Knoydart - walking and a little packrafting. Pic heavy...

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Jun 1, 2012
Knoydart April 2014

With just 4 days spare for this trip it was important to get an early start from the Midlands. Up at 2.30 am :(

Arriving at Fort William at 10 am (after a 7 hour drive) is always a relief. The drive onward from Glasgow is really the start of the trip though. I love that drive along Loch Lomond, over Rannoch Moor and through Glen Coe knowing that the wilds of the Highlands await.
The rollercoaster drive along Loch Arkaig always seems a long one as I know the journey is near its end and the walking is about to begin.

Parking at the roads end I set out under a light cloudy sky past the small ruin of the Barracks (Taigh nan Saighdearan) and onward beyond the building at Strathan in to the plantation at the start of Glen Pean. I love Glen Pean - it is a deep Glen and has a wonderful feeling of remoteness and it emerges on to the head of Loch Morar with a wonderful view westwards down the Loch. There was some forestry work in the Glen which I always feel sad about. I know it is necessary to manage these plantations but it does leave the area very scarred after the trees are felled. However the removal of the trees also opens up the view in the early part of the Glen which has previously been hidden.




On emerging from the trees then Glen Pean bothy appears at the start of a narrower portion of the Glen. I noticed a couple of people around the bothy who disappeared inside and I passed by quietly. I came here to avoid people.... does that make me a hermit ?



I was carrying my new Alpacka raft -a Denali Llama with a cruiser spray deck. Besides 'playing' in the garden it had not been used and Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt awaited.....
The path goes along the steep south side of the Lochan (not the north as it appears on the OS map). The path is a little 'hobbit-path' clinging to the hillside over the water and is enjoyable but I had a different plan.


I stopped ,inflated the raft, assembled the paddle, donned my PFD and gently pushed off on to the lochan. There was a decent easterly wind and my first few strokes were ungainly but I easily found my rhythm and glided down the lochan. It didn't save me any time what with the inflation and subsequent repacking of the raft but boy did I have a grin on my face especially as Loch Morar awaited.
The inflation is easily and quickly done with the inflation bag and within 10 minutes of stopping you can be on the water. Not bad for an additional 4kg weight penalty (raft 3kg , paddle 850g).

The spooky , dark Lochan Dubh was encountered next. You can scramble down the boulder field and squeeze along its muddy southern shore but it is much quicker to rise a little on the southern side and look down on it.... its not packraftable (shallow and muddy when ever I've been here) !


The glen begins to open out over the watershed in to Gleann an Obain Bhig and Loch Morar comes into view.


I have previously walked over the headland Sron a'Choin and down to the pebble beach at Kinlochmorar but today I elected to float round :)


Again the breeze was stiff from the east and I was a little concerned about being driven down the Loch (I am a really novice paddler with a vivid imagination). Rounding the headland was fine but paddling any distance in to the easterly was 2 steps forward and 1 step back.


I sat and enjoyed the view down the Loch both from the raft and then from the beach. The sky had begun the clear whilst I was inflating the raft and now there was a large amount of blue sky. It was all going well.



The Spinnshelter was erected beside the Allt an Ile Coire and a pleasant night spent relaxing and savouring the stillness now the wind had died.


I had decided to reduce as much weight a possible for this trip considering the extra weight of the raft so I went with an esbit stove and titanium Caldera cone along with a 550ml pot. The titanium cone allows the use of either esbit / alcohol or wood burning if wood is available. It worked superbly for my dehydrated Chilli con carne ....mmmmm !


I drifted off to sleep with little but a deafening silence and the peace that I only seem to get when away on these trips in remote , beautiful places.
The next morning was a cracker - blue sky but the wind was again building from the east.


I had planned to raft down Loch Morar to Tarbet and the portage across to Loch Nevis where the incoming tide would carry me up to Sourlies bothy.... it wasn't to be :(
I packed up and got ready on the shore but I was a little anxious due to the white caps I could see further down the loch away from the shelter of the eastern shore.


Soon after setting off the swell increased and I could feel the wind trying to spin me side on the waves. With sadness and perhaps due to my naive anxiey I headed for the northern shore only just beyond Eilean nan Rethean. I had only travelled a very short way but I figured trying to paddle east up Loch Nevis even with the tide would be beyond me. The loch and the trip will be there next time.

