It’s day three on my visit to Knoydart and I am hoping for some better weather to scale the last two Munro’s in the area. It is in some respects today or neverto climb these two peaks and in any case the weather forecast suggests an improvement during the day but the chances of having a view from the Munro’s tops seems unlikely.
This walk is going to be complicated as it traverses some for the most rugged countryside in the area. A walker whom I met the previous day at Airor had said there was a path between the two Munro’s and so this would be a big bonus.
Heading out on a grey morning along the valley of Gleann an Dubh-Lochain I make good progress. Cloud is well down on the mountains but at least it appears to be lifting slowly and so whilst I expect the tops to be in the cloud, the walk between will hopefully offer some limited views. The good track finishes at the eastern end of Loch an Dubh-Lochain and the path soon degenerated into a quagmire in parts and I often have to divert up the hill side on my left. Small bridges span most streams but occasionally bridges are in a very poor state of repair with planks missing.
I reach the top of the pass at Mam Barrisdale in the two hours after leaving Inverie and have made exceedingly good progress. It is here on the pass I now leave the main path and take a very boggy side path to start the ascent of Luinne Bheinn (sometimes known as Loony Bin!). The path follows a line of stakes and climbs diagonally across the mountainside. The going isn’t exactly easy and I know that I will need to cut up to the left at some point. I gradually ascend into the mist climbing up a grassy steep hillside with crags here and there. The path as such appears to fizzle out but on reaching the western crest of the ridge I join a good path coming in from the left which might be the main path up from Loch Hourn. An upward walk in the thick mist takes me to the western summit and this is just one metre lower than the main summit which at this stage is out of sight due to the thick mist. The path runs along the crest of the mountain with a steep drop to my left but there are simply no views whatsoever. The compass is essential here and for the next few miles I repeatedly check my bearing and timing every couple of hundred yards. There is really no point hanging around the summit of Luinne Bheinn (939 metres) as there were simply no views. With a col ahead of me, I am soon on the eastern summit and here afterwards the path gradually curves to the southwest but avoiding many crags on the descent. I need to cross the point where there is a line of old stakes and I am pleased to find this point in the col. The mist has not risen above the col but just briefly it clears enough to get a view of the ridge ahead and to my left towards remote Ben Aden. I am soon back into the thick mist as I climb over the complicated satellite summit of Meall Coire na Gaoithe n-Ear and with a small diversion I leave the path to bag the summit of Druim Leac a Shith (839 metres). Taking a compass bearing I find my way back onto the path for the descent to Bealach Ile Coire by which time the mist has turned to a fine rain. It is time for lunch and to get the full waterproof gear on. I find a sheltered spot for lunch on this most gloomy day before setting off up the north eastern spur of Meall Buidhe. The slope increases in steepness with an increasing number of scrambles and many times I think I am almost on the summit then grey crags loomed ahead. Eventually and quite suddenly I am at a small cairn and this I confirm is the eastern summit at 942 metres. The main summit is a little to the west-northwest and I press on along the very misty ridge with the ground disappearing into a misty craggy abyss to my right. After crossing a small dip I am soon on the main summit at 946 metres which has a larger cairn but today the mist is turning thicker.
There is no point lingering here so setting the compass I now press onto the satellite summit of An T-Uiriollach which initially means a steady descent before a short rise to the 826 metre summit. I need now to find a couple of very small lochans where I can set my compass and continue down the western ridge and one such lochan soon comes into view. I am expecting now that I will be soon below the mist with views opening out to the west but I am wrong. An intermittent faint path runs west down the broad ridge but the fine rain is relentless and the mist shows no signs of lifting. I decide to stay on the ridge as far as possible as it seems the easiest option and the faint path keeps coming and going. When am I going to come out of the mist I think? The weather has certainly closed in.
I continue over Druim Righeanaich and at around 300 metres above sea level there are signs of limited views down into the valleys either side. As the ridge steepens ahead I decided to cut down to the left but the slope is full of crags and bracken. Not far below is the footbridge over the Allt Gleann Meadail where I am aiming for. To get there, the slope is covered in head high wet bracken with hidden boulders. I inched my way down testing each step on this most unpleasant area and getting quite wet in the process and so I am much relieved to reach the foot. At least there was a good drying room back at the bunkhouse. I now join a footpath along the valley of Gleann Meadail but the wet vegetation hangs across the path. The private bothy at Druim is passed and soon I meet a large party walking towards it. Bearing right later I cross the Allt Gleann Meadail once more via a good footbridge and soon join my outward route for the last mile and a half walk back to the bunkhouse.
After cooking a basic meal in the evening the weather is clearing from the west so it is time for another wander through the empty village of Inverie where I am told that I had just missed seeing an otter at play on the beach. Its late evening as I walk in the opposite direction to Long Beach and to visit the unique ancient cross in the graveyard at Kilchoan. The light is magical on this still evening and a good opportunity to take many photographs. It feels like being on your own island, just me and ten million midges.
So what are my overall impressions of Knoydart? Well it’s a place you could love or hate. For me, I was glad to be going back to Mallaig and I had mixed emotions about the place. On the plus side it was good to experience living on this remote peninsula cut off almost from the outside world for three days and the overall peacefulness of living in such a remote community. The evening light was just magical.
Given good sunny weather the place would be paradise but if you were there during three days of solid rain you would be hankering to leave the place. My advice would be to take a good book with you just in case. With no mobile phone signal, no television and no easy internet connection I lost contact with the outside world for three days which in some ways isn’t a bad thing but I could have done with an up to date weather forecast each day. For me I had one reasonable day and two days of dull overcast weather with hill cloud and some rain.