. Small patches of cloud were clinging to the high peaks, but soon the sun burnt these off, making another fine day of sunshine.

The first descent was into Gleann Camgharaidh, then back up onto a subsidiary ridge of Streap, a shapely Corbett that I'd pass by again at the end of this trip. Then it was back down the far side into Gleann a' Chaorainn. Here I encountered the first ticks of the trip, and had to regularly stop to remove them from my trousers as I followed the rough path through the glen.

Lower down I passed a narrow gorge, lined with birches and an attractive waterfall. At the end of the glen, I crossed a bridge and entered the Glen Pean/Glen Dessary forestry plantation, where I followed a track around to a farm, near the head of Loch Arkaig.

The second ascent of the day now began, following a stalkers' path over the bealach between Fraoch Bheinn and Sgùrr Mhurlagain.

On the far side I spotted a building and descending to it, it turned out to be a bothy that I wasn't aware of, by the name of Kinbreak (Ceannbreac). This bothy has a rather unusual configuration - the downstairs was cobbled, like a coach-house, and was being used as a storage area, and for chopping wood. Steps went steeply up into the rafters, where at one end there was a fireplace, table and benches. The sleeping area, at the far end, was just floorboards, with no sleeping platform.

It was too early to stop, so I continued on, crossing a rather marshy area and over the River Kingie at a location marked "fords" on the map. I'd been quite concerned about crossing Glen Kingie, as with such a large watershed this river can become un-crossable in spate, but luckily with the dry weather it was straightforward.

On the far side I picked up a path that took me all the way up to Gairich Beag at 730m. I knew there would be no water on the summit, so I filled my bottles at a stream before starting the final ascent. After eating, I relaxing watching another beautiful sunset, with the half-moon rising high above.

Streap and Sgùrr Thuilm
Streap and Sgùrr Thuilm
Upstairs in Kinbreak Bothy
Upstairs in Kinbreak Bothy

Wednesday 14th May 2008

I awoke with cloud swirling all around my tent. The summit of Gairich was a mile further along the ridge, but I would be coming back the same way. I packed up and left my rucksack on the path to do the there-and-back-again to Gairich.

As I climbed higher, the mist cleared and I was treated to a spectacular cloud inversion, with just the highest Knoydart peaks visible above the cloud.

I retraced my steps, collected my pack and returned to the foot of Gairich Beag. I followed a stream up the far side to the bealach between Meall a' Choire Buidhe and Sgùrr an Fhurain, collecting water just before the stream petered out. I would be high up on the ridge all day, and this was the last opportunity to collect water. The mist had cleared and it would be another hot day.

As I climbed higher on Sgùrr an Fhurain, the views got better and better. The vast reservoir of Loch Quoich was clearly visible, with a distinctive ring around its perimeter, indicating that the water level was low. Passing the cylindrical trig on Sgùrr an Fhurain, I continued along the ridge, spotting a lone deer on the ridge in the distance. It was then a steep climb up to the second Munro of the day, Sgùrr Mòr. On the last section I passed a large snow patch that went right up to the ridge. From the top I had great views into the heart of the Rough Bounds of Knoydart, with the prominent cone of Sgùrr na Cìche at the very end of the ridge far ahead of me.

I continued along the twisted ridge for nearly three miles to reach the third Munro of the day, Sgùrr nan Coireachan. A group of walkers were resting on the summit. They said that they'd come up from Feadan nan Cìche and I asked them if there was water at that bealach. They said "yes", and as my water was running low, they kindly gave me some of their water.

I continued on, following the remarkable dry-stone wall that crosses Sgùrr nan Coireachan and runs along the ridge to Feadan nan Cìche. The men who built this wall must have been made of stern stuff to have constructed such an extensive wall in such a remote spot. At one point I spotted a female and male ptarmigan perched on this wall.