After packing up I decided to walk either round or over to Sourlies. The walk round through Gleann an Lochain Eanaiche to the top of Glen Dessarry and then over the Mam na Cloich Airde is a long but beautiful one. The walk over the Bealach nan Daoine is a very steep one with great views from 670 m and makes for a quick descent to Sourlies. I chose the steep route.

Passing the ruins at Kinlochmorar.

Looking down at Finiskaig and Sourlies at low tide.

The sky was blue and I had a lovely hour just relaxing at the ruin of Finiskaig in the sun before heading over to Sourlies to explore the bothy and set up camp on the flat grass beside the shore.


Again to keep the weight down for sleeping I had just a short thermarest neoair and a gossamer gear Thinlight 1/8" pad underneath with a Nunatak Arc Ghost quilt. I have used this combo extensively and new it would serve me well even if the temperature dipped below freezing if suitably layered.


The evening was lovely and I thought it would be a wast not to venture out on to Loch Nevis even though I didn't manage to paddle it as planned. Raft inflated and out to play at high tide before dinner. The wading birds were my company with no one else about. Sourlies to oneself is to be savoured.


The raft packs up pretty small if you take the time to practice different methods of rolling / folding. I wanted it to fit inside my pack and not be attached to the outside where it would unbalance my load and be more susceptible to damage.


Dinner cooked and time to soak up the settling sun from the shore. Life does not get much better.



The next day dawned a little drizzly as forecast and it looked like a good day to explore up the carnach river to the remote ruin at GR 883994. The tide was in so I sauntered over the lower end of the Druim a Ghoirtein ridge with long views down Loch Nevis.


The wind was stronger today with white caps a plenty so it wasn't a day for rafting :(

The view up the glen is magnificent. With Sgurr na Ciche looming from the right and the mighty Corbett of Ben Aden (my all time favourite hill) ahead.

The bridge over the River Carnach beside the ruins at Carnoch.

There are numerous deep pools along the river which make a great place for a dip on a hot day (still freezing water though !) and these pebbles beside a particularly nice set of pools.


The ruin at the bend in the river is such a remote peaceful magical spot. It made a great lunch stop before heading back to Sourlies.




The primroses were dotted around and they were a bright counterpoint to the surrounding dried grass.

The tide was out when I returned to Sourlies and that makes a walk along the beach possible.... lots of mussels to feast on. I left them be this time but have enjoyed them in the past. Plenty of tiny pearls in them to crack unwary teeth !
The sky cleared completely as I lay in camp near Finiskaig with a wondrous star filled panorama as the temperature dropped.



This was my last night and unfortunately I was set to head out down Glen Dessary today. With some sadness I packed up camp and set off up from the head of Loch Nevis and over Mam na Cloich Airde in to Glen Dessary.


On the way there was plenty of blue sky to cheer me on my way along with lots of deer seemingly impassive to my passing. Glen Dessary is a wide open Glen in contrast to Glen Pean's steep sides.


If we aren't careful we can miss the small things that have equal beauty to the magnificent grandeur of the mountainous surroundings. The lichen and moss were intruiging on the drystone walls beside my path.



All too soon I reached the car and began the long journey home.

I'm sorry there is no bushcraft but I though the trip might be of interest as the area is fantastic and there has been some chatter regarding inflatable rafts.

If you managed to reach the end then well done and I hope you enjoyed the trip report. If any one is foolish enough to want more I can post gear lists / details etc if requested.


