Adventures in the Wilderness

Well, I’m back from Scotland, and have started my new job.  What better time to reminisce over the holidays?  As a result without any further ado, I’ll talk about my Scottish adventure.

AW and I planned a few months ago to visit the most remote pub on the island of Great Britain.  It’s in a small town called Inverie, and is accessible only by boat, or a 30 odd mile hike.  Obviously we decided to hike in, and then get the boat out (stopping overnight to enjoy the pub itself of course).

After getting the overnight train from Euston to Glasgow, then another train from Glasgow to Glenfinnan (with the viaduct of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets fame), we started our walk around 1pm.

The famous Glenfinnan viaduct

The famous Glenfinnan viaduct

The scenery was wonderful, but the weather was cloudy with light drizzle. The route was fairly simple, and essentially took us up a glen, over a pass, then back down the other side.  Unfortunately for us, the weather turned at the summit of the pass, and once we’d crossed over the other side, we were completely drenched, owing to the heavy rain and strong winds.  At around 7pm, we finally got down the second glen, when we were faced with having to ford a very deep and fast flowing river.  It took us quite a while to decide where to cross, and it was about knee deep (resulting in a total drenching)!  The challenge that immediately followed was to cross an area of land described by a sign as “dangerous bog”, which was rather reassuring. It was certainly a bog (I personally can vouch for this as I ended up thigh deep in it on several occasions)!  Anyway, we eventually got to where we were going to camp, but the weather was still horrendous, so instead we elected to push on through a forest to a bothy.

A'Chuil bothy and the surrounding countryside

A’Chuil bothy and the surrounding countryside

Upon reaching the bothy, we were ecstatic, and we quickly made ourselves at home and had some tea (after collecting water from the river outside).  There was one other occupant inside, a man called Dave who had done the walk many times, amongst lots of others in the area.  We chatted until 11pm or so, after which we went to sleep (after leaving some chocolate buttons out for the resident mice).

The next day dawned, and we packed and left.  The destination for this day was another bothy, around 7 miles away, and over another pass.  Luckily the weather was much better, with sunny spells instead. The first part of the route involved crossing yet another bog (and once more I fell in it rather deeply), but after that, there weren’t too many troubles.  Descending down from the pass at around 4ish was amazing, and the view was breathtaking (with the sun shining down over Loch Nevis – the sea loch where the bothy was on the shore of).

Loch Nevis

Loch Nevis

We reached the bothy at around half 6 or so, and therefore enjoyed a rather relaxing evening (with Dave who had arrived a few hours earlier) sitting outside in the sunshine, in the middle of nowhere, at peace with nature.  It was delightful.

Sourlies Bothy

Sourlies Bothy

The route the following day was subject to the tides (as the path went over the beach), and as a result, we had to leave at 6am. However, I’d been up since around half 3 owing to the mice who sounded like they were having an enormous party under the sleeping platform. We left just as the sun broke over the mountains, giving yet another beautiful view.

Sunrise over the Scottish Mountains

Sunrise over the Scottish Mountains

AW and I stopped at around half 7 to grab a quick breakfast on the road, as immediately after, there was a 600m ascent.  After breakfast, and what seemed like the longest climb in history, we made it to the top, and looked down the next and final valley.

The view towards Inverie

The view towards Inverie

We could see the village of Inverie (which is also on the edge of Loch Nevis), but it was a good 6 miles away still.  Having made it to the top, we rewarded ourselves with a long rest, and had some delicious (and ice cold) water from the mountain spring we were sitting beside.

That's what spring water actually looks like

That’s what spring water actually looks like

Then we hastened on, down the long valley to go to the village. Around 3 hours later, we finally arrived in Inverie absolutely knackered.

Not a walk for the fainthearted!

Not a walk for the fainthearted!

We dumped our stuff at the bunkhouse where we were staying, had a rather good shower, and headed out into the town.  First on the agenda (for it was only 1pm at this stage), was some lunch.  The pub wasn’t open until 3, so we elected to snack at the tearoom where we had an enormous pot of tea and a large sandwich (I chose cheese and haggis).

Cheese and haggis baguette.  Ideal!

Cheese and haggis baguette. Ideal!

After that, we moved to the pub, and enjoyed a few pints outside (until the midgies got too bad – they’d been plaguing us the whole trip to be honest, but that’s to be expected).

The most remote pub in Britain!

The most remote pub in Britain!

Supper time soon rolled around, and I decided to eat scallops (collected from Loch Nevis, so it couldn’t get more local).