I crossed Garbh Chioch Bheag to reach the fourth and final Munro of the day Garbh Chioch Mhòr. This is a chunky mountain with numerous outcrops of rock and tiny lochans along its broad ridge. From here I could see Lochan a' Mhàim, and the fjord-like sea loch, Loch Nevis on the coast.

I dropped into Feadan na Cìche, collected water, and put up my tent. "Feadan" means 'whistle' or 'chanter', which is reputedly is an apt description for this bealach on a windy day. Looking across I could see the path up Sgùrr na Cìche, which follows an exacting route through the rock outcrops.

I enjoyed a sunset, but this was not nearly so spectacular as the previous two days. A three-quarter moon shone high above as the sky grew dark. Today I'd climbed 1800m, a level of ascent more akin to the alps than Scotland!

Sgùrr Mòr
Sgùrr Mòr
Female ptarmigan
Female ptarmigan

Thursday 15th May 2008

I awoke to swirling cloud. This was rather disappointing, since Sgùrr na Cìche is one of the most spectacular peaks on the Scottish mainland, rising symmetrically on all sides to 1040m. I found a way through the rocks by traversing along a ramp on the south side, before scrambling up the final distance to the pointed summit.

The trig pillar marked on the map has been destroyed (perhaps by lightening), and chunks of broken concrete lay scattered around the summit.

I picked a way down to the north, working around rock outcrops and descending into Coire nan Gall. The mist was clearing and I had glimpses of Ben Aden, a spectacularly rocky Corbett in the heart of Knoydart. Down in the corrie I picked up a stalkers path that went down to the head of Loch Quoich, before swinging around to the west to enter a dramatic mountain pass. This pass would take me to Barrisdale, where I planned to stay this evening.

After a mile I reached the beautiful Lochan nam Breac, and crossed the sandy inflow of the loch on stepping stones. On the far side of the loch, Ben Aden rises with unrelentingly steep rocky slopes to its summit. Birches cling to its lower slopes, safe from the attentions of grazing deer. As the path climbed to the top of the pass, the scenery became more and more spectacular.

At the top, I met a backpacker who'd followed the River Carnach up from Sourlies Bothy. A rough path had gone up most of the way, but the last mile had been tough going for him. He was changing career to become a policeman, and had decided to walk the Cape Wrath trail before starting his new job. We descended to Barrisdale down Gleann Unndalain, which was lined with beautiful stands of birch in its upper reaches, and gnarled Scots Pines lower down.

From the hauntingly beautiful and lonesome Barrisdale Bay there are fantastic views across Loch Hourn to Beinn Sgritheall. I said farewell to the backpacker, who was following the path along the shore of Loch Hourn to Kinloch Hourn and onto Glen Shiel.

Barrisdale Bothy and campsite are unstaffed, and payments are made into an honesty box. Plenty of tents were already up, and I joined a group of three people sat outside the bothy, called Chris, Helen and Rick. They told me that they'd set up a website called www.ScottishHills.com, where people post their trip reports. They also told me about a film they were making about the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui (http://www.biggreyman.co.uk/).

We were all on the same wavelength and it was an entertaining evening with the conversation taking various surreal twists and turns. At one point the process of packing up a tent was likened to the collapsing of a star into a black hole, and the converse, putting up a tent was likened to the big bang!

There was another group in the bothy, who were rather withdrawn ('Victorian' is the image that sticks in my mind), and kept themselves to themselves throughout the evening.

There was another chap with a beard who's name escapes me, who was on his way back to Glen Finnan, and I recommended to him the route that I'd used today up to Feadan na Cìche. The bothy was well kitted out with wooden bunks (no mattresses) and the ultimate luxury an indoor flush toilet.

Lochan nam Breac
Lochan nam Breac
Backpacker approaching Barrisdale
Backpacker approaching Barrisdale

Friday 16th May 2008

Glen Barrisdale was still in shadow as I set off in the morning, although it was evident it would be another fine day as the sun was shining on the peaks high above. I was aiming for the majestic Ladhar Bheinn (Larven, or "Lardy Ben").

