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A superb route, and many thanks to Norman Hodghton of Somerset for contributing it.

The Route...

OS map: 33
distance: don't worry about it...


Loch an Dubh-LochanA route from Inverie (reached by boat) on the Knoydart peninsula to Kinloch Hourn and on to Arnisdale from where a public road leads N to Glenelg (giving ferry access to Skye) and beyond.


North of Mallaig, in northwest Scotland, is the remote and wild peninsular of Knoydart. 55 square miles of mountains, tracks, and hardly any inhabitants. This is the place for the adventurous rough-stuff cyclist who doesn't mind some tough routes, but can be assured of spectacular scenery to compensate. Anyone visiting this area should be prepared to camp, or sleep in the various bothies, and to expect possible bad weather as Knoydart has the dubious honour of having some of the highest rainfall in Scotland.

Arnisdale trackThe borders of Knoydart can be reached by way of the roads alongside Loch Arkaig or Loch Quoich. Alternatively there is the Bruce Watt ferry from Mallaig to Inverie. ( If you arrive at Inverie remember that the café there will be the last one you see for a day, or two, or more! So make sure you have plenty of food with you, and the means to cook it.

Much has been written in "The Rough-Stuff Journal" about Knoydart, routes such as Glen Dessarry, Mam Meadail, and even Glen Pean. These necessitate much hard work, and sometimes bike carrying.

East of Inverie is one of Knoydart's easier routes. A ridable track leaves the village and heads eastwards into the beautiful valley beside the Inverie River. By Loch an Dubh-Lochain the track starts to climb and a bit further on the really hard work begins as the path gets much steeper as it approaches the summit of Mam Barrisdale. From here the views are splendid, Loch Nevis behind, and beyond the pass range after range of mountains into the distance. Having scrambled down to Barrisdale you can find accommodation either on the small campsite, or in the bothy which actually has running water, a flush toilet, and electric light some of the time, (but there's no fireplace).

Loch Hourn trackContinuing eastwards from Barrisdale a path follows Loch Hourn to Kinloch Hourn. Despite the fact it is almost entirely unridable, this is a magnificent route, which is sometimes close to the water's edge and at other times high above the loch. At two points along the route I found it necessary to unload my heavy panniers and take them up a very steep eroded section then return for the bike. Kinloch Hourn has a campsite, a café with self-catering flat, and one bed and breakfast. A tarmac road continues eastwards from here, an "escape route" if the weather turns bad.

For those who want more rough-stuff there is the equally wonderful crossing to Arnisdale. It begins with a steep climb from beside the Big House then levels off and sometimes it is even possible to ride the bike. Along the way there are a few river crossings so be prepared to get wet feet. Foot bridges do exist, but quite often winter flooding destroys them. Beyond Dubh Lochan there is a very steep descent down though the woods to Glen Arnisdale. Take care, it is very steep and very loose. Along the glen it is an easy ride to Arnisdale.

top of Mam BarrisdaleThere is an alternative crossing. Instead of taking the track to Dubh Lochan there is an indistinct path which follows the power lines, crosses Bealach Aoidhdailean, and from there leads down to Gleann Beag and thence to Glenelg. There seems to be nothing written about this route so I can give no information.

Inverie to Arnisdale took me three days, through valleys surrounded by great mountains, beside lochs, and through woods. It was very hard work at times, but always the superb scenery made up for it all, so why try to hurry?

norman hodghton, somerset


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