Scallops from the Loch!

Scallops from the Loch!

After that, and a few more pints of course, it was bed time, which was great (as we actually had proper beds this time)!  We woke early the next morning, and caught the ferry to Mallaig, from which we got the train all the way home.

The ferry back to civilisation.

The ferry back to civilisation.

It was a great holiday, very challenging, but exceptionally rewarding (especially with respect to the scenery).  All in all though, let’s be honest, it was just a pub walk!

 

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Travel Concept #1 – The Islands of Western Scotland

Right, so this blog has a lot of travel stuff on it, and I’m back in that procrastinatorial mindset.  The result is that I’ve created a new category of posts – ooooo, exciting!  Basically I’ll just write down ideas I have for journeys I’d like to do at some point.  So, what’s the first one I hear you ask?  Well, read on and find out.

I’ve long had a love of islands.  I’m not sure why, but they always fascinate me.  Their close relationship to the sea, and the communities that live on them.  I guess it’s not a particular surprise, given that I’ve lived on an (admittedly fairly large) island my whole life, and the UK is by definition, and island nation.  A few years ago, Martin Clunes did a series of three documentaries about the smaller islands around the UK (watch them on YouTube here, they are excellent).

Anyway, I’ve been told that the islands off the west coast of Scotland are beautiful (and I’ve visited Skye and Arran already.  They were simply stunning, so it’s safe to assume that the others are equally great, and it’d be marvellous to go back to those two islands anyway). But all the best trips need a purpose.  Fortunately, whilst in the depths of procrastination, it struck me.  What’s Scotland famous for? Whisky.  Obviously.  So, why not merge a trip to the Scottish islands with a tour of all their respective distilleries?  A quick search online later, and I had the complete list of distilleries.  13 in total, spread over six islands (Arran, Islay, Jura, Lewis/Harris, Mull, and Skye).  A few minutes after that, and the route was planned, with the ferries all worked out.

A trip to Harris and Lewis would give me the chance to visit the Callanish Standing Stones, which is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a long time.  They’re essentially similar to Stonehenge, but far less touristy and in a much more picturesque location!  The geology of this part of the world is amazing too.  I had a trip to Arran in Part IA, Skye in Part II, and have also studied Mull extensively in Part IB. Lewis is home to the oldest rocks in the UK – the Lewisian Gneiss (at a whopping 2.7 billion years old).  A sample of the Lewisian Gneiss also happens to be my favourite one in my rock collection (admittedly I collected it from Skye, but the rock type is the same)!

Now all I need are nine days free and a car with a decent sized boot!

So, without further ado, here’s the concept:

Island Distillery Itinerary (click to enlarge)

Island Distillery Itinerary (click to enlarge) – ferry prices include two people and a car

A Cheeky Ramble

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time, and after graduation seemed like the perfect time to start ticking off fun travel things.  I mentioned it to AW, and he seemed very keen, so we’ll be going together.  What is it I hear you ask?  Well, it’s a walk to the most remote pub on the island of Great Britain.  Called the Old Forge, it is situated on the remote Knoydart Peninsula in the highlands (just opposite the Isle of Skye).  It’ll take three days to walk there from the nearest town (Glenfinnan), camping for two nights along the way (one wild camping in a tent, the other, if it’s not full, in a bothy). You’ll definitely recognise Glenfinnan, or rather, its railway viaduct. It’s this bridge from the Harry Potter film series, and is where scenes like this were filmed.  As me and AW will be getting the train to the start of the walk, we’ll get to travel over it, which will be great!

One of the benefits of walking in the Scottish Highlands in the summer is the long days.  Owing to its high latitude, in the summer, sunrise is around 04:30, with sunset taking place well past 22:00, so there’s a lot of time for walking!  The maps are faultless in the UK, courtesy of the Ordnance Survey, founded in 1791 to make detailed maps of the whole country.  The remoteness of the Highlands means that you’re almost always alone in beautiful mountains.  The only downside is that it usually rains, and there is a rather significant population of midges, ticks, and other delightful insects that enjoy eating you.

Once me and AW make it to the town of Inverie, and have enjoyed a celebratory pint and pub supper, the next morning, we’ll have to head back.  We won’t be walking out though, but instead getting a boat across the sea loch to Mallaig, before getting the train back to the Home Counties.

All that remains now is to finalise the details and book everything up!

(If you’re interested in the route we’re planning to follow, the route described on this excellent blog here is what we’ll be aiming to emulate).

PS:  The geology is pretty interesting around here too, so that’s an added bonus!