Sometimes it just doesn’t happen

So many titles for this post…

  • Life’s too short for box ticking!
  • Is this the remotest hike in Scotland?
  • The Munros that didn’t happen
  • Wilderness and wandering
  • Why?
  • Is this really worth the effort/Can’t be arsed…
  • Photos can be found here -> https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzWMPX
Beinn Sgritheall - sunset
Beinn Sgritheall – sunset

You can probably tell from those potential titles, that what should have been a review of 3 of Scotland’s most remote munros turned into general hike and camp expedition. The 3 summits were to be Ladhar Bheinn, followed by Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe the next day.

So what can you take away from this if you carry on reading? Well perhaps a different outlook to getting out and about. A sense of how remote parts of Scotland are; plans can be made, but accept change. Sometimes even though you’re planning on doing so much, you should really plan on something a little bit more manageable!

Knoydart

Remote! The munros in this area are super remote. You either need to get the ferry to Inverie and then if you’re camping, you hike up and over the pass to Barrisdale (of course you could wild camp – that was my first plan). When you get there they’re signs that recommend you don’t wild camp for the sake of the nature/nesting ground birds etc around you. This is fair enough and to get the use of a toilet and a bothy should you want to, then £5 for a night is nothing really.
You’ll find an honesty box to pay the nightly fee. Only thing is – did you bring any money? Who brings money on a wild camp where you expect to see no one nor do you intend to be anywhere to purchase something!

I approached the area from Kinloch Hourn rather than taking the ferry.

This path is just fine for hiking, but it’s only suitable for walking.
Ladhar Bheinn Luinne Bheinn Meall Buidhe - wild camping - OS Map
Planned route – click to open in OS Maps

The Plan

Start at Kinloch Hourn, cycle along what the map made look like reasonably flat path for 12 Km. Head up to Màm Barrisdale and at the cross roads of the route map pitch my tent (roughly 450 m up). Do one side then come back and sleep, then the next day do the other side. Followed by a cycle back out. Sounds easy!

How it played out…

Firstly I left a little later than I wanted, but not a problem. a 12 Km cycle would be simple enough to reach the camping spot.

Secondly, the weather wasn’t what it was meant to be. On the first day it was damp and occasionally raining (wasn’t meant to), and the cloud was resting on the summits around the 900m mark (again wasn’t meant to).

Next, it was immediately clear the path was not fit for a bike! No chance! Check out the photos and you’ll see what I mean. The two below shots aren’t even the rough areas of the path.

What to do?

Strap on my bag and get walking. The views along the walk are beautiful and with the slightly misty damp conditions made from some very atmospheric scenery.

From the Kinloch Hourn parking spot to the Barrisdale camp it’s a little over 11 Km. The hike with the extra weight of a tent, food etc took over 4 hours. Probably closer to 5 to complete.

It’s definitely a pleasant hike, and as you complete it you certainly get a feel for the remoteness of the area. You pass by many an old croft house that have no means of connection other than by boat/canoe. You can forget phone signal as well – I couldn’t even get a radio signal in my car!

Rain and a remote cottage
Rain and a remote cottage

So no munros

By the time I pitched my tent, it was getting close to 5pm. Sunset was after 10pm. That was enough time, so even though I wasn’t in the mood I thought if nothing else I’d reach the pass at around 450 m to get some photos on the other side. But nope, couldn’t be bothered… Got to around 300 m and had enough. Headed back down for an early night. The weather gave me the feeling that the best chance of cloud free summit would be very early.

Sure enough, I was up early, got myself some food and was hiking up by 5 am. The summits were pretty much clear. Clouds hovering around or above the summits. Got to around 600 m heading up Ladhar Bheinn, but really wasn’t up for it. So back down I went. Oddly I wasn’t bothered about not completing. Clouds were getting thicker, they were starting to come up from below me – which is always awesome.

Ladhar Bheinn Luinne Bheinn Meall Buidhe - wild camping
Clouds rising from Loch an Dubh-Lochain

Knew I had enough food to do me for at least another day if need be, so back down at my tent took another nap with the thought that I could either do the simpler summit of Luinne Bheinn later or even the next day. It was still good to be out and about.

Wake up, it’s raining and decide that enough is enough, I should head back. Enjoy the views and get back to the car. Maybe if I’m quick enough, make it to the tea room before 4pm to get a nice cup of tea.

Didn’t quite make it back in time for the tea room, not that it mattered as they put a sign up saying it was shut for the day.

Tip: Leave yourself some goodies in your car for when you get back from a wild camp.

That’s all!

No, it’s not. Well, perhaps no more hiking but there is more to take away than the above.

Be more realistic in your goals. I had some spare days – which is super rare, so I was wanting to cram in as much as possible. Should have known better.

Plan better, learn from experience. It’s only 11 Km walk, which isn’t all uphill. I’ve done similar to this before, so I should have known that with all the extra weight it wasn’t going to be a speed walk. Expect to be slower. I should have also guessed that the track wouldn’t be suitable for a bike. Single dashed path on OS maps are pretty much only good for walking.

Still it was an enjoyable hike event without ticking more munro boxes. Get out, get some fresh air, get some exercise. Not sticking to the plan can be a good plan – at times.

Planning my next hike already, and I’ll no doubt be back to Knoydart at some point to tick these hills off.

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