Walk #502: Inverie to Kinloch Hourn
Map of the walk
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format. For a detailed table of timings for this walk, please see the table file.
Today was a notable day for two reasons; firstly I finally completed a walk through Knoydart after a previous (ahem!) failed attempt, and secondly I reached the 5,000 mile mark on this trip. Both of these are important psychological barriers removed from me, and I now know that the hardest part of the walk is over, and I have only 1,000 miles left to walk in over two months. I woke early this morning to the sound of the German scouts playing guitars, and we got up and braved the midges whist we made porridge. Once we had eaten the Germans asked us if they wanted any mussels - they had been up earlier and collected and cooked a large bucketful. I am not a great fan of shellfish, but Sam is, so we went into their tent (which looked something akin to a large Thargoid mother ship), and had a fire roaring away in the middle, which at least kept the midges away. There were some deer wandering around the campsite, and all of this made for a wonderful morning.
Eventually I set off, and Sam walked with me as far as the public road. As soon as I left her and started the initial small climb I felt depressed, and I missed Sam terribly. Half of me wanted to go back and be with her, which is a strange as I knew I was going to be seeing her in a few hours. It took me about an hour to get rid of this depression, and it was the sight of the loch glinting in the sun that raised my spirits.
I had been expecting the first push to the 420 metre Mam Barrisdale to be fairly easy, and nowhere near as strenuous as the latter part of yesterday's walk. This proved to be the case, and I managed to reach the top with only occasional pauses to look behind me at the superb view over Loch an Dubh-Lochain and the sea. This view proved to be quite overpowering to me, and once I glanced at them I found it hard to look forwards. At the summit I stopped or a few minutes, and sat down on the side of the cairn to loo back at the view. Nearby and slightly above me two men were camping, and I could not help but think about how wonderful a place it must be to camp.
I was very surprised by the bothy at Barrisdale, as a working farm surrounds it and it actually costs money to stay there, which is not normally the case for bothies. The money is probably well worth it, however, as they have electric light (provided from a generator) and a toilet - absolute luxury, although more like a bunkhouse than a bothy in some ways. There is a website for Barrisdale - see www.barisdale.com for more information.
Once I entered the bothy I started chatting to a man who was inside. He was with two friends on a walking holiday based at the bothy, but was tired after a walk yesterday and had had a day off. We chatted for a while about the local area, and I then went to sign he bothy visitor's book. I always like doing this when I visit a bothy, and I also read through the entries to see of anyone has been up to anything interesting. As I sat reading it I came across a sad entry - a man who had been camping here earlier in the year had fallen to his death.
I knew that it was seven miles to Kinloch Hourn from the bothy, and the man told me that it would take about three hours, so I was in no particular hurry. About twenty minutes after I set off it started to drizzle just as I was starting the first climb of the afternoon, but I did not stop to put my coat on as I was quite warm. After about ten minutes my trousers were soaked from wading through the waist-high vegetation that hung over the path, but I still did not get cold.
As I walked on the path became increasingly busy with people making their way to Barrisdale for a weekend's walking. I chatted to several of them, and this delayed me slightly in getting to the van in Kinloch Hourn. The steep ascents and descents did not help me either, and in places the path was good, but quite rocky, and not ideal for keeping up a fast pace. In the meantime Sam had a marathon journey - she caught the eleven o'clock ferry from Inverie to Mallaig, and then she had to drive one hundred miles to Kinloch Hourn. Coincidentally a gent in Inverie needed a lift to Kinloch Hourn to pick up his car, and so Sam gave him a lift and he kindly gave us some money towards the fuel costs and to the charity.
The afternoon air was still when I arrived at Kinloch Hourn, and the midges were thronging around the van. I jumped in, and I soon had my wet clothes and kit off and was towelling myself dry. We did not have to move the van, so we stayed in, showered, and had a little celebration to mark 5,000 miles and the hardest part of the walk completed. Edinburgh does not seem so far away now!
This walk starts off at the campsite in Inverie, which is immediately to the south of Inverie House. Leave the campsite and then head back towards the village; when the track becomes a surfaced public road turn right to head uphill through some woodland before turning to the right to head southeastwards. The track passes underneath Lord Brockett's Monument , after which the track turns to head northeastwards for a couple of miles past Torcuileainn and along the northern bank of Loch an Dubh-Lochainn. The track is very distinct and easy to follow, even after the lochainn when it becomes a path and starts to climb steeply up to Mam Barrisdale. At Mam Barrisdale the path continues downhill northeastwards, eventually reaching a wide valley floor and crossing the River Barrisdale on a bridge. Immediately on the other side of the bridge is Barrisdale Bothy, where this walk could be broken into two days.
From Barrisdale Bothy continue northwards along the track along the eastern side of Barrisdale Bay. Just before a building is reached near Fraoch Eilean a path leads off to the right, climbing steeply uphill to the east before slowly descending to meet the southern bank of Loch Hourn. The path continues eastwards along the southern bank of the loch, rising and falling as it progresses on. The path is easy to follow but is quite rough in places, particularly on some of the steep sections. Eventually the path reaches Loch Beag, where it skirts along the shoreline of the loch and becomes a public road. This walk ends about a hundred yards on the right down the pubic road at a car park in Kinloch Hourn.
This makes a total distance of 15.1 miles, with 3845 feet of ascent and 3829 feet of descent.
We parked Mervan in the car park at the end of the public road in Kinloch Hourn for the night. Apparently there is a toilet nearby and a camping area, but we did not have to use either of these. The car park costs a pound for each night that you park here, but they let us park for free (and in the flatter, daytime-only car park).
Please note that I take no responsibility for anything that may happen when following these directions. If you intend to follow this route, then please use the relevant maps and check the route out before you go out. As always when walking, use common sense and you should be fine.
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And finally, enjoy your walking!
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