Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

4th June 2010

Inverie good condition
Posted by at 7.57pm | No responses | Out and About

For someone like me, used to the Mersey Ferry, the Knoydart Ferry is something of a contrast. I’d guess it has a capacity of about 40 or so, and we climbed aboard via a flight of steps from the pier at Mallaig.

"MV Western Isles" ferry

We had to travel in by ferry as the peninsula of Knoydart is completely inaccessible by road. The only way to reach it is by boat or, for the brave, a 16 mile walk. Perhaps that’s why it is described as “Britain’s last wilderness”.

We were instructed by the ferry crew to put our bags at the front (stern? bow?), where they were covered over by a large tarpaulin. We soon realised why after we took up seats on the starboard side and got underway: we were splashed several times by spray. It didn’t help that I was freezing — in my haste to rush from the station to the pier I hadn’t had time to put on my sweater, which was still safely stowed in my luggage, out of reach.

As I tried to stop my teeth chattering. I became aware of a crowd shouting and pointing. I followed their gaze and, in the distance, glimpsed a fin rising and falling into the water. Apparently dolphins are quite common in the area.

About 45 minutes later, we were winding our way past the fishing boats and docking at Inverie pier. At this point we would have faced carrying our heavy bags to the bunkhouse where we had arranged to stay, but luckily we’d started talking to a woman on the train who turned out to be heading to Inverie too, and was able to offer us a lift from the pier to the bunkhouse. All we had to do in return was carry some of her luggage – a pot of paint and some beeswax. Yes, really.


Knoydart is managed by the Knoydart Foundation, a not-for-profit group that owns most of the land and runs it for the benefit of the residents. They also own the Foundation Bunkhouse, offering hostel-type accommodation with 4 shared bedrooms. Beds are available for the princely sum of £14 per night.

When Nuno first suggested this, I will admit I was dubious. Sharing with other people? Actual human contact? Not really my cup of tea, and I was a bit anxious as we arrived. I needn’t have worried, because the bunkhouse was fabulous.


OK, we were lucky to get the lone two bed-room (seen above after we had “settled in”) so we didn’t have to be inconvenienced by other people. But even so, it was clean, comfortable and had all mod cons — a broadband internet connection, a kitchen with all the necessary appliance and a sitting room where I could sit next to a wood-burning fire to keep nice and warm while reading my book.

Whilst we were unpacking, we overheard one of the other guests ask about locking up valuables. The reply came, “no-one steals anything here. This is Knoydart!”

We had a few hours to kill, so set about exploring the village and its environs. Inverie’s facilities are limited: there is a shop-cum-post office (open three days a week), a tea room, and the jewel in the crown: The Old Forge. We stopped for a quick drink and relaxed on one of the outdoor tables. We then introduced ourselves to the small group of friends from London who were disturbed by our tourist information leaflets which, caught on a gust of wind, scattered all over them.

The Old Forge, Inverie

Suitably refreshed, we headed out to explore the surrounding area. By now it was getting quite late, so we didn’t head too far out, but we did follow a footpath into the woods where tweeting birds, rustling leaves and babbling streams combined to create a quite lovely feeling of tranquillity.

Surrounded by nature, and miles away from the nearest source of stress, I did something that I haven’t done for quite some time — I started to relax.

The Old Forge is proud of its title of “Britain’s Remotest Pub”, but it is definitely not a parochial experience. From the minute we walked through the door, we were made to feel very welcome. The gnarled old fishermen propping up the bar chatted to us; then while we were eating the people on the adjacent table (visiting from Northumberland) struck up a conversation.

In fact, everywhere we went for those few days everyone we met smiled and said hello and generally went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
And of course, they have a Twitter account.

We perused the food menu (which changes every day because it depends on what fish they catch). I settled on the fish pie which was absolutely sumptuous and contained about five different types of seafood, each one absolutely delicious.

Small wonder that this area attracts people from all over: in addition to the above-mentioned Londoners, we met a group of hill-walkers from Cheshire, a couple from the Netherlands and a pair of Frenchmen who seemed to be having a great time.

We returned to the bunkhouse late in the evening, carrying a torch to supplement the light from the full moon, and listening to owls hooting in the distance. Tomorrow would be our first full day in Knoydart, and time to head out and see what Britain’s last wilderness really had to offer…

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