Knoydart Walk - Day Five

June 23rd
My original plan was to spend four days walking with a day spare, to enable me to get back to Fort William. Anyway some quick research at the hostel revealed a bus at 9:17 which would get me back to Fort Bill in plenty of time for my train the following morning. I did consider a slow mooch around Glen Sheil but the weather had bucked up it’s ideas again so cadging a lift from a fellow hosteller round to Morvich, set off for Ben Fadha.

Again a superb path leads up Gleann Choinneachain. After the waterfalls a path branches off to the right up Allt Choire an Sgairne.


Allt Choire an Sgairne



Allt Choire an Sgairne

It was whilst climbing this path I saw a large bird circling high overhead. You know what they say, ‘If you’re not sure whether it’s an Eagle or a Buzzard, then it’s a Buzzard’. Anyway I’ve seen plenty of Buzzards in my time and this looked just like one. Only it was very high up. I watched till it disappeared over the crags opposite and continued up out of the corrie and on to the summit plateau, eventually tumbling in to the shelter to escape the once more biting wind.

It didn’t seem to matter which directing the wind came from - even the south - it was still bloody freezing. Whilst sheltering in here and taking pics of the surrounding area, I saw the bird below me again cruising swiftly, very swiftly over the broad ridge and out across the corrie. There was no doubt this time, it was far too fast and probably too high and certainly too large for a Buzzard. So there it was, my first Golden Eagle. Sorry no pics, it was too far away. I waited for about twenty minutes hoping for another sighting before the cold and yet another impending shower sent me scurrying for the shelter afforded by the corrie walls.


Bheinn Fhada



Bheinn Fhada


Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan


Glen Affric

Returning to Gleann Choinneachain, it was still relatively early in the day so I continued on up to the Bealach and started up A’ Ghlas-bheinn which was surmounted with much less effort than Ben Fadha. Apart, that is, from the ridiculous number of ‘False summits’ that had to be negotiated first. That's the main difference I have noted on this trip compared to my usual jaunts around The Lakes. Not only does everything seem bigger, it's usually further away and you have to climb over innumerable other 'tops' to get where you want to go.


Loch Duich from 'A Ghlass-bheinn


Looking back to 'A Ghlass-bheinn


The descent was made to Bealach nan Stroine on the north side where I fell into conversation with another walker, returning from the falls of Glomach. We walked together back to the car park and she kindly offered me a lift back to the hostel, even stopping at the shop to let me buy my tea. Whoever you were, many thanks!

… and a few pics of Loch Duich and the Five Sisters to round off.







Knoydart Walk - Day Four

June 22nd
Well it seemed like a good idea at the time, a high level camp, that is. Anyway the morning weather appeared no better than the night before and after a poor night’s sleep I was in no rush to get going. Eventually emerging from my sleeping bag I did for one moment consider heading for the valley. But there was the Saddle, looming over me and just asking to be climbed.

I considered traversing round and climbing the Forcan Ridge but quite frankly I’d had enough of messing around with ridges in poor weather (If you’re reading this Ridge - nothing personal). Anyway from what I understand it was too good to squander on a bad day so I took the easy option which was the path straight up from the Bealach.


On top of the Saddle


Spot my tent - bottom right corner!


Ratagan


Moody evening light on Loch Duich


Leaving the tent and kit it took just under an hour and now suitably warmed up I returned to the tent, struck camp and took the long route down Allt a Choire Chaoil to Sheil Bridge where I made a bee line for the Youth Hostel at Ratagan.

Knoydart Walk - Day Three

There’s no doubt about the beauty of Barrisdale and the solitude. I could have stayed here a week. But I was conscious of the need to keep moving, to edge a little closer back towards civilisation, so that I was at least within easy distance of Fort William and my train back home.


Loch Hourn


Ladhar Bheinn


Ladhar Bheinn


Ladhar Bheinn

An early start saw me on the long path up to Kinloch Hourn. Ladhar Bheinn was at last standing in all it’s glory across the loch and I slightly wished I’d been a little more flexible in my plans and waited for a day like to today to climb it. Still the walk alongside the loch was superb. Didn’t see a soul for the first couple of hours then when I did meet someone going in the opposite direction he kindly pointed out a pair of Otters who were fishing languorously out in the loch. I’ve always wanted to see an Otter in the wild and although they were some distance from shore I spend quite a while watching them.


Loch Hourn

At Kinloch Hourn the temptations of the cafe proved too much and a pot of tea and cake for just £2 was a real pick me up and set me up for the afternoon. I wanted to get over to Glen Shiel, or at least close to it, as i figured that that would be my best route home. Leaving Kinloch Hourn in a northerly direction I set of up the remote Allt Choire Sgoireadail on a mostly excellent path. This really came into it’s own higher up as it approached the Bealach and although not well used was simply a delight to walk on.


