Thursday, 31 May 2012

Sgurr Coire Choinnichean.Knoydart.Last Part.

Saturday dawned at the campsite and at last there was a morning breeze around the tents.We were up very early having noticed that the bottom steepest part of Sgurr Coire Choinnichean,the Corbett directly above the village ,was in shade early on.As it was closer than the other two and I thought I would actually enjoy this one I surprised Alex by tagging along as he wearily pulled on his boots for a third time.
At this point I have to say huge respect to Alex.He doesn,t relish the heat and to do three tough Corbetts one after the other was impressive stuff.
We managed to get a fair way up before the sun hit us like a blow torch but by then the breeze had picked up and it was just like a normal hill day.
Superb views from this hill over to the Islands of Eigg and Rum and a good chunk of the western seaboard.I was storming up this hill.Motivation gushing out my pores.It was a peice of pee this hill.
As you near the summit a sharp but easy ridge unfolds then you top out onto a grassy platform.My kind of hill this one.
Alex did say it had the best views of the three but I think he was just relieved his pain had at last ended.
The man himself lying in the shade after descending the hill.He confessed there was even a thin trickle of blood coming out his bottom by this stage.
(Not me honest,separate tents, separate toothbrush!) It was caused by three days of sweaty rubbing and friction between his bum cheeks  and his soaked trouser material apparently. (Hey! Too much detail! ALEX.)
We walked back to the tents via the lush,damp and cool Knoydart in a Knutshell walk. This is a cracking wee route through the woodlands and fields surrounding the village and is well worth doing.Its in the shade for much of the time which was a slice of heaven during weather like this.
All that was left was to pack up and catch the 3.00 pm ferry back to Mallaig.£10 each single trip one way on the landing craft.£4 a night for the campsite.Compostable toilet which was a novelty.A wee shed with a deep hole.A fantastic trip which we both enjoyed and great to visit here at long last.Alex gets his motivation for going up hills from his lists of trigs and the satisfaction of being able to mark them up afterwards.I get mine from dreaming about a range of topics as I climb upwards.Yesterday I,d read in the paper that sweet Keira Knightley had announced her engagement to the Klaxons rock group.Any pain in my feet was replaced by a pain in my heart.Approaching 60, ugly and skint I always thought I was in with a  real chance there due to my superior life experience and endearing habits like scoffing cold beans straight from the tin in the tent with a spoon.
And the fact that she was going out with them all...well..I always suspected she  might be a bold one.
( A,hem. I think you will find out she,s only getting engaged to one guy from that popular beat combo. ALEX.)
Really! Damn those dropped beans! That bit was tricky to read.Another treasured male fantasy shattered and that one had wings.Never mind Just the  thought of that  misread article got me to the summit of Sgurr Coire Choinnichean in jig time.I must drop baked beans onto the daily newspapers more often.Makes the headlines more interesting.Almost beat the guidebook time despite the heat and lack of a decent path.