Connoisseurs often cite Ladhar Bheinn as their favourite Scottish mountain, as it offers the perfect combination of grandeur and remoteness, together with close communion with the sea. Hamish Brown dubbed it "a mountain of mountains, the remote setting and gabled grandeur ensuring even the easiest way of climbing the hill will be memorable".

The summit of Ladhar Bheinn and its fine northern side from Coire Dhorrcail down to Lì is owned by the John Muir Trust (JMT). The possibility of the Ministry of Defence taking over the area lead to the formation of the JMT in 1983.

Working with the community, the Trust failed at the time to buy any of the former, and much larger, Knoydart Estate. However the buyer of the Knoydart Estate made Lì and Coire Dhorrcail available for sale separately in 1987, and the JMT secured funds to make it their first purchase of land in Scotland.

By 1987 only 12 hectares of native trees remained, and the JMT set to work restoring native woodland. Since deer shooting rights were retained by the vendor, fencing off areas to allow natural regeneration was the main strategy for encouraging re-growth. From 2007 deer shooting rights transferred to the JMT and deer culling became the major management tool. A 2003 count noted about 140 red deer on the estate, still well above the number that will enable vegetation to flourish without fencing.

The JMT began replanting with native trees in 1990. By 2006 some 292 hectares had been replanted under three Woodland Grant Schemes, with many trees grown from locally-sourced seed.

Since April 1999, Knoydart Estate has been owned and controlled by the community through the Knoydart Foundation (http://www.knoydart-foundation.com/), a partnership of local residents, the Highland Council, Chris Brasher Trust, Kilchoan Estate and the JMT. The foundation's aim is to preserve, enhance and develop Knoydart for its environment and people.

From the bothy the path went across the marshy lower reaches of Glen Barrisdale, then zigzagged steeply up the hillside, before contouring around to gain the entrance to Coire Dhorrcail. Loch Hourn was so still it was like a mirror, reflecting Beinn Sgritheall across Barrisdale Bay. The scattered birches in Coire Dhorrcail softened the views of the dramatic rocky peaks Stob Dhorrcail and Stob a Choire Odhar rising above. I began climbing out of the corrie onto the ridge Druim a' Choire Odhar, enjoying expanding views along Loch Hourn and up towards the South Shiel Ridge.

A little higher I caught up with "the Victorians", who congratulated me on climbing so quickly with a heavy pack - they just had day packs and were returning to Barrisdale in the evening.

In the upper reaches of the mountain there were still a few snow patches, surprising for a mountain so close to the sea. In the distance Skye, Eigg and Rum were clearly visible.

The summit trig of Ladhar Bheinn is out on a short subsidiary spur, and after visiting it, I continued around the main ridge, descending to Bealach Coire Dhorrcail, before climbing to Stob a' Chearcaill, then dropping to Màm Barrisdale, where there were a couple of tents. For those who travel to Knoydart by ferry, Màm Barrisdale is the trade route used to reach Ladhar Bheinn from Inverie. Looking down towards Inverie I had a good view of Loch an Dubh-Lochan.

The climbing was not over for today, I still had 500m of ascent to gain Luinne Bheinn (a.k.a. Loony Bin). Luinne Bheinn and its neighbour Meall Buidhe are two fine and complex mountains in the heart of Knoydart. Luinne Bheinn overlooks Loch Hourn and Meall Buidhe to the south rises above Loch Nevis, with a remarkably rough corrie of glaciated slabs, Coire Odhair, between them. The extremely wild nature of these two mountains and the corries surrounding them justify the name The Rough Bounds of Knoydart.

From Luinne Bheinn I descended a short distance to Bealach a' Choire Odhair and set up camp. I was extremely tired, having done 1750m of ascent during the day.

