Knoydart is a peninsula in Ross and Cromarty in the western Highlands of Scotland, bounded to the south by Loch Nevis and to the north by Loch Hourn. It's remote, rugged and sparsely populated, and best known for having the only villages in mainland Britain with no road connection to the rest of the network - nor even with each other. That remoteness and tranquillity are its main attraction, plus climbing the nearby mountains. In 2011 Knoydart had a population of 151.
Inverie is the main village and visitor destination, reached by ferry from Mallaig. Tarmac lanes from here run north to Airor and to Inverguseran.
Tarbet is a hamlet on the other side of Loch Nevis, with a track crossing to Loch Morar.
Knoydart is remote and rugged — it is part of the Rough Bounds described in the 18th century as "the highlands of the Highlands" — but its emptiness is man-made. Its population was tenfold its present 150-some, but they began to drift away in hopes of a better life in the lowlands or North America, founding the settlement of Knoydart in Nova Scotia. This was a "pull" phase of emigration when the landlords preferred to keep them: "who else is to dig my ditches or fight my clan battles?" But in the 19th century came a new breed of Highland landlord with no attachment to places or people: they sought to clear the land for more profitable use, the notorious Clearances. This "push" phase in Knoydart led to a mass eviction and emigration to Canada in 1853. The land was turned over to deer-stalking, and this remains the main use.
Get in edit
There is no road to the Knoydart Peninsula, nor plans to build one, so it's a short ferry ride or a two day hike.
1 Inverie pier is the landing point for the ferry from Mallaig operated by Western Isles Cruises. There are three or four daily year round, taking 30-45 min, and connecting with the trains from Glasgow and Fort William to Mallaig. Until end of March 2024, the return fare is £15 adult, £7.50 per child 5-13, dogs free. You can just turn up 30 min before sailing and pay on board, but booking is advised, especially in winter when the sailing will be cancelled if there are no bookings. Early and late ferries (best for day-trippers) are foot-passenger only taking 30 min, the others carry freight including residents' vehicles and take 45 min; visitor vehicles are not accepted. Sailings may be cancelled in bad weather, but Loch Nevis is relatively sheltered.
2 Tarbet is visited by a single ferry May-Sept M-F, so a day-trip is not possible. This is an extension of the freight ferry leaving Mallaig at 2:15PM to reach Inverie at 3PM. It then shuttles across the loch to land at Tarbet at 3:30PM, returns to Inverie, then becomes the 4:15PM ferry back to Mallaig.
Hike to Inverie by several routes. Simplest is from Glenfinnan, 25 miles over two days. From the railway station, head through the village then north under the viaduct and up the glen. Above Corryhulme bothy the glen forks: trend right to come over the pass into Glen Cuirnean. This brings you down to the head of Loch Arkaig, whence you cross the river and ascend Glen Dessary, trending northwest. A'Chuil bothy is the obvious place to stop overnight. Next morning there are several forest trails, if in doubt keep right. Past two lochans is a ridge, and you need to be uphill as following the stream will trap you in a chasm. You descend via Sourlies to the head of Loch Nevis: skirt it, and go upstream to cross the river by Carnach bridge. The lane here leads to Camusrory: ignore it and lump up the steep hill north. Finally descend Glen Meadail into Inverurie.
Hike to Tarbet in a day, 11 miles from Morar on the main road. Follow the lane along the north shore of Loch Morar to its end at Bracorina, then strike out on the hill path.
Get around edit
Hiking is what you're destined to do here. There is no community bus or taxi along these lanes. Off-road routes are firm where they follow deer-stalker trails, but heading for the summits involves bogs, heather, rocks and more bogs.
See & do edit
- Seven men of Knoydart are commemorated by a cairn just east of the Old Forge Inn at Inverie. They were land-raiders, seizing estate land for their own crofts — but in 1948? The real issue was that they were servicemen returning from the war, while the owner the second Lord Brocket was a Nazi supporter and absentee landlord. So this stunt won public sympathy, but the seven couldn't plead the destitution of earlier raiders, and the courts backed Brocket in ejecting them. He sold up shortly after and the estate is now in community ownership.
- Knoydart in a Nutshell is a 3-mile waymarked trail around the village, a simple stroll for day-trippers.