Allt Choire Sgoireadail


Glen Quoich

As the day had been warm and sunny I planned a night camp in the mountains but really wanted to get over the watershed and into Glen Sheil before stopping. I dropped into Glen Quoich then up again, this time without the assistance of a path to the top of Bealach Dubh Leac. Slowing down all the while I put on a brew whilst deciding on the next move. There was a small lochan between Sgurr na Sgine and The Saddle which on the map at least offered interesting possibilities. This also had the advantage of taking me across the top of Sgurr na Sgine which would add a further Munro to the tally.


Sgurr na Sgine

The weather, and my stamina were deteriorating as I finally reached the top of Sgurr na Sgine, only to be overtaken by a posse of runners, one who was making an attempt on the Munros 24 hour record. I wished them well and turned my attention to a campsite. From above it did not look at all promising but by this time I was too knackered to descend to Glen Shiel and soon found a little niche between the boulders on the sheltered side of the Bealach.


Campsite

No sooner had I settled in than the weather, which had been deteriorating since about 5:00pm took a turn for the worse and the wind and rain started. Thankfully I was fairly sheltered but soon realised my ancient 3 season sleeping bag was no longer up to the job. Oh how I wished for a fleece hat and spent a cold miserable night, sleeping fitfully.

Knoydart Walk - Day Two

20th June
After a decent kip in the bothy we awoke to find that the rain had almost cleared overnight and it was now merely showery. I resolved to continue where I had left off and made an early start for Luinne Bheinn, minus all the camping paraphernalia which I’d left in the bothy.


Barrisdale


The approach to Luinne Bheinn

Not being too impressed with the state of the path coming down from Mam Barrisdale I thought I’d try the other side up Gleann Unndalain and a few minutes after leaving the bothy came almost face to face with this magnificent beast.



I was walking quietly up beside the burn which was in full flow and as I came out from behind a tree there he was. I have a feeling that he might have been slightly domesticated as there were a few deer hanging around the bothy the night before and he might have been one of those. Nevertheless, once the scent of sweat and midge spray reached him across the burn, he was off.

The path is really good up as far as the bealach then it’s make it up as you go for a while till things improve a the ridge narrows. The showers returned, this time hail, in June, I ask you. I sat one out then made a push for the top. Once there the mist came down again and I was just about to descent when I realised the the top might be a little further on.


Loch Hourn from the top of Luinne Bheinn

Two more ‘tops’ were surmounted in due course and at last the cloud lifted sufficiently to give a decent view of the source of yesterdays’ tribulations, Ladhar Bheinn.


Ladhar Bheinn

Another shower hurried me on my way to Meall Bhuide. I could not believe how cold it was for June. Every spare bit of clothing was put on but as I was travelling light, items such as warm hats and gloves were left at home. Need a rethink if I do this again.


Meall Bhuide from Luinne Bheinn

The summit of Meall Bhuide was just as bad as Luinne Bheinn. Freezing winds and intermittent showers, so seven minutes after arriving, I was off again, retracing my steps back to Luinne Bheinn and on to Barrisdale, knowing that at least this night was going to be dry.

About 10:45, three of us left the bothy for a short walk along the foreshore. A shower had just passed over leaving a magnificent rainbow and clear evening light. We didn’t return till nearly midnight and it was still light enough to read by. Summer in Scotland just does not get any better than this.







Knoydart Walk - Day One

Just got back from a week in Knoydart. My plan was to wild camp where possible but deteriorating weather conditions influenced a change to the overall plan.

Day One
As the overall plan was to walk across Knoydart, taking the car, just to leave it parked for a week seemed a little extreme so I did my bit for global warming and took the train, saving about fifty quid in fuel costs along he way. Left Windermere on the 8:10 train, then after changes at Oxenholme and Glasgow, arrived Mallaig late afternoon. Finding absolutely nowhere to stay I got back on the train and returned as far as Arisaig where there's a superbly situated campsite, right on the beach at Invercaimbe that I visited many years ago.


Invercaimbe Beach

Back in Mallaig the following morning, I boarded the Western Isles for the trip across to Inverie.


The Western Isles

Resisting the temptations of the Old Forge Pub I set off for Ladhar Bheinn. The first part is on easy land rover tracks but once these end, the climb begins in earnest over featureless saturated bog. All the guide books suggest climbing Ladhar Bheinn from the opposite site and I have to agree, there’s not too much of interest on the west. If I’d known what the weather had in store for that afternoon I would probably have changed my plans and approached this one later. As it was I arrived on top in a buffeting wind, low cloud and rain which just increased as I progressed along the ridge.


