[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’.
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.
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.
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…
… and then walk through an area of woodland. Someone has carved an enormous draughts board out of wood, complete with wooden counters.
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.
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.
The entrance isn’t exactly inviting, tucked down an alley… and I’m a bit worried about staying here. A bunkhouse.
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!
With 11 beds to choose from, it takes me a very long time to choose a bunk.
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.