Jun 1, 2012

Go-lite Pinnacle - 1st edition (before they got heavy !)
Plastic Bin bag liner

Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter
Small alloy pole for rear support
Titanium Goat - Adjustable goat poles (double as shelter front support pole)
Rutalocura carbon fibre pegs 9" and 6"
Polycro ground sheet

Nunatak Arc Ghost Quilt - in cuben stuff sack
Thermarest Neoair Short - in heavy gauge cuben bag
Gossamer Gear thinlite 1/8th" full length pad

Alpacka Denali Llama with Cruiser spray deck
Alpacka Sawyer adjustable paddle
Anfibio inflatable PFD
Inflation bag

Silcoat pack liner to store and protect raft in pack and put pack in whilst on raft

BPL firelight 550 pot (no handle)
Gossamer gear gram-cracker esbit stove
Traildesigns titanium caldera cone with titanium floor
Minibic lighter
Folding titanium sportk (there had to be a spork !)
10 esbit tabs
MYOG meal cozy for rehydration of dehydrated meals

Quecha merino longsleeved baselayer
Synthetic T shirt
Quecha microfleece
Buffalo Travelite trousers
Outdoor designs goretex baseball cap
Extremeties fleece beanie
Outdoor Research Goretex gloves

Mountainhardwear Monkeyman jacket

Montbel ExLight down jacket in cuben stuff sack
Montane waterproof - cant remember name !?
Buffalo Windshirt with DP hood - great for the chilly easterly wind and sleeping under the quilt

Ricoh GRD (first edition) digital camera in CCS case
SJ4000 Action cam (cheap go pro alternative)
Small gorilla pod
Petzl Tikka XP head torch
County Comm Ladybug H1 Salt knife and Photon microlight on neck lanyard.

2x 2l water bladders
Sundries bag - batteries, contact lenses, basic first aid kit, soap/ toothpaste, toilet paper, potlifter, compass etc
Suunto Xlander watch

Kneelength Sealskinz ! For wading when getting in / out of raft.
Thin Coolmax sleep socks

Innov8 Flyrock 310 - original old skool style
Integral Designs Event Shortie Gaiters

gotta have forgotten something !.....
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Jan 21, 2005
S. Lanarkshire
That looks like a brilliant trip out :D and the raft, and it's use, and it's potential, is brilliant :D

Thank you for the photos and the write up :D



Nov 11, 2008
Virginia, USA
Outstanding trip and write up! Your creative flair with the photography is tops! Pretty sweet combining the inflatable with the hiking to get into the back of beyond. Are there trout and/or other fish in those lochs? Is it permissible to fish for them if so? Thanks for allowing us a peek in on your trip. I'll go ahead and say it for the gear heads, yes, please post the kit list .
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Mar 18, 2014
Looks fantastic' you lucky sod :) thanks for the pics and telling us about your trip :)

Sent from my GT-I9505 using Tapatalk


Full Member
Feb 24, 2011
Great stuff, I have many fond memories of the area. I started visiting Loch Arkaig/Glen Dessary in 1975 and spent two whole summers there in 80 and 82. A friend had a lease on Upper Glen Dessary for many years so I was there every Christmas, Easter, summer, half-term etc. When I revisit the area I will make the pilgrimage to the pub on Knoydart, a trip I sadly never found the time for.


Full Member
Oct 13, 2005
The banks of the Deveron.
That looks sublime, as we came across on the Armadale to Mallaig ferry on Friday my son, daughter and I vowed to trek there, my wife said something about going to see her friend on Skye and leaving us to it! Now I want to go more!


Jun 1, 2012
Thank you for the kind words everyone :)

Outstanding trip and write up! Your creative flair with the photography is tops! Pretty sweet combining the inflatable with the hiking to get into the back of beyond. Are there trout and/or other fish in those lochs? Is it permissible to fish for them if so? Thanks for allowing us a peek in on your trip. I'll go ahead and say it for the gear heads, yes, please post the kit list .

Not sure about the fishing as I'm not really a fisherman. I assume there would be fish there though. I would worry about hooks in a single chamber inflatable though. Knowing my luck I would snag the raft with the hook in the middle of the loch !

Gear list posted for those interested...

Thoroughly enjoyable, thank you for taking the effort.

What sort of distance did you cover ?

Regarding distances..... this was a short trip really. I was playing around with the raft and with a new (Cheap) GoPro type camera taking lots of video footage so I wasn't trying for much distance - just enjoying being out there. The first day was 8 miles and the last day was 10 miles with short wandering type days in between.


Jun 23, 2013
Great read, thanks. Nice that you didn't go for distance but for enjoyment. Im always surprised when I see walkers and cyclists in beautiful areas looking at the road. Love the raft idea too! I've been away too long.

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