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KNOYDART

This area is wild, remote, very wet at times, yet stunningly beautiful. In the far west lies the small village of Inverie, the only place on the British mainland that can’t be reached by car.

The area is bordered by the sea lochs of Loch Hourn and Loch Nevis to the west and the great depths of Loch Quoich to the east. The mountains include majestic Ladhar Bheinn (the most westerly Munro), Sgurr na Ciche and Ben Aden, a great rock peak at the remote head of Loch Quoich.

There are 33 Top 500 Summits in this area, 15 Munros, 17 Corbetts and 1 Graham. The mountains are:

1    Sgurr na Ciche                                          3,412 ft         2    Gleouraich                                                3,396 ft

3    Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich                                  3,369 ft         4    Ladhar Bheinn                                          3,346 ft

5    Garbh Chioch Mhor                                 3,323 ft        6    Sgurr Mhor                                                3,291 ft

7    Spidean Mialach                                       3,268 ft        8    Gulvain                                                       3,238 ft

9    Beinn Sgritheall                                         3,196 ft       10  Sgurr Thuilm                                              3,159 ft

11  Sgurr nan Coireachan (Glenfinnan)          3,136 ft       12  Sgurr nan Coirachan                                 3,127 ft

13  Meall Buidhe                                             3,104 ft         14  Luinne Bheinn                                           3,081 ft

15  Gairich                                                        3,015 ft         16  Sgurr a’ Choire-bheithe                           2,996 ft

17  Streap                                                         2,982 ft         18  Sgurr an Fhuarain                                     2,956 ft

19  Sgurr nan Eugallt                                      2,945 ft        20  Ben Aden                                                   2,910 ft

21  Sgurr Mhurlagain                                      2,887 ft         22  Bidean a’ Chabhair                                   2,844 ft

23  Fraoch Bheinn                                           2,815 ft         24  Beinn Bhuidhe                                           2,805 ft

25  Sgurr Cos na Breachd-Laoidh                   2,740 ft       26  Carn Mhor                                                  2,720 ft

27  Beinn na h-Eaglaise                                  2,641 ft         28  Sgurr Coire Choinnichean                       2,612 ft

29  Sgurr an Utha                                            2,612 ft          30  Beinn na Caillich                                        2,575 ft

31  Beinn nan Caorach                                    2,539 ft         32  Braigh nan Uamhachan                            2,510 ft

33  Beinn a’ Chapuill                                        2,490 ft

My three favourite walks in this area are

1  A two day circuit of the high peaks of Knoydart from Inverie.

2  Canoeing over Loch Quoich to remote Ben Aden.

3  Sgurr Thuilm and Sgurr nan Coireachan, a classic Munro circuit from the Glenfinnan Monument, sometimes known as the Corryhully horseshoe.

1. Two Days Circuit from Inverie

Top 500 Summits climbed, Meall Buidhe, Luinne Bheinn, Ladhar Bheinn.

 8,500  ft of climbing, distance 25 miles (40km

Shoreline at Inverie
Shoreline at Inverie

This walk is one of the most fascinating and varied walks anywhere in the world. On the first day it starts from the remote village of Inverie, passes over two very remote Munros, Meall Buidhe and Luinne Bheinn, finishing at beautiful Barrisdale Bay. You can camp or stay in the bothy here.  On the second day Ladhar Bheinn is climbed. Ladhar Bheinn is one of the great Scottish mountains overlooking the sea, and many people’s favourite mountain. 

The walk starts from Inverie which is reached by boat from Mallaig. The boat runs regularly, weather permitting, and you can either go over the night before and stay in Inverie, there is a bunkhouse and other accommodation, or travel early in the morning. Inverie is a delightful place by the sea with a good pub and coffee shop. From Inverie walk along a good track down the Glen. After 3km you will pass the Brocket Memorial.

Barrisdale Bay (Heather Thomas Smith)
Barrisdale Bay (Heather Thomas Smith)

Take the right hand fork and follow a path over a bridge, and up Gleann Meadail to Mam Meadail, the pass at the head of the Glen (1,800ft). Head east of north to reach a col west of Sgurr Sgeithe, then climb the south east ridge of Meall Buidhe, passing over the south east top before reaching the summit.

From the summit return to the south east top, descend the narrow north east ridge, then climb 300ft to go over the rocky peak of Druim Leac a’ Shith. Continue over another rocky knoll then drop down to the Bealach a’ Choire Odhair (2,200ft). Climb north east to the east ridge of Luinne Bheinn, then follow the ridge west over the east top and on to the summit. From the summit retrace your steps until it is possible to descend north to Barrisdale Bay and the end of day one.

