by Innes Doig
Innes is a good friend of Thistle Trekking and a long time hiking partner of our director, David. Indeed they have known each other since the first year of primary school. Both grew up not far from the Cairngorms and developed a love for the Mountains. Innes is heavily involved with Edinburgh Young Walkers and is closing in on “compleat” round of Scotland’s Munros.
In my hallway I have a large Munro map – it is wonderfully detailed, and shows all the major peaks, ridges, glens, rivers and bothies of Scotland. I often spend hours looking at this map, devising possible routes and dreaming of future adventures through the Scottish Highlands and Islands by foot or by bike.
Looking at my map one day I noticed a possible route through Glenfinnan and Knoydart, taking in no less than eight Munros and four bothies over four days. I had always wanted to visit and explore this area of Scotland, and this route looked like a great way to experience it. Setting off from Glenfinnan I could weave my way through Knoydart over the connecting ridges and glens, before finishing at Inverie village. From there I could get a ferry to Mallaig and then the train back to the car at Glenfinnan. What an adventure this could be!
But, was I perhaps being too ambitious and getting carried away? This would be a serious undertaking – Even by Scottish Highlands standards, Knoydart is one of the most remote and cut off areas in Scotland. There are no roads into Knoydart and the only village, Inverie, located on the Western shore of the Knoydart peninsula, is accessible only by boat. Even walking paths and bridges are pretty much non-existent throughout much of the peninsula. If you are to do multi-day trips through Knoydart you have to be well prepared and take all your provisions with you – there are no shops to stock up on food supplies, or to buy that important item you have forgotten to bring.
I told my friends Richard and Ben of my plans to tackle the Knoydart peninsula and they were keen to join me also. We decided to do the trip in mid-May as the weather can often be good at this time of year, and is also just before the start of the dreaded midge season.
We put a lot of planning into this trip – lugging four days’ worth of food, cooking equipment, sleeping bags, waterproofs and all the associated paraphernalia up and over eight Munros would be no easy task – we had to make sure we were as light as possible. Care was taken in making sure that we took only what we absolutely needed and that we were not doubling up on any items. One Jet boil stove, two gas canisters, freeze dried food pouches, one penknife, even only one travel sized toothpaste to be shared between the three of us. Richard, who is a dentist, confirmed that this should just be enough to get us through the trip if we were careful!
After much discussion we even gambled on not taking tents with us. I would not usually recommend doing this, however the bothies in the Knoydart area are fairly spacious and relatively quiet due to their remote position. We checked before the trip that they were definitely open and we would only set off on our journey if the long range forecast didn’t look too bad. Unlikely as it was, if it came to it we had a lightweight emergency shelter. Strangely, a part of me found the prospect of this a bit exciting. Of course I would prefer a nice cosy night in a bothy in front of a fire after a long day of walking in the hills, but if forced to do so, it would be an interesting test of your ability to seek shelter and survive in such a remote and wild place.
The trip fast approached and the forecast looked reasonable enough – we would go for it. We drove up to Glenfinnan the evening after work and then walked the short four kilometres to Corryhully bothy (with beers in hand). Passing under the arches of the impressive Glenfinnan viaduct marked a great way of starting out on our great adventure. Though I was a bit apprehensive as my bag felt too light for a four day self-sustained hillwalking trip. I was constantly double checking in my mind that I definitely had everything…
Day 1: Corryhully to A’ Chuill
After a night at the ‘electric bothy’ (so called as it is one of the only bothies in Scotland with electric sockets and even a kettle) we woke to an overcast and chilly day. We started up the long rough ridge to our first Munro, Sgurr nan Coireachan (Peak of the Corries). After reaching the top we then headed East along an undulating ridge to Sgurr Thuilm (Peak of the Hillock). It was fairly cold in the wind and even the small lochans were still frozen from that night.
After this it was a long descent to Glen Pean and then Glen Dessarry to the spacious A’Chuill bothy (the sheltered place). After chopping up some wood we settled in for a comfortable evening in front of a crackling fire with warm food and a well-earned whisky.
Innes adventure into the wilds of Knoydart will continue tomorrow…