- 1 Brocket memorial in the glen above the bunkhouse commemorates the first Lord Brocket, a brewing tycoon who died in 1934. That meant the son, who already owned Knoydart, was promoted from being an MP to join the House of Lords, the better to govern the nation's affairs and think of a suitable present to bring to Hitler's forthcoming 50th birthday party. "I will lift mine eyes unto the hills...." intones the memorial but better advice is to use OS Explorer Map 413 for all hikes in Knoydart, as it has better detail than the Landranger map. And check with the rangers about areas to avoid during shooting seasons.
- 2 Loch an Dubh Lochain is the target of an easy walk from the village, an hour each way.
- 3 Sgùrr Coire Choinnichean is the peak rising behind Inverie, a Corbett of 769 m / 2523 ft. The route is steep but straightforward, 8 miles there and back taking 6 hours.
- 4 Ladhar Bheinn is 1020 m / 3350 ft high, the most westerly Munro on the Scottish mainland. See Walk Highlands route description: it's 14 miles often with no clear trail, taking nearly 12 hours, and you don't want to be descending in darkness.
- 5 Luinne Bheinn (939 m / 3081 ft) and Meall Buidhe (946 m / 3104 ft) are a pair of Munros climbed together from Inverie. The route is hard going, 17 miles, and takes 12 hours.
- 6 Beinn na Caillich is a Corbett of 732 m / 2402 ft. The route is 13 miles and takes 8-9 hours.
- 7 Beinn Bhuidhe is 855 m / 2805 ft, the crest of the ridge north shore of the head of Loch Nevis. The trail is 12 miles and takes 8 hours.
- 8 Tom McClean's Outdoor Centre is two miles west of Tarbet. They can pick you up in a boat from the ferry pier, or you can hike in from the main road and railway station at Morar.
If you self-cater, you must bring in everything you need, from Mallaig or beyond. That includes cash as there's no bank or ATM in Knoydart.
Knoydart community shop in Inverie sells a few basic items (daily 10AM-6PM) and M-W acts as the post office.
- The Old Forge, Inverie (200 yards east of ferry pier), ☏ . Su-W noon-midnight, Th-Sa noon-1AM. Mainland Britain's most remote pub, with an excellent menu of local food. The prices reflect the ferry supply route: when they run out, they're out until the boat comes in. In 2022 the community bought the pub from the previous owner, a Belgian hotelier.
- Knoydart Pottery and Tearoom, Inverie (300 yards east of ferry pier), ☏ . M-Th 9AM-3PM; F 9AM-3PM, 5-8PM. Pleasant little café on the main village street overlooking the loch, serving teas, coffees and light meals. Friday evenings they do fish & chips.
- Doune Knoydart (see Sleep) serves non-residents, booking essential, and can be reached by a five-mile hike along the lane from Inverie. Think about the going back.
- Knoydart Brewery is 200 yards west of the ferry pier in the former St Agnes chapel, tours available.
- 1 Knoydart Bunkhouse, Inverie, ☏ . Half a mile southeast of the ferry pier, this is simple but comfy accommodation open all year. They also have a campsite and "the wee hooses" cabins. Adult £22, child £12, dog £5.
- Long Beach Campsite another 200 yards south is managed by the Bunkhouse.
- Knoydart Hide, Inverie (100 yards east of pier), ☏ . You need to book two years in advance to get into this luxurious Scandi-style self-catering accommodation for couples.
- The Gathering, Inverie (100 yards west of pier), ☏ . Charming welcoming B&B with great dining and hot tub. They also have self-catering cottages.
- Craig Eiridh half a mile west of the pier is a four-bedroom holiday house to rent, sleeps ten.
- Tarbet has self-catering cottages.
- 2 Doune Knoydart, Doune, ☏ . Remote guesthouse open Apr-Sep; their own boat picks you up from Mallaig Tu or Sa. Excellent dining, dog-friendly.
There is no mobile phone reception on the peninsula.
Go next edit
- The ferry back to Mallaig is the only transport, unless you're prepared for a long hike.
- From Mallaig the road and railway go via Arisaig and Glenfinnan to Fort William,
- The other ferries from Mallaig sail to Armadale on Skye, to the four inhabited Small Isles, and to Lochboisdale on South Uist.