I woke to sunshine but by the time breakfast was finished, it had clouded over. The Knoydart ferry was at 10.15 so signed out at the West Highland hotel then some last minute food shopping – pork pies, chocolate and rolls. Then it was off to the pier to get tickets for Bruce Watt service to Knoydart on the ‘Western Isles’. I remarked in the ticket office I had travelled on the ‘old’ Western Isles in the 1960s – and was told that it was, in fact, the same boat. For an old lady she looked well.
About 30-odd Challengers set off for Knoydart. Experienced Challengers were chatting; newbies like myself were quieter and a bit apprehensive about what they had let themselves in for. On the ferry, I chatted with various people and met Lindsay – a wonderful lady who had her rucksack on what looked like a golf trolley. She told me she’d recently had an operation and couldn’t carry her rucksack so she had rigged up this trolley to drag it across Scotland. I really admired her spirit but, I must admit, I did think she was ever so slightly bonkers. Still, I thought, maybe the tracks in Knoydart had improved since I was last there (they hadn’t – more of the trolley lady later).
On landing in Inverie, the keener Challengers got going but the reprobates headed for the Old Forge for a pint. I wondered about another but decided to get going – walking through the woods with birdsong and primroses and even a distant cuckoo. At the Brocket monument (the Brockets were English landowners who didn’t do much for Knoydart), I turned off the main track and headed through Gleann Meadail for Sourlies.
Then the rain started. Real relentless Highland rain. The kind of rain that means ‘waterproof clothing’ is an aspiration rather than a description. I passed a Dutch father and son (Charles and David) and eventually came to Carnach bridge. This brought back sad memories – two friends from University mountaineering club days were killed ice-climbing in Glencoe and the bridge was built by the Corriemulzie Club as a memorial. I’d have liked to have helped but my daughter had just been born. The bridge is now a bit ropey but is still standing.
After the bridge, I met with two other first-timers, Matt and David, and we waded through the bogs together to Sourlies.
Sourlies is a small bothy and, as I don’t sleep well in busy bothies, I decided to camp; as did David. Great pitches outside the bothy and I enjoyed my meal of lentil soup and cheese rolls. It was still raining and a small puddle had formed under the outer tent. David, who had camped nearby said he was concerned about the ground conditions and was moving his tent. Insouciantly, I decided that the puddle was nothing and headed for the bothy for a chat and a dram.
It was almost dark when I got back to my tent. The small puddle had turned into a small loch – fortunately I have a bathtub groundsheet in my inner tent so things in there were still dry but there was nothing for it but to move the tent. Great fun in the dark but eventually I managed to get back inside. Fans of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy will know that Ford Prefect’s most useful possession is a towel – and I was really thankful I had brought a small pack towel as it meant that I could dry stuff out before creeping into my pit. It was still raining.