Just one last thought.This next bit is not a complaint just an observation.Admittedly we arrived here during a spell of fantastic weather on the west coast but considering its tags of "Isolated community ,Hard to reach.Cut off .A true wilderness" etc. I felt I should voice the impressions I had of the place on our visit.The village is lovely with some nice quirky touches.The hills are as wild,untamed and high as ever.
The villagers are friendly and keen to help make your stay a good one but on this visit at least I for one was surprised by just how many folk ( ie tourists) were milling around here.I suppose any place as stunning as this one with the reputation it has is bound sooner or later to become That  "in place" to go to.I certainly noticed a big increase in footfall around the village in Rum though not on the hills when we were there recently.
MV Lord of the Glens. A luxury mini cruise ship which cruises the highlands and islands.A beautiful boat built to travel the Caledonian canal as well as the seas around here.This berthed here overnight. It has 27 high class cabins.During each day several ferries pulled in to unload their cargo of passengers to be transported to the various bed and breakfasts,bunkhouse and pub accommodation.The pub itself was always busy each night with up to thirty people,many off yachts moored nearby,tucking into platters of seafood.I don't know if its like this all summer but Inverie and its surroundings didn't feel that remote if I,m honest and reminded me more of the trendy Ubiquitous Chip in Ashton lane, a fashionable restaurant /bar in Glasgow's west end with a similar clientele.Upmarket high flyers a fair percentage of them. Most highland pubs I,ve been in don,t have that mix or that turnover.In fact a lot of Glasgow pubs would struggle to match those numbers mid week in summer.Obviously tourism is the main income for a community like this and a lot of people depend on it for a living.Its good to see a success story in the highlands.Its not as if its going to disappear either by me writing this as the hills behind will always be a big draw for visitors wanting to climb the Munro,s and yachts will always pull in here overnight for the scenery and food alone.Its just the newspaper tags I have a problem with.Maybe fifteen years ago it felt remote here or in bad weather or winter when I imagine it reverts to its colour supplement image of being off the beaten track.  But like a lot of places around the world nowadays when travel is so quick and easy and information instant at the click of a button it definitely seems to be on people,s radar now and not just the outdoor type.
Campsite beach.These folk were very well behaved by the way with teenagers and children and went to bed at a reasonable hour.They didn,t cause any trouble and were a professional disciplined organisation.The only reason I took this photo was to illustrate a point. They were just one of several large groups around the village with a wedding party of 70 walkers booked in for the Saturday we left.All great trade for the locals of course for what is a short season.Everyone we spoke to during the three days had a great time and I never heard any complaints except about the heat and lack of a cool breeze.But the much vaunted "one of the  last great mainland wildernesses in Scotland" or "A remote isolated community"as the papers roll out routinely every so often? Well I,d be interested to hear from anyone that,s been in Inverie recently in summer.Was this just a one off? Inland from the coast  its still as wild as ever though Munro bagging has taken off in a big way and shows no signs of slowing down.

They still exist of course...those completely empty places....they are not admittedly as dramatic or as scenic as this place and tend to be away from the magnetic draw of Munro's and Corbett,s.You can still walk in Scotland for days without seeing anyone and camp for months without anyone knowing about it .
But I for one am never going to write about those rare places on here .Trust me...Its much better that way :)
Too many are going or gone already.
Whenever you put " The last great wilderness" down  on paper anywhere expect a rush.


Unknown said...

I agree completely, Knoydart, spectacular though it is, is consistently missold as Europe's last great wilderness. And it's not just Inverie. I made my first visit to Barrisdale after being inspired by McNiesh and his rather purple prose which gave no hint that the icy bothy had a noisy generator right beside it, or that in the adjacent house the shepherd would be using the electricity this produced to watch satellite TV! We camped anyhow, and the memory of the moonlit walk in down the shores of Loch Hourn, with snow almost to sea level is one that will always be with me.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Gavin.
Yeah, I spent a night in Barrisdale
must be 10 to fifteen years ago.That bloody generator started up just as we were going to sleep right outside the window.We got about 2 hours sleep when it stopped then the Cockerel started as it was mid June and light around 3.00 am.We had a tiny tent but the midges were shocking.
We got up at 5am for a 12 hour day on the hills completely shattered.
Good Fun though.

The Glebe Blog said...

I love the detail and humour you put in your posts Bob.
I'd forgotten what sweat rashes were until I got dehydrated. My last sweat rash was a double shift on the Coke Oven lids around 1970.
Poor old Keira Knightley will never know what she's missed. I didn't know though that she was approaching 60, ugly and skint. Beauty is in the eye of the beholden Bob.
Some fantastic scenery in this series of posts Bob.
I think your right about it being a remote wilderness. I just think that more and more people are coming to realize that the more outdoor time they get, the longer they'll live.
Cheers, Slainte,Scholl,Nostrovia

Carol said...

Very humorous post as always! ;-)

I'm hoping to be in Knoydart in September if my arm gets better in time!

blueskyscotland said...