Ladhar Bheinn Summit

Abandoning all thoughts of a high camp for the night, all I wanted to do was get off the mountain and out of the appalling weather. I dropped down to Barrisdale and sought refuge in the bothy. Never having stayed in a bothy before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was met at the door and welcomed in by a Swedish guy who was staying there with his wife. They were walking from Fort William to Cape Wrath and staying in bothies were possible and had arrived earlier from Sourlies.



Barrisdale Bothy

Being adjacent to a small croft, the bothy was well maintained with running water and surprise, surprise, electricity courtesy of a small hydro generator that produced power for the croft. Luxury indeed. Later that evening we were joined by three guys who had motored up from London, then walked in from Kinloch Hourn and were drenched.

To Wales

Each summer I get together with a few school mates for a reunion. We all have a common bond in walking but our careers have spread us out across the north of England so we don't see each other too often. We usually meet up for a weekend at a pub in one of the quieter parts of the Lakes. This year we headed instead for Wales.

We had grand plans for Grib Goch and Snowdon but the weather was pretty much the same as the rest of the country and no one fancied anything too difficult in the wet. Instead we headed for Beddgelert and set off down the Aberglaslyn pass which after the recent rains was quite spectacular.

Aberglaslyn

I had never actually walked the pass before. I used to go through the old railway tunnel but as this is now in the process of being restored is closed to casual walkers.

We then made tracks for Cnicht, a mountain we had all climbed in our youth and being of a lesser stature, probably more achiveble. Our plan was to take the most direct route which involved crossing two smaller ridges en route. The first was easy and we stopped for lunch in a small wooded valley. At this point the group split, three returning to Beddgelert and the remainder of us attacking the steep slopes of Yr Arrdu. This involved following an indistinct path through lush bracken that was at time six or more feet high. The bracken gave way to heather slopes and the path disappeared. We toiled upwards and after negotiating several wet slabby sections finally came out on top of Yr Arrdu.

I think I can honestly say this is the first time I have ever stood on top of a summit (there was a small cairn) and seen absolutely no sign of a path in any direction. Cnicht was now just across the valley. We descended, far more easily, crossed the valley bottom wetly and headed for the ridge and a much better path. However at this point, thoroughly wet, the concensus was that there was no insufficient time and we headed back to Beddgelert and some excellent ice creams.

Despite the weather and the lack of a notable summit we had had a truly interesting walk. You don't always need to actually get somewhere to have a satisfying day in the hills.

Waste of Time

The waste management situation in Cumbria is a complete shambles. Arguably the Lake District and therefore Cumbria is one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. There are a high proportion of people living in and around the lakes that have a very positive attitude to recycling and would want to keep it that way.

No so our elected representatives it would seem. The public face of recycling in Cumbria is all about roadshows and massive ads in the local press advising people where and when they can recycle. Despite all this, the only not to recycling in the Windermere area is a twice monthly paper collection. Glass, cans, anything else and you've got to take it to the 'civic amenity site'.

This month I pulled out some old wooden panelling and shelving whilst carrying out a renovation project. As the boot in my car is only small I applied for the required permit to take rubbish to the 'civic amenity site' in my van. When I got there I was informed that the permit did not include wood, only household rubbish and that I would need a different permit for wood. So back home I go, unload all the wood as I need the van for something else the following day and apply for a 'wood' permit. This duly arrives.

The wood is reloaded, and again I drive through to Kendal. When I unload, they then tell me that the chipboard cannot be recycled and has to go in the general waste. So not only have I wasted time and fuel, I could have put the stuff out for my local weekly collection anyway and saved a lot of bother, if not the planet.

Why do they do this? Why is it so hard to recycle materials that can be reused? My theory is that it's all about money. They cannot afford to recycle too much as the cost would escalate.

This is very narrow minded. I persevered but not everyone would. What are the alternatives if the council will not dispose of perfectly acceptable materials? I could have burnt it - releasing any carbon or if I had been unscrupulous, just dumped it as others do. And who has to then clear up the mess made by fly tippers, usually at much greater cost? Why good old Cumbria County Council.
Isn't it time for some joined up thinking on this subject?

Walking in Greece

I've recently returned from a couple of weeks in Greece, where the weather was considerably better than it has been in the UK. Whilst there I climbed Mount Olympus which was well worth the two days effort required. Details will be posted soon, in the meantime there are some pictures here

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Introduction

I had the idea for this walk around 20 years ago. Having lived in and around Windermere for most of my life and visited most of the viewpoints around the lake I thought it would be an interesting project to link these together and to walk right around the lake.
The Windermere Way route was first published in 2003. The map was available from local bookshops but promotion and distribution cost more than I was making from selling it so this was abandoned. Publishing the route as a website is a way to bring this lovely walk to a much wider audience. I hope you enjoy it.