406 (part 1) Inverie to Barrisdale

[My journey to Inverie was made on 20th June 2019. I must confess I messed up the logistics of this trip, and ended up doing this section after I’d completed the rest of Knoydart. But I’ve placed this post at the beginning, as if I’d done it first, which was what I intended.]

I return to Scotland after 3 weeks, feeling rather anxious, because I’m about to tackle the Knoydart peninsula, and I know it will probably be the most difficult section of my walk so far. (It was a shock to open up the map and realise there really are NO ROADS across Knoydart.)

I drive to Mallaig, leave my car in the longstay car park, and catch the little ferry over to Inverie. It’s 3pm by the time I arrive. Again, half the population seem to have turned out to meet the ferry, and I’m surprised by the number of vehicles milling about in this apparently roadless ‘wilderness’.

01 arriving at Inverie, Ruth Livingstone in Knoydart, Scotland

It takes some time for the ferry to unload –  first us passengers and our baggage, than boxes of food and crates of alcohol. With no road connection to the rest of the mainland, this is the only way to bring in food and other essentials.

I walk along a little footpath, heading for the main part of the village. It’s very pretty, dotted with bright flowers, although it’s another dull day.

02 footpath to Inverie from the ferry, Ruth Livingstone hiking across Knoydart, Scotland

My path joins the main road.  Despite my map showing only tracks, this really is a road, and it’s quite busy with vehicles driving away from the wharf. There is even a red van. A proper post-office van. I can barely believe my eyes! They really do get everywhere.

03 traffic in Inverie, Ruth Livingstone hiking across Knoydart, Scotland

I pass the Old Forge, which claims to be mainland Britain’s remotest pub. And continue past a community shop, craft shops and a cafe. The post office van has parked up towards the end of the village with its back doors open, and inside a young post-lady is sitting crosslegged and sorting through the mail.

Leave the buildings behind and the road continues along the shore. I come to a converted church…

04 converted chapel in Inverie, Ruth Livingstone hiking across Knoydart, Scotland

… and then walk through an area of woodland. Someone has carved an enormous draughts board out of wood, complete with wooden counters.

05 wooden chequer board, Inverie, Ruth Livingstone hiking across Knoydart, Scotland

Further along, a track branches away from the road, and I come across a plethora of signposts. Tomorrow, I will take the route up towards Kinlochhourn, but today I’m continuing along the road towards the Knoydart Foundation Bunkhouse where I’ve booked a bed for the next couple of nights.

06 signposts, Ruth Livingstone hiking across Knoydart, Scotland

I notice one of signposts is for Strathan, and remember seeing the sign for Strathan back when I walked along Loch Morar.

There are numerous houses and cottages scattered along the road – Inverie is much larger than I expected – but I soon find the bunkhouse.

07 Knoydart Foundation Bunkhouse, Inverie, Ruth's coastal trek around Scotland

The entrance isn’t exactly inviting, tucked down an alley… and I’m a bit worried about staying here. A bunkhouse.

08 bunkhouse door, Ruth Livingstone hiking across Knoydart, Scotland

I did stay in a bunkhouse on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, but they had private rooms done to a high standard. It is a long time since I shared a room with strangers. Why do I worry? Well, firstly I like my privacy. Secondly, I’m a bit of an insomniac and hate the thought of lying awake listening to other people snoring. Thirdly, I get a lot of cramp in my legs at night, which means I’m often leaping out of bed at odd hours and pacing the floor while trying not to swear.

A sign by the door reminds me to sign into the guestbook where, because I reserved a bed online, my name is already pencilled in. There are three dorm rooms and – what a relief – I’m the only person booked into mine!

09 the only guest, Ruth at the Knoydart bunkhouse

With 11 beds to choose from, it takes me a very long time to choose a bunk.

10 bunk bed, Ruth Livingstone hiking across Knoydart, Scotland

After sorting out my bed, I walk into the main part of Inverie to visit the pub. I’m expecting an atmospheric Scottish experience, but the pub is empty apart from a courting couple and a bored looking barmaid. I have a pint of cider – in silence.

How disappointing. This is really boring. There’s no phone signal and nobody to talk to and nothing to do. So, I decide to return to the bunkhouse, eat some of my walking snacks, and have an early night. On the way, I meet a couple walking towards me.

