Tag Archives: Knoydart

Going wild

After watching @steamingboots film of his winter camp up Beinn a’ Chrulaiste I had become fixated with a similar adventure. Gill had suggested some ideas for the weekend and then on Thursday I asked if the others wanted to camp up a ‘hill’ in Glencoe. I’ve learned to be suitably vague with details.

So after work on Friday we loaded up the car and headed up to Glencoe. After an electric sunset over Rannoch Moor we packed our bags in the failing light and set off for the summit. It was a clear night and despite no moon, our eyes adjusted and we managed without head torches for a good while.

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We weaved our way up through the patches of snow and managed to find a nice grassy spot near the summit to camp.

I’ve been desperate to see the aurora for years and despite several late night dashes to East Lothian, I’ve always returned disappointed. I missed some spectacular displays the previous two nights and was hoping this was going to be my time. Nothing visible to the naked eye or camera lens but still a magical moment as we watched shooting stars and the milky way.

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We were quickly to bed seeking the warmth of our sleeping bags but it was a cold night and we didn’t sleep too well.

The alarm was set for 5.50am to catch the sunrise. I normally struggle with early rises but peeked out my tent and the start of the orange glow and a beautifully calm morning was a winner.

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We warmed ourselves with coffee as the sun slowly spread through our camp, our frosty tents glistening.

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The moment the sun reached our faces reminded me of the Banff Mountain Film Festival winner North of the Sun, although our journey was one night, not nine months!

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The sun warmed Buachaille Etive Mor and it would have been easy to stay put for the day soaking up the panoramic views but we had to crack on with our next adventure – paddle boarding into Barisdale Bay on the Knoydart Penninsula. If I though the wee windy roads north of Assynt were something, the road into Loch Hourn is on a different level!

We hadn’t timed things too well and the combination of an incoming tide and headwind made it look like we might not reach Barisdale Bay. We couldn’t rest and refuel without being pushed backwards and it was energy zapping. We hugged the shoreline and took advantage of where the rock jutted out creating a welcome haven of calm.

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We arrived at Barisdale Bay exhausted but with a real sense of achievement. It is nestled amongst the towering Beinn Sgritheall, Ladhar Bheinn, Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buide and has a great sense of remoteness.

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Another stunning sunset (with views over to Skye), another perfect morning.

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We started our paddle back with a glassy Loch Hourn, enjoying the sun on our backs and the tide carrying us along. The wind picked up towards the end reminding us nature is boss.

The best memories are the ones we earn and we certainly did that!

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Paddle to Knoydart

The Knoydart peninsula on Scotland’s West Coast is only accessible by water or foot and it is this remoteness that lures people to explore.  I’ve been once before and it was a washout; the kind that Gortex/Event stands no chance and you wonder why you live in such a climate.  That time we arrived by boat and sought refuge in the bunkhouse.  This time we were paddling and camping.

I was a little nervous in the days beforehand as the forecast wasn’t looking too promising and we had two inexperienced paddlers with us.

We set off from Mallaig full of excitement with being self sufficient for the trip. As we crept out of the sheltered harbour and headed East along the coast we were into a F3 headwind. It wasn’t the brightest of days but we still had fine views over to Rum, Eigg and Skye.  We stopped off at a pebble beach for some lunch and a surprise Colin the Caterpiller cake, complete with candles, was produced for my birthday.  I’ve no idea how it managed to be discretely packed into the kayak!

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We decided to continue along the north coast and take the shortest open crossing directly north to the east side of Rubha Raonuill on the Knoydart peninsula.  The wind was picking up as we started the crossing and the group split to accommodate weary arms with two taking the direct north east route towards Inverie.  It was a great feeling when we arrived in front of the Old Forge Inn and some well deserved beers were ordered!

Arriving at Inverie

We set up camp on Long Beach, had the customary ‘dip’ as a special birthday treat and headed (by foot) back to the pub for some tasty seafood. The campsite has a new compost toilet which generated a lot of discussion working out the intricacies of the separate peeing instructions for males/females (due to differences in the direction of pee hitting the toilet). All very fascinating so check it out if you go!

The next day we woke to amazing weather.  After getting the stoves on the go for brekkie we took a meander up A Chruach (395m) and had incredible views of the Islands and surrounding hills.  If I’m struggling for my hill challenge this year, it may get added to the list.

View from hill

None of us wanted to leave and we took advantage of the sun while waiting for the tide to come in a bit to avoid a long carry of the boats but it got to the point where we reluctantly had to make a move.

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Sunny paddling

The paddle back to Mallaig was incredible.  For a large part the water was like glass and we even had a wee porpoise join us for a bit.  We landed on a beach and Andy cooked up some mussels he’d collected earlier.  I have a bit of a shell fish phobia but managed to eat a couple.

Andy cooking mussels

We made it back to Mallaig in good time and pretty chuffed with ourselves for being self powered.

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Definitely need to try and squeeze in some more sea kayak adventures asap.