Barrisdale Bay is a lovely spot, sheltered from the worst of the weather. Ben Sgriol, a fine Munro, can be seen across the bay to the north, whilst Ladhar Bheinn rises majestically to the west.

Ladhar Bheinn from the south east (Chris Wood)
Ladhar Bheinn from the south east (Chris Wood)

The following morning, start from Barrisdale Bothy and take the path to Inverie, which crosses the river after 1km. After crossing the river turn right along a stalker’s path which leads to Coire Dhorrcail. Continue on the stalker’s path for a few hundred metres then climb west to the north east ridge of Ladhar Bheinn. This is a magnificent ridge and a joy to climb. The path makes its way up the ridge, over Stob a’ Choire Odhar, and on to the summit. It is worth walking along the west ridge to the trig point for a great view.

After returning to the summit, descend south east along the summit ridge for 800m to a low bealach at 2,300ft. The ridge is narrow with a steep drop on the north side. From the bealach traverse the western slopes of Aonach Sgoilte. Aonach Sgoilte fails to attain Corbett and Top 500 Summit status by a mere 25ft. You will meet a ridge above Glen an Dubh Lochain. Cross this and descend south for 2,000ft to the track which leads back to Inverie in 6km.

2. Ben Aden by Canoe

2,500 ft of climbing, distance 17 miles (12 miles by canoe).

Sgurr na Ciche (left) and Ben Aden from Loch Quoich
Sgurr na Ciche (left) and Ben Aden from Loch Quoich

Ben Aden is a fine rock peak which competes with Ladhar Bheinn and Sgurr na Ciche for the title of best mountain in this region. However, at 2,910ft, it is below Munro status and therefore rarely climbed.

Access to Ben Aden is challenging. It can be climbed from Barrisdale Bay or the head of Loch Nevis, Sourlies Bothy or Camusrory. Probably the most common route is to start from the single track road along the north side of Loch Quoich and walk for six miles along the side of Loch Quoich to its western end. This is a long way at the best of times, but after wet weather, the Abhainn Chosaidh can flood making the route well nigh impossible.

Summit of Ben Aden
Summit of Ben Aden

A fabulous route is to canoe six miles across Loch Quoich and start from its western shore. This gives a great day out and may be the quickest way to climb Ben Aden from the road, depending on your canoeing/kayaking skills. Park at a car park close to the north shore of Loch Quoich (reference 004033) and carry/drag the canoe to the shore. It will take about two hours to canoe to the west end of the loch and experience of canoeing/kayaking  is required.

From the western end of the loch follow a path west towards Lochan nam Breac for 1km, then climb south west beside the Allt Coire na Cruaiche turning gradually west. The rocky summit ridge is reached just east of the final 600ft summit tower, which can be climbed without difficulty. Return the same way or via the summit ridge over Meall a’ Choire Dhuibhe.

3. The Corryhully Horseshoe

Top 500 Summits climbed, Sgurr Thuilm (3,159 ft) and Sgurr nan Coireachan (3,136 ft).

 Distance 13 miles (21km), height climbed 4,600 ft.

This is a classic round from Glenfinnan, where Prince Charlie raised his standard in 1745. It is worth dropping in at the cafe and having a look at the monument either before or after the walk. The round can be speeded up by using a bike along the private road to Corryhully Bothy.

Take the private road north signposted ‘Glenfinnan Lodge’ at the west side of the bridge over the River Finnan. The road goes under the railway viaduct (Fort William to Mallaig train) much seen in pictures. After 4km a Land Rover track, signposted to Loch Arkaig, branches right past Corryhully Bothy. Follow the track to the foot of Druim Coire a’ Bheithe, then climb north east up this broad grassy ridge. Continue over a subsidiary top to reach the summit of Sgurr Thuilm.

Sgurr Thuilm from the north
Sgurr Thuilm from the north

Sgurr nan Coireachan is due west of Sgurr Thuilm but the ridge twists and turns and goes over four subsidiary tops to Sgurr nan Coireachan. Initially head just west of south for a few hundred metres from Sgurr Thuilm, then west, north west, west again and finally south west to reach the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan. Old fence posts mark most of the route. In good weather, the ridge gives great views west to the sea.

From Sgurr nan Coireachan, descend south east down a narrowing ridge with impressive cliffs to the left. Climb to the top of Sgurr a’ Choire Riabhaich, then continue descending south east down the ridge which steepens. Finally the ridge opens out and by descending left, it is possible to pick up a stalkers’ path that leads round the end of the ridge, and down to the Land Rover track. This is followed back to Corryhully Bothy and the start.