‘Ruth? What are you doing here?’  It’s a familiar voice, and a familiar face. Gavin, an old friend and fellow GP from my old home town in Lincolshire. He’s brought his wife, Rita, here to show her the ‘wilderness’ of Knoydart.

He invites me to eat with them, so we walk back to the Old Forge. The pub begins to fill up, with well-heeled tourists. The food is good, but very expensive. Sadly, we agree that Knoydart is not the same wilderness I was expecting, and not the same as Gavin could remember from his mountaineering trips here.

Still, the meal is a good way to end the day and, after many days of solitary walking, it’s wonderful to have some company.

Miles walked today = none worth mentioning

Despite my trepidation, my stay in the bunkhouse was surprisingly pleasant, and very reasonably priced. It’s part of a community project. You can find out more here: The Knoydart Foundation Bunkhouse

Map of area and ferry route (blue):

There is an alternative route I could have taken to avoid Knoydart. I could have crossed by ferry from Malaig to Skye, and then walked up Skye to reach the bridge back to the mainland. This is the route that Helen Krazner and several other walkers took… but I decided Knoydart simply couldn’t be missed out.



About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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15 Responses to 406 (part 1) Inverie to Barrisdale

  1. jglondon415 says:

    Heavens I find WordPress frustrating – 3rd time lucky! Really sorry you were disappointed with Inverie. Coming in the opposite direction, I reached there having come from Barisdale Campsite and pitched my tent at the Campsite looking across the Loch to Mallaig – it was heavenly. The following day I explored the peninsular, it was mid September and a glorious day. After a 2nd night at the Campsite, I took the ferry to Tarbet before walking along Loch Morar to Mallaig. I loved the Old Forge, but maybe prices have increased since 2009.

    • Sorry about your struggles with WordPress and thank you for persevering with your posting. Sadly, the dull weather and low cloud meant the views were less than impressive when I was there. I guess I was mainly disappointed with Inverie because I didn’t expect to see so many vehicles driving around, and the pub was a BIG disappointment!. The pub has changed hands since your visit and… well, I found out more about that on the following day!

  2. jcombe says:

    I’m interested to hear how you get on on Knoydart. I think it was the right call not to miss it out and go via Skye.

  3. patriz2012 says:

    I’m not a good sleeper either AND I get cramp in my legs – nothing to do with long distance walking I hope! You are out in the wilderness now – good for you.

    All the best


  4. Chris Elliott says:

    Glad you didn’t walk via Skye. Inverie to Barrisdale and on to Kinlochhourn and then on to Corran and Arnisdale are amongst the best stretches of the entire coast. You probably already know this already as I suspect you are well past this stage now. Enjoy…!!!

  5. I really enjoyed Knoydart. I’m hoping you did too.

    I was only in Inverie for a matter of minutes, though, as I immediately headed out to Barrisdale and Kinloch Hourn.

    I like how you always notice the Royal Mail vans and seem to find them reassuring; I’m also always glad to see those familiar red vehicles. But have you noticed that the cruciform logo on their sides in Scotland is not quite the same as in England & Wales? In the latter it uses St Edward’s Crown, in Scotland it’s the Royal Crown of Scotland.

  6. Eunice says:

    What a coincidence meeting someone you knew in such a remote place 🙂

  7. Karen White says:

    What a coincidence to meet an old friend. This type of thing does seem to happen though – my mum and dad were in the Rockies when they came across a friend from home. Neither had known the other would be in Canada! Then when I went to the Gower peninsula andwent to Mumbles one day I heard my name called and it was a lad I’d been at school with!
    I would be nervous about a bunkhouse, it’s a very long time since I’ve done youth hostelling or similar – and I like my privacy and comfort. Though I do go camping so perhaps I’d cope.

  8. jcombe says:

    I made the return trip from Mallaig to Inverie (on the ferry) and then the walk to Barrisdale and back today. I am amused by your comment about all the activity around the ferry because I took the first (8:30am) ferry out to Inverie and I was the only passenger. I took the last ferry back (6:30pm) and again I was the only passenger. So it was like my own private ferry! I guess October is a quite month for them (though they still run the “summer” schedule on the ferry until the end of October).

    I felt a bit guilty that I might have forced the crew to start work earlier and finish later than they otherwise would but was assured they had taken other passengers on the morning crossing back to Mallaig and the evening journey out to Inverie.

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