Duncan’s Munro Adventures

Duncan Munros 10

Many of you will be aware that I have set a date for climbing my final Munro – 15th June. The date was fixed well in advance in order to enable my son Rory, who is now working abroad, to join me. We have had some epic days in the hills over the years. There is one potential “ banana skin” in my planned final Munro which has been at the back of my mind. In setting the date for my final Munro, I still had another 4 other Munros to complete in the space of about 5 weeks. The remaining Munros are located in very remote areas requiring lengthy car journeys, boats and bikes. My hope was for good weather during May this year, and the high pressure currently over the Highlands was a very welcome meteorological feature.

There was a good forecast for Monday, so I drove to Mallaig on Sunday afternoon. I then caught the ferry to Inverie, a journey of about 30 minutes . The Knoydart Peninsula is the only remaining wilderness area in the UK. I walked for nearly 9 hours on Monday without meeting another human being. I saw plenty of deer and birdlife. I had hoped to stay the night in the Bunkhouse run by the Knoydart Community Trust but it was fully booked, so I arrived fully laden with camping gear. I walked about a mile to Long Beach where I pitched my little tent alongside about 20 other tents. My last visit to Knoydart,over a decade ago ended in failure as far as hillwalking was concerned. It rained incessantly for 2 days and only cleared as we were catching the ferry back to Mallaig. The weather on Sunday evening was clear with stunning views out over the Small Isles to the west. A Polish couple along with their friend from Manchester had a good going camp fire next to the beach so I joined them for an hour. They were walking from Fort William to Ullapool on the Cape Wrath Trail. Something to do, perhaps, once I have completed these final Munros!

I got into my tent about 10pm without a major plan in terms of what time I would set out. A cuckoo woke me at 4am, but I lay on for a further period of time , before eventually setting out around 5.30am. The plan was to climb Luinne Bhean and Meall Buidhe, 2 very remote mountains in the midst of the Knoydart area. The day began with a 9km walk to the top of a Pass known as Mam Barrisdale . As I was nearing the top of the Pass i caught sight of a herd of deer. To my surprise, they didn’t seem to be in a hurry to run off, and I came within about 100 metres of them, before they took flight. I took a rest at Mam Barrisdale and then began the climb to the summit of Luinne Bhean. I followed a line of broken metal fence posts for a good way up the mountain, and marvelled at the efforts a previous generation of fencers must have gone to, in constructing such a barrier. Many of the fence posts had been drilled into the rock. At 10am I reached the summit, and stopped again to rest and have some food. Many of the guidebooks had spoken of an 11 hour walk, but I was at the first summit after 4.5 hours. I roughly calculated that I could reach the second summit by 12 noon , and be back in Inverie by around 3pm at the latest. This would enable me to catch the 4.15pm rather than the 6.30pm ferry, which would be better in terms of arriving home much earlier. As it happened, I arrived at the second summit at 12.02 pm and made it back to my tent in Inverie shortly after 3pm. The hardest part of the day was the descent from the final summit, which was pretty sore on my knees. The Camino walk has clearly been good for my fitness when I can now walk a bit faster than the times estimated by the guidebooks.

I arrived back in Mallaig at 5pm and sought some sustenance in the form of a fish supper before heading back to Inverness. One of my main impressions of Mallaig and Inverie was the how much these communities had changed in terms of tourism over the past decade. According to the ferryman, JK Rowling and her books have completely transformed the area with the Hogwarts Express from Fort William to Mallaig being fully booked every day. Several of these train passengers, yesterday, had also taken the boat to Inverie before catching the evening train back to Fort William. Inverie itself is well worth a visit. It’s a vibrant little village with quality restaurants and beautiful walks and scenery all around.

One of my main reflections from my trip to Knoydart was on the spectacular beauty of Scotland. In recent months, I have walked across Spain and travelled the length and breadth of New Zealand, seeing many wonderful places. The West coast of Scotland stands favourable comparison with any of the great scenic locations around the world. Even with the increase in tourist numbers, it doesn’t take much effort to get a little of the beaten track and be able to enjoy these wonderful places in solitude.

‘Rough guide’ users have voted Scotland the most beautiful country in the world.

Duncan Munros 1

Duncan Munros 14

Duncan Munros 13

Duncan Munros 11

Duncan Munros 9

Duncan Munros 8

Duncan Munros 7

Duncan Munros 6

Duncan Munros 12

Duncan Munros 5

Duncan Munros 4

Duncan Munros 3

Duncan Munros 2

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