Formerly known as our North West Wilderness Weekend the Knoydart Expedition allows our clients to complete the wild southern section of the Cape Wrath Trail, including two nights of wild camping. Although the thought of carrying all your own kit and food needed for 3 days isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly is mine. I was delighted to be asked to guide this trek through the properly remote mountain region of Knoydart.
Day 1: Fort William to Glenfinnan
We began early by taking the short ferry across Loch Linnhe to Camusnagaul – a ferry crossing is always a exciting way to begin a walk. No camping equipment needed today though, so with lighter packs we set of south west for Cona Glen with the early morning sun already giving heat to the day. We left the road behind and continued on Land Rover tracks following the Cona River west. Our group of 6 enjoyed the wide glen as we got to know each other and discussed the expedition to come. With the sun belting down we enjoyed lunch and a rest by the river before returning to the trail and the day’s climb through a mountain pass to Glenfinnan.
It was at this point one of our group began to struggle with the heat. After a good rest stop, efforts to cool down and re-hydrate we continued. However, it soon became clear she would not be able to continue without risking a further rise in body temperature. The decision was made to call for help. The fantastic volunteers of Glencoe Mountain Rescue team responded to that call. They helped our client safely off the hill and to a speedy recovery.
The group and I continued over the hill to finish rather later than expected.
Day 2: Glen Dessary to Loch Nevis
With a late finish on day 1 we decided the only sensible option was to start the expedition from Glen Dessary rather than Glenfinnan,. This allowed us a later start and time to get ourselves ready for 2 nights of self-sufficiency.
With an ever changing forecast we set out into the heat once more, knowing the good weather was likely to break at some point during the day or night. In the first few miles adjustments were made to the bags and shoulders began to accept the load. We left behind any semblance of a road and climbed to Lochan a Mhaim. With some recent wet weather preceding the trip we were happy to find our first river crossing, the Finiskaig, was straightforward. From here it is a steep decent on rocky ground down to Sourlies bothy on the shores of Loch Nevis. We were now in remote country; between mountain and sea. Not the only campers, but with a definite sense of being ‘away from it all’ we set about pitching the tents and cooking up some food.
The routine of pitching the tent, sorting your kit, making a cuppa and then cooking dinner is one I really enjoy. Each task logically follows the other. When you are so far away from phone signal and e-distractions, as well as the usual daily worries, the simplicity of wild camping acts as a real decompression chamber. For our group this was a new experience and so we spent some time getting know what works for them, how the new stoves function best, and which pole goes where! The midges were a bit of an annoyance but not enough to stop us enjoying our meals by the shore, and Hen even took the opportunity for a dip in the sea. We retired to our tents just as the weather broke and the patter of rain on the fly sheets sent us off to sleep.
Day 3: Loch Nevis to Barrisdale
An early start and after breakfast we packed up our tents to set off into the morning drizzle. The tide was in and we had to head for higher ground to get around the headland where we met the River Carnach. We followed the river north east before making a crossing. Again we were happy, despite the rain, to be met by low water levels. Soft ground, gnarly roots to manoeuvre over, heavy packs, and wet weather, but spirits were good. Appreciation of the wilderness was perhaps increased by the conditions. We climbed steeply to meet our first path of the day and a well earned lunch break. From here the weather improved and we were treated to great views as the clouds lifted.
Our descent into Barrisdale brought new views but with some building work happening near the bothy we decided that wasn’t a wild enough camping spot for us. So, we set out for a spit of land on the southern shore of Barrisdale Bay. It turned out to be the perfect spot. A gentle breeze kept the midges away, the mountains surrounded us and with those camping routines refined we basked in the evening light. Dinner was cooked and eaten as the tide came in, and we turned in for the night very pleased with our choice of campsite.
Day 4: Barrisdale to Kinloch Hourn
Our final day of the expedition is the shortest but it still packs a punch. There are plenty of ups and downs on steep narrow paths along the shore of Loch Beag, enough of a challenge for the third day of a wild camping trip. As we walked we looked back on the trip, enjoyed the last few jelly babies and spoke about our coming adventures. Tim and Ruth, now armed with the confidence to go into the hills independently, were heading north to complete a section of the Cape Wrath Trail, Nicole was looking forward to a Guinness back in Switzerland, and Hen was visiting Edinburgh for some festival fun. We met Ollie and the van at 2pm just as the heavens open and we took the long drive back to Fort William, looking forward to a shower of a more relaxing nature.
If this sounds like your kind of adventure or you would like to complete this section of the Cape Wrath Trail click the link for next year’s dates and all the details:
We are now offering a Cape Wrath Trail package which will allow our clients to walk the entire Cape Wrath Trail as a continuous route from Fort William to Cape Wrath. We have split the route into 3 sections: Knoydart Expedition, South Cape Wrath Trail and North Cape Wrath Trail – a fantastic undertaking in one go or indeed separately.