A couple of years ago I stumbled across an article about the Old Forge Pub being the most remote pub in Scotland and mainland Britain. Intrigued by the article, I read more and discovered all I could about the town the pub is in, Inverie. Inverie is the main village on the Peninusla of Knoydart which is in the Lochaber district on the West Coast of the Scottish Highlands. We learned before and after our travels to the peninsula that even a lot of Scottish citizens don’t know about this place. We’d tell them that we went to Inverie, and they wouldn’t know what we were talking about! The peninsula isn’t easy to get to, you can’t travel by car. There are two ways there, take a ferry from Mallaig or hike in. The hike takes roughly two days and most people start from Kinlochhourn, but there are a couple other routes that can be used, if you’re interested, you can find out more about that here. We opted for the ferry option!
We had to wake