Day 200: Sourlies Bothy to Barisdale

Distance: 17.99 miles

Ascent: 4352 feet

Weather: Overcast & Wet

Accommodation: Barisdale Bothy


I couldn’t quite believe when I woke up this morning that I had been on the go for 200 days. I also wondered whether anymore people had arrived overnight but looking around it appeared there was still the ten of us squeezed in the little bothy. Without naming any naMes a certaIn member of staff from Kings cantErbury had been snoring quite loudly, which fortunately I had slept through most of it, but some of the other bothy users looked a bit weary. Also I soon noticed one of the people sleeping on the floor was just wrapped in a towel and it turns out he had met the other person sleeping on the floor on the train yesterday and just decided to join her walk without any kit, as funny as this is it was really stupid to head out this remote without any proper kit.

In discussions last night I had changed today's plan a fair amount, originally it was a short mileage day with one high pass to Inverie, somewhere with a tiny shop and possibly Wi-Fi. But in discussion last night it turned out Barrisdale Bothy still exists, which I thought had closed. So, my plan now was to walk to Inverie then do a slight dog leg (not possible to follow coast the whole way around headland from Inverie) and come back over to Barrisdale Bay.

I set of in the drizzly, grey conditions a little before 8 presumably not long before the other Bothy users a lot of which were heading to Barrisdale Bothy via various routes. From the bothy I headed down and around the headland before after actually slightly going on the wrong trail I reached the river at the location of Carnoch Bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge had been condemned in January and someone has thus pulled the deck down and a replacement is not going to be put up till later in the year. Therefore, I had to ford the river, so took of my boots and socks and went for it. The point I crossed at was slightly deeper than I expected about knee deep, but I made it across easy enough and put my boots on again on the other side.

I passed the ruin of Carnoch and then joined the trail that would take me up and over the high pass. But just as I joined it due to the heavy rain last night the stream was now more of a torrent and I reached another bad bit which I had to take my boots off for and ford only a couple hundred meters after putting my boots on. I had decided after this with the boots already damp I would probably just walk straight through any further streams or rivers without taking my boots off.

The climb up this pass was steep with many switchbacks and due to the rain in parts the path was slightly becoming a stream. I told myself I would not take any breaks on the climb up as I was on a bit of a speed mission (still taking in the scenery I could see through the hazy conditions) as if I was going to head all the way to the Bothy I wanted to make sure I got there early enough that I definitely got somewhere to sleep in case it got full. The climb was quite tiring and having pushed through some bracken at the bottom and with the drizzle I was soaking by the top.

I was pretty tired when I reached the top but as always when you see a gradual downhill you perk up and I continued without actually having a break and in fact got carried away (must have been due to Liz’s description of trail/fell running yesterday) and actually started jogging some of the way down the hill with my 15kg or so pack on. Fortunately, all the little streams on this side had proper fords, and I made quick progress firstly crossing a bridge over the wide Inverie River one way before passing a private slightly posher bothy and then crossing back over the river via another bridge.

I now joined what felt more like a 4x4 gravel track which took me down passed a little fir plantation and into Inverie. This is a quaint collection of houses and I was going to have an early small lunch here and stock up on supplies. I decided to treat myself due to the dampness and went in the little café and had a bacon roll. After that I went to the post office/shop which had very little stuff but I managed to get enough stuff to get me through tonight and to tomorrow lunchtime.

I headed off from Inverie but felt I couldn’t get all the way around the end of the Knoydart Peninsula directly on the coast due to the geography, so I had to retrace my step up the gravel track for 2 miles before passing the same junction and carrying straight on up Gleann an Dubh-Lochain. This track was very distinct though it did narrow down to an actual path. I bumped into a couple and walked with them for a while and when they sat down for lunch they kindly gave me a sandwich and crisps which I kept to eat in a little while.

As this part was meant to be tomorrow I had obviously not looked at the map as well as I should as I though this pass was going to be a simple low-level pass over to Barrisdale Bay. But looking forward it became clear this was not the case and that I had a lot of climbing to come. In fact this was a long slow gradual climb up to about 470m, with in places the path being a raging stream, and a couple of suspect little bridges. Just short of the top for the first time in a while I came very close to hitting the wall, my body screamed at me to stop for some reason, but my mind just about persuaded it to keep going to the top albeit at a snails pace for the last couple hundred meters. To make things worse the cloud came in thick at this point reducing visibility to about 20m.

Once at the top my body recovered a bit, I had some water and a brief snack, and then it felt moderately alright on the downhill. I slowly descended down below the now clearing clouds and could finally see Barrisdale Bay below me. From here it did not take me long to reach the Bothy.

This Bothy is quite different to the others I have been in, firstly it is private so a small £3 charge to use it, and also its location sort of in a farmers yard and not having a fire made it feel a bit less cosy. But I didn’t care as it got me in out of any further rain and I would not have to put my tent up.

I was actually the first to arrive, but slowly some others started to arrive including the Canterbery crowd, Liz and the 2 Germans but strangely most of the people pitched tents outside (maybe last nights snoring had something to do with this.) So, in fact there were only 3 of us sleeping in the Bothy, but we all cooked and chilled in the little lounge in the Bothy. After Liz had boiled up at least 10 litres of water we all slowly headed of to bed.

A damp, grey day, that tired me out, but strangely I still fairly enjoyed it probably due to the remoteness, and however obscured, the scenery was still lovely. Now I just hope my stuff dries out a bit by the morning.

charles compton