Broken Roads—A journey through Knoydart, one of the UK’s least accessible peninsulas.
Story, Photos and Film By: Annie Lloyd Evans
Featuring Annie Lloyd Evans and Huw Oliver
This is my pee bottle, don’t be alarmed if you see me using it in the night”. Quite forward from a man id met only 40 minutes ago! But then I had stripped off in front of him less than 10 minutes after meeting him. Such is the way of bothys, a uniquely intimate way of sharing of a home for the night with total strangers.
Myself and Huw had arrived here after a few hours of technical mountain biking in the rain, and then a few hours of packrafting, catching the tide up a long sea loch (also in the rain). We had arrived at the bothy soaking wet, grateful for its presence. Despite the weather, we were stoked. Our paddle had taken us past sea eagles, otters, seals that chased us through the caols (a narrowing of the loch) and even a mum and calf porpoise, who glided past us into the flow.
Trying not to drip all over the bothy and ruin the peace of the three older gentlemen already tucked cosily in sleeping bags, we pulled on dry clothes and lit our stove. The night passed with a feel of gentle companionship, the rain drumming heavily on the tin roof. Despite my suspicions, none of the men were bad snorers and we fell asleep easily to the sound of water and the roaring stags.
The following day broke sunny and calm. It was wonderful to feel the sun and watch the water evaporate from our still wet clothes. We had a big push ahead of us, over a bealach (high pass) into another glen, before doing another up and over to where we hoped to camp. The initial push, although hard went quickly. We celebrated reaching the watershed with half a Mars bar, and we were looking forward to the descent. Unfortunately, it was around here that the trail ran out. A blown-out path of bog and boulders awaited us. Several hours of sinking, swearing and nearly crying later and we finally made it to the glen floor. I was so tired that I could have laid down in the mud and slept where I was. But, with another bealach to cross, all I could do was put on my big girl pants and get up the next hill.
Finding a campsite just as dusk descended was a relief. It been a long time since I was so happy to collapse into the tent. Another night listening to the rain and planning for the following day. The way we wanted to go had no guaranteed trail, but with no other options we had to try. Crossing the river from our camp we picked up a good track, then it kept going and going. What for us was one of the least known sections of this route, ended up being the easiest riding! With delight, we flew across the terrain, splashing though deep puddles and arrived at our next loch and paddling section.
While we grabbed a snack before putting on the loch, a stalking party arrived by boat. A lady came over to find out our days plan, so we tried to explain that we were about to paddle and would not be in their way. This is one of the fun things about pack rafts when they’re all rolled up: if you don’t know, you don’t know. She kept looking at our bikes with the boats still packed on the front, and looking confused, before deciding she had misheard. Several attempts to explain our plan later and we eventually agreed, whatever we were doing, we would not be near them and left it at that. They disappeared up the hill in their Argo-cat but I really hope they caught a glimpse of us out on the loch.
Our final day took us over yet another steep pass. This time the descent was good and the views outstanding. Scotland’s west coast, when the sun is out, is breath taking. We arrived in Inverie stinking, mud-covered but extremely happy. All that was left was to wait for the ferry with tea and scones.