How dare you! She,s 27 Jim.Your taking the piss now and mis-reading wot I rote:)
Also,although a lovely place, Inverie, when I was there at least, felt more like a tourist destination village rather than an Isolated wilderness.
Clyde Muirsheil Regional park feels more empty and remote even though its right next to Glasgow.
As to the last comment...Tell that to the people working in the salt mines :)
I,ve got my confrontational sod head on tonight after watching Punk Britannia on TV:)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol.
The main thing is dont rush it too much.Relax.Years ago I had a freind who was super driven and could never sit still.Even after she broke her leg she used to hop up and down the street most nights to keep her good leg and body at peak fitness.She ended up falling over and making it worse.A cautionary tale!

Carol said...

I've still been going out every day walking but have been sticking to firm, dry surfaces. I'm hoping this break doesn't make me more cowardly though... I was just starting to do a bit better!

@KnoydartJim said...

I've lived in Knoydart for 7 years and have noticed a steady but noticeable increase in summer tourist traffic to the point of saturation, mainly around the village and to a certain extent on the Munros and the "walks in" from Glenfinnan and Kinlochhourn. We get journalists here every summer writing wholly inaccurate "Last wilderness in Europe" nonsense for glossy magazines and newspaper supplements. For truly wild places head to northern Scandinavia. Having said that, there are still plenty of quiet corners on the peninsula - I'm not going to tell you where they are - and Knoydart in winter has a completely different feel. I prefer life here in winter than I do in summer.

Tommy said...

I've lived in Knoydart for 10 years, and I agree with Jim that Inverie has changed hugely over that time. Much of this is down to private enterprise, with residents providing what visitors want (high-end accommodation nowadays). You're right, it shouldn't be marketed as a wilderness any more, but I suppose it sounds better than a "luxury hot-tub destination". I sometimes worry that it'll turn into Disneyland, and I suppose, to some people, it already has. I find the whole tourism / wilderness issue fascinating: we don't really have the capacity of the big parks in America, so you inevitably run into conflicts (ie a stag group being in the same place as you when all you want is a quiet evening). Inverie is unique in that it is theoretically hard to get to, and therefore remote: but it's actually only a ten-minute speed boat ride from the train station.

I would echo above sentiments about finding your own wilderness: you only need to walk 10 minutes out of Inverie, strike off the road, and you could walk all day without meeting another person.

Great blog; really enjoyed reading it.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers for the local view guys.I was a bit worried about adding that part as it is a lovely village and as you say folk are not going to turn down an opportunity to make money if its on the doorstep.A lot of highland villages have little to keep the young people there due to a lack of job prospects for them.
I try my best to write an accurate description of any area I visit but as its only an outsiders viewpoint passing through it may not always be the same as a locals point of view.

Anonymous said...

Fun, honest report of what looked to be a hot trip.

I've still not been to Inverie - only walked into Barrisdale - but I think I'll leave it until the 'off-season' for tourists in the hope that it will be quieter.

ann said...

Enjoying your blog. I hope to go to Knoydart in 2016. I must admit that I discovered this area by researching my ancestors and discovered they left this area in 1786 on the Ship Macdonald for Glengarry Canada. They were Donald Macdonald and Catherine Macgillis. The computer may mean more people arrive on the doorstep of Inverie but compared to living in a city the size of Melbourne Australia; Inverie looks remote to me. Blogs like this just stir me up into making this trip to Scotland happen. Thanks for sharing your treks.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Ann.
I'm sure you will love it when you go. Its a lovely village. Myself and Alex are pretty spoiled when it comes to wilderness areas. As we are not doing the 3000 footers anymore, (Munro's)but just walk the unfashionable lesser hills these days we rarely see anyone on our trips. It just came as a bit of a shock to discover other people around and a busy campsite. It was an exceptionally good spring that year and a rare heat wave which would draw folk in from hundreds of miles around.
We be wild mountain men now. Log cabins and bear wrestling is the nearest we get to a good time.