Thursday, 21 June 2012

Knoydart, June'12

Knoydart is one of those really special places - a stunningly beautiful area that is remote, yet accessible enough. Earlier in the year we took a group in from Glenelg but this time we were heading in from Mallaig and staying in Inverie. Our previous trip saw us staying at the Barisdale Bothy, this time we had the relative luxury of the Knoydart Foundation Bunkhouse, with a fine pub and cafe nearby.

I met our group at Mallaig at 10am by the station and we headed with our bikes and gear towards the boat. We received one cancellation by email just 5 minutes before departure, a bit of a pain, but having a smaller group meant we could tailor the trip more to what the guys wanted. Which meant bagging !

The boat trip over is sheer delight ! Gradually Knoydart comes into view, its secrets unfolding as the panorama expands. After landing at Inverie, we checked into the hostel, unpacked our gear and headed off to explore. Richard and myself brought bikes over and headed over to Doune, the most westerly point on the peninsula. It's here that you can book to eat with uninterupted views over to Skye.

The forecast for the weekend wasn't looking brilliant, with Saturday being the slightly better day, so Larven was chosen for our first day's hillwalking. Immediately above Inverie, the Corbett Sgurr Choire Choinnichean towers over the village and forestry. It is linked to Larven with a broad high-level ridge, therefore the guys didn't need much persuading to head up this first. We followed paths winding their way through thick forests to reach a stile and onto open hillside. A pleasant walk lead to the last bit of steep hillside before the summit where we were buffetted by a strong easterly wind.

Following the ridge for 3km leads to Mam Suidheig - a grassy pass. At this point we decided to keep low and out of the wind, heading into the coire and directly for Bealach Coire Dhorrcail. Cloud base was around 800m, so we weren't missing out much in the way of views ! Onto Larven's summit, we enjoyed some lunch, while wishing the cloud would lift. Aiming westwards, we descended to An Diollaid, then found a small cairn marking a faint path downwards. This path is over grassy ground at a fairly gentle gradient and drops to the ruin at Folach, from where a fine track took us back to Inverie and a pint at the Old Forge.

Our second day hillwalking was planned to take us over Luinne Bheinn and Meall Bhuidhe, with the possibility of extending the walk over another Corbett, Beinn Bhuidhe. Weather wasn't looking great, but we had a fine track to follow to break us in gently ! We set off early and passed some guys laden with gear and looking went and miserable - I'm guessing the midges too their toll last night. Up to Mam Barisdale and onto Luinne Bheinn's western shoulder, we paused occasionally to look at the fine views over Barisdale Bay and beyond. At around 750m we were back in cloud, and that was us all the way over Luinne Bheinn to Meall Buidhe. We passed a few folk, some getting slightly lost in the thick mist.

At Meall Buidhe, we decided not to aim for Beinn Buidhe in the mist and instead turned home. After dropping around 100m, the cloud lifted and our efforts were rewarded with some fine views. An obvious path was traced all the way down to Inverie River, where the temperature now exceeded 20°C - it had been under 5°C on the summit ! Back to the bunkhouse, a quick change and off to the pub for dinner.

On our final day the guys had the option to bag Beinn na Caillich, the most westerly Corbett in the peninsula, which Richard took. The weather had changed dramatically for the better - blue skies, calm seas and warm. We biked to the foot of the hill and walked up the last 3km to the summit, mostly on pathless terrain. Superb views were taken in on the summit - over to Skye and the Outer Hebrides, to Torridon and Kintail and the hulk of Larven.

After having lunch at the cafe in the village, we returned by boat towards Mallaig, a slightly sad feeling at having to leave such a special and beautiful place. But we had one more surprise - the boat took a sight-seeing tour over to Tarbet and up Glen Nevis ! What a great way to finish the weekend !

More photos are on our Flickr site.

We'll be doing this trip again next year, details are here.