Beinn Sgritheall above Loch Hourn
Beinn Sgritheall above Loch Hourn
Coire Dhorrcail
Coire Dhorrcail
Loch Hourn from Ladhar Bheinn
Loch Hourn from Ladhar Bheinn

Saturday 17th May 2008

Wind had picked up the previous evening and today was very blustery. The sky was cloudy, but the clouds were high above the summits, and the weather was still dry. For an area that has a reputation for being wet, I was extremely lucky to not have a single drop of rain during this trip.

To reach Meall Buidhe I first had to cross Meall Coire na Gaoithe'n Ear, then descend to Bealach IIe Coire, before a climb up a well-defined rocky ridge to its summit. There were good views across to Eigg and Skye, and inland to Ben Aden and the distinctive cone of Sgùrr na Cìche. I now had to descend to sea level, first to Sgùrr Sgeithe, then a rather awkward route down steep slopes, avoiding rock outcrops.

Soon I was down on the well-used stalkers' path that crosses from Inverie to Sourlies Bothy. From this side Sgùrr na Cìche really shows off its distinctive profile, and looks particularly impressive rising above the ruins at Carnoch.

I had to cross the River Carnach, and reached a rickety old suspension bridge, with a sign containing the ungrammatical warning: "bridge in dangerous condition - users do so at own risk". A plaque on the bridge recorded that is had been constructed in January 1980, so it had done well to last for 28 years. The river was low enough to cross on stepping stones, but I couldn't resist crossing of the bridge Indiana Jones style.

The path crossed a grassy area that on the evidence of seaweed, looks to be covered at very high tides. One mile further around the coast I reached the tiny squat bothy at Sourlies. This was decorated with nautical flotsam and jetsam, including buoys, rope, dead crabs, driftwood and a makeshift hammock hanging from the rafters.

I'd not been in the bothy long when a Scottish chap called Ian came in. He was from Oban in the west hightlands where he worked as a fireman, and was on a week-long trip around Knoydart, staying in bothies every night. Ian had stayed in Barrisdale a few days previously and complained about the lofty attitude of "the Victorians".

Ian was keen on living off the "fat of the land" and was enthused about the prospects of foraging for food on the shore around the bothy. In particular he planned to hunt razor clams, using a cunning technique. Apparently you find their little burrow hole and sprinkle salt on it at low tide. The clam tastes the salt, thinks the tide is coming in and pops their siphon up out of the sand, where upon you grab hold. Then as the clam tries to dig, it will release its grip in the sand and you can slowly draw it out. You can't out dig razor clams as you can with other shell fish, because they are able to dig downwards faster than you can!

Another group arrived at the bothy, and since it was quite a small bothy and was still early in the day, I decided to walk on. The path initially continued though a salty grassy area, where sheep were grazing, then crossed a footbridge and began climbing up through a picturesque little rocky gorge, lined with birches.

Near the top of this ancient right of way there are a pair of beautiful lochans, collectively called Lochan a' Mhàim, where I saw a couple of old Scottish chaps fishing, one by the name of Robert Campbell. They were fishing for brown trout, and were just finishing up for the day, heading down to the same bothy as me, A' Chuil.

Reaching the top of the pass at Bealach an Lagain Duibh, the fine scenery ended and we descended into the wide and rather dreary Glen Dessary, lined with regimented forestry plantations.

For the last section to the bothy, the fishermen took a short cut, but I stuck to the track as I wanted to avoid ticks in the undergrowth. A' Chuil is a compact two-room bothy. Robert and his pal were set up in one room, and I decided to sleep in the other room. The Scottish chaps said they used to climb hills, but now they were older, they preferred to go fishing for trout in lochans, and said it was pot luck whether a lochan contained trout. A bit later a young couple arrived, I can't recall the name of the chap, but his girlfriend was called Em. They were students, and had driven up to Loch Arkaig and had walked in up Glen Dessary to spend the weekend at the bothy. We got a fire going and had a pleasant evening chatting in front of a roaring fire.

