On our first day of hiking, we skirted the southern shore of Loch Hourn, a steep fjord-like body of water that stretches like a witch’s finger between the Glenelg and Knoydart peninsulas. The route followed the edges of the loch shore – it was mostly rocky and easy to discern, but often collapsed into a boggy bog, which sucked our boots in and coated our ankles with mud. It was once a deer tracker path and, more ominously, a coffin road – a road along which corpses were carried to Kilchoan Cemetery in Inverie.
I wondered what secrets were hidden in the bog; I imagined ghostly hands clinging to my boots every time they sank into the mud. Fittingly, Loch Hourn translates from Gaelic as “Lake Hell”; Loch Nevis, our destination, as “Lake Heaven”.
But first came purgatory: the mountains and the bog. We ducked our way along lochside paths overgrown with jungle-like vegetation, which poured water down our necks and soaked us. We chose our way on all fours on natural steps above bubbling rivers. The conditions seemed to lend credence to the repeated weather report we heard from locals and passing hikers: “Three months of heavy rain.”
We spent the night at Barrisdale bothy, a basic shelter left open for hikers’ use which apparently saw the last coat of paint in the 1950s. understood an entry that read, “I’m a scientifically-minded person, but I’ve experienced things here that I can’t explain. Tired enough not to care, I curled up on a wooden bunk and fell into a dreamless sleep.
The next day we crossed the Knoydart Peninsula from north to south, fording waterfalls where rotting wooden bridges had been crossed and ascending the seemingly endless slopes of Mam Barrisdale, a modest mountain whose summit was the highest point of the road. This hike gave new meaning to the term ‘pub crawl’, but we were invigorated to see the most Scottish of sights: a vast deer, watching us majestically from the crest of a hill.