Knoydart Crossing

knoydart-crossing

Knoydart Crossing recounts a traverse of the remote Knoydart Peninsula in the Scottish Highlands. We really hope you enjoy it.

I’d heard amazing things about the remoteness and beauty of Knoydart and it had been on my must visit list for a long time. I was delighted when my chance came. The tranquility and raw beauty of the mighty Knoydart Peninsula makes for a world class multi day hillwalking adventure

A Plan Was Hatched

My friend and work colleague Richard regularly organises adventures for some of his pals. He’d talked to me about plans to do a crossing of this special part of the Highlands months ago.  He is a master organiser and gradually the plan was hatched.  When he asked if I’d like to lead the group I jumped at the chance.

the-glenfinnan-sleeping-car
The Glenfinnan Sleeping Car

Glenfinnan

Our group of 10 travelled north by minibus. For the first night the plan was to stay in Glenfinnan.  This tranquil village has become a popular staging post for crossings of the peninsula and it doesn’t disappoint. If you get there yourself I can strongly recommend a stay in the converted railway carriages at the station.  The cosy carriage has been converted into an 8 bed accommodation complete with dining area, kitchen and bathroom.  Even better, the next carriage is a dining car which proved perfect for a pre-walk breakfast.

glenfinnan-viaduct
Glenfinnan Viaduct

Glennfinnan to A’Chuil Bothy

After breakfast it was time to burn off some of the calories we’d just taken on board and we headed into Glen Finnan. Our Knoydart Crossing was finally starting.  You only actually walk a short distance before coming upon Sir Robert McAlpine’s viaduct.  This impressive curving structure became famous after featuring in a number of Harry Potter films. As luck would have it, our arrival fell only minutes before a steam train chuffed its way across.  

From the viaduct there is a steady walk up the Glen Finnan valley before the route climbs to the first col.  We became accustomed on this walk to the ever changing landscape. This col was the first taste of what delights lay in store.  Ahead was a perfect sweeping valley and we happily tramped down towards the A’Chuil bothy.  The end of the day required our first significant river crossing. Luckily, dry conditions in the lead up to our trip meant wading across was an easy job.  From the base of the valley a walk through the forest led us to the bothy. 

a'chuil-bothy
A’Chuil Bothy

We were camping but it was still nice to have access to the bothy. They are well placed along the route allowing them to be good targets for the day.  A’Chuil sits in a lovely position and we found everything in good order.  That evening the team had their first taste of wild camping and it was great to share tales from the day. We were also treated to the most incredible sunset. Soon enough, tiredness took over and everyone was tucked up and cosy.

A’Chuil to Sourlies Bothy

A few light showers on day two soon gave way to a stunning morning. We began climbing through Glen Dessary towards our next objective.  All the ascents on this walk are steady and comfortable. Eventually we popped over the col Bealach an Lagain Duibh to look down onto the shores of Loch Nevis.  

The descent from this col was one of my favourite parts of the walk. The combination of the beautiful views and the interesting terrain offered a real treat.  We passed Lochain a‘ Mhaim and eventually reached the valley base. Form there it’s a simple saunter towards the Sourlies Bothy. 

Sourlies is a small bothy sitting in the most beautiful location. It sits overlooking the broad sweep of the loch.  There are deer strolling around the hillside and, as we watched, a solitary sail boat headed to anchor in the small bay.  It is stunning.

knoydart-crossing
Leaving Sourlies Bothy

River Carnoch Crossing

We relaxed in the sunshine for a while before moving on to reach our evening campsite.  Pre-trip research revealed the bridge crossing the River Carnoch had been removed by the estate some months ago. We had also heard mixed reports about how easy it would be to cross the river. The last few days had been largely dry and so I felt crossing the river tonight was the best option. That way, even if it rained significantly over night we were sure of being able to finish our walk,  In the event the crossing was straight forward but it was also clear that in some conditions this would be a very challenging and dangerous undertaking.  

With some relief that we had made it across safely and easily, we set up camp in another beautiful spot in the heart of the valley and overlooking the river.  I relished another still clear evening. There wasn’t a single midge in sight. I lay on the grass stargazing for some time before getting tucked up in my sleeping bag.

sourlies-bothy
Sourlies Bothy

River Carnoch to Inverie

We enjoyed a leisurely start on day three and could see that the first part of the day would involve a long and steady climb to access our last valley. This team were great at pacing themselves and we made good progress under the might of Munro Meall Buidhe and on to our final bealach (col).  Yet again, the view that greeted us was an incredible treat. Another unspoilt valley swept down towards our final destination at the sea. 

It was still a number of kilometres away but the team now definitely had the scent of victory and the pace quickened noticeably.  We stopped for our final lunch at the side of a babbling stream and lay with the warmth of the sun on our faces.  This was actually our best weather day. This is saying something. We were very aware we’d been blessed with amazing weather.

knoydart-crossing-bothy-life
Knoydart Crossing Bothy Life

Arrival At Inverie

Eventually our final Knoydart Crossing path took us into the base of the tiny community of Inverie.  Warden Fiona welcomed us warmly at the Knoydart Foundation Bunkhouse and the team were soon enjoying the bliss of a hot shower and fresh clothes. Richard’s attention to planning detail shone through again. He had encouraged team members to post up a parcel of fresh clothes to the community post office. Once freshened up, we headed for a celebratory meal and drinks at Inverie’s Old Forge pub.  

celebrating-at-the-old-forge-pub-inverie
Celebrating At The Old Forge Pub, Inverie

Inverie To Mallaig

The pub sits at the waters edge and again the weather was warm enough to sit out well into the setting of the sun. We relished the view out to Skye and towards the Mallaig peninsula where we would head tomorrow morning.  Some of the team celebrated long into the night while others were in fresh beds by 10.30pm. Either way, they knew it would be an early start to meet the private rib boat. This would take us across the water to Mallaig.

inverie-to-mallaig-crossing
Inverie To Mallaig Crossing

The Journey South

By 8am we were on the road south. Our Knoydart Crossing was complete. Barring a stop for breakfast in Fort William and a wrong turn in Glasgow, the team bus made good time south. It was an adventure packed with laughs, new experiences and challenge. It was also a chance to dip into the natural beauty of our little island.  I looked around the bus at the rosy glows on the team’s faces knowing I had been part of something very special.  A huge thanks to Richard for inviting me and a massive well done to the whole team.  Do please put Knoydart at the top of your must visit list.

If you want to hone your skills for a Knoydart Crossing of your own one of our navigation courses will provide the perfect prep.