Sourlies Bothy
Sourlies Bothy
Bealach an Lagain Duibh
Bealach an Lagain Duibh
Glow of the bothy fire: A' Chuil
Glow of the bothy fire: A' Chuil

Sunday 18th May 2008

In the morning I found a tick attached to my ankle, which as slightly embarrassing having made a fuss about avoiding ticks the previous day. The first three miles of today's walk was rather dreary, through forestry plantations, to round the ridge of Monadh Gorm dividing Glen Dessary from Glen Pean. The only interest was a pig farm amongst the trees, where a sign read: "in the interest of public safety and animal welfare, please do not feed to pigs or enter the enclosure at any time".

I had two more Munros to climb, three bothies to visit, and just two days left. I decided to climb Sgùrr Thuilm and the second Sgùrr nan Coireachan of the trip today, then descend to Oban Bothy on the coast. Sgùrr Thuilm was a long pathless slog up a three mile ridge.

As I climbed higher, views back over Loch Arkaig expanded. The rough, steep, rocky complexity of these two Munros, suggests that they belong in character, if not geographically to the Rough Bounds of Knoydart further north-west.

Once up on the ridge it was easy going to Sgùrr nan Coireachan, with great views down Loch Nevis and across to Skye. A line of old metal fence-posts marked the way along the ridge.

To descend to Oban Bothy, the map indicated a stalkers' path zigzagging down the steep rocky hillside. This path was quite hard to locate at the top (would be very difficult in poor visibility), and was quite overgrown with little signs of use. The path is so well constructed that it will remain on the landscape for hundreds of years, even if no one uses it.

I descended into the dramatic, rocky, Gleann an Obain Bhig, with beautiful stands of birches growing along the steep valley sides. A few miles down the glen I reached Oban Bothy, with a welcoming plume of smoke rising from its chimney. A chap called Jeff was sat outside, and inside I met Ian again (who I'd seen at Sourlies Bothy). Ian was busy cooking homemade unleavened bread on the bothy fire.

Oban is an imposing bothy, with impenetrable metal shutters that keep walkers out when the bothy is shut during the stalking season. There are two rooms downstairs, both with fireplaces. One has stone walls and floor, and is rather cold and inhospitable, the other has wood panelling and floorboards, and is much cosier. Jeff and Ian were in the latter room. The sleeping area is upstairs, where there are a few rusty bedframes. Later in the evening Ian brought out a tin whistle and played some folk tunes, providing the evening's entertainment.

Sgùrr Thuilm
Sgùrr Thuilm
Oban Bothy
Oban Bothy

Monday 19th May 2008

Having climbed all the Knoydart Munros, today would be the start of the long walk out, initially back up Gleann an Obain Bhig, through to Glen Pean. The middle part of this route would be pathless, and Ian advised sticking to the side of the glen, since the floor can be tough going. The first few miles were OK, retracing my steps of the previous day, I then climbed 50m up on the side of the glen.

This area was absolutely infested with ticks and I had to stop every five minutes to remove them from my trousers. This pass is reputed to be one of the finest mountain passes in Scotland, but although the scenery was spectacular, the tough walking rather spoilt it, and I wondered if I should have stuck to the valley floor.

Beyond Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt a path finally emerged, and I gratefully followed it to Glenpean Bothy. This bothy had a two rooms downstairs each with fireplaces, and two wood-panelled rooms upstairs, one with bunk beds. It made a good lunch stop, but I still had far to go. From the bothy I climbed a rather waterlogged path though the Glen Pean plantation, which joined a good track, leading back towards Loch Arkaig. Turning off the track, I entered Gleann a' Chaorainn. It was then a long climb along the rough, tick-infested path up to Bealach a' Chaorainn, between Sgùrr Thuilm and Streap.

On the far side of the bealach the path improved, and soon became a well-defined track, descending into Glen Finnan. A few miles down I reached the final bothy of the trip, Corryhully, where I would spend the night. This single-room bothy is known as "the electric bothy" as it has electric lighting and a socket, useful for charging mobile phones.

Two elderly ladies, called Helen and Marion were already in residence. They were celebrating the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club centenary with a three week "Great Stravaig" along a 112-mile (180km) route between Glencoe and Dundonell. Their trek had started on Sunday 18th May, and was being led by club president, Helen Steven, 65.

The start of the trek had been marked my a mass ascent of Buachaille Etive Mòr, up Curved Ridge, with the ladies dressed in period costume. The club has leased Black Rock Cottage since 1947, which is located the edge of Rannoch Moor with the Buachaille as a backdrop.

See: http://www.ladiesscottishclimbingclub.org/index.php/history and http://www.mcofs.org.uk/assets/getactive/p061-64_mount_38_.pdf

A short while later a stocky chap came in with a friendly dog, coincidentally also called "Buachaille". He said his walking club had invested in a machine for vacuum-sealing food, and had pre-cooked chillies and curries with him for his trek.

Lastly Jeff, who I'd met in Oban Bothy, came in. He was rather flustered and said "what's happened here", pointing out a window that had been broken and live trees that had been felled, since he stayed in the bothy a few days earlier. He'd stashed some belongings in the rafters of the bothy, and was relieved to find that they were still there.

Jeff was a rather hapless individual, and recounted various stories of disasters that had befallen him. He said he'd once got on a train, asked the conductor it was the inter-city train, and had ended up on a train to Paris, rather than Scotland. When he'd realised, somehow he'd managed to persuade the train company to pay for a taxi to get him up to Scotland!

Gleann an Obain Bhig
Gleann an Obain Bhig
Glenpean Bothy
Glenpean Bothy
Helen & Marion in Corryhully Bothy
Helen & Marion in Corryhully Bothy

Tuesday 20th May 2008

In the morning Jeff inadvertently woke everyone up at the crack of dawn with crashing and banging, as he wanted to get down to Glenfinnan Station for the 7am train. I set off at a more leisurely pace, aiming to get the 10:58am train to Fort William. A good track went all the way down through forestry plantations.

At the entrance to Glen Finnan there is an impressive concrete railway viaduct. This was constructed by a very innovative technique in 1897, by pouring concrete into wooden moulds in situ. The grain of the wood can be still seen on the viaduct. The construction took from July 1897 to October 1898 at a cost of £18,904. This location is popular with Harry Potter fans, as this viaduct was used by the Hogwort Express in a celebrated scene in one of the films. Glen Finnan is also notable as the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie first landed in Scotland and raised the Jacobite standard.

At Glenfinnan I was amused to see Jeff, who after disturbing everyone in the bothy with his early start, had failed to catch the 7am train. Ian was also at the station, heading back home. Lastly the chap with the beard who I'd seen at Barrisdale was there, and thanked me for the recommendation of the route over Feadan na Cìche. This "reunion" was a nice end to the trip. The network of Knoydart bothies really give sense of community, that I've only really found in one other place in Scotland - the Cairngorms. Both Knoydart and Cairngorms share the long-walk in, and are places where backpackers have the upper hand over motorists.

In Fort William, Ian suggested going for a drink, I nipped off to the toilet at the station, but on return I couldn't find him. I already had a sleeper train booked for this evening, so went off to pass away the afternoon eating good food, and enjoying some real ale. The overnight sleeper journey went well and I arrived back in London Euston early morning on Wednesday.

This had been a tough trip, the longest I'd ever walked without restocking supplies. The terrain had been rough, and the valleys tick-infested. However these difficulties had been amply rewarded with stunning scenery during the day and great company in the evenings in the bothies. Ladhar Bheinn and Sgùrr na Cìche will remain etched in my memory forever as two of the finest Scottish mountains. In this notoriously wet part of the highlands I'd been lucky to have dry weather throughout the trip. The excellent network of stalkers' paths and bothies combined with beautiful scenery make Knoydart a great place to trek, even if one doesn't climb a single mountain.

Glenfinnan Viaduct
Glen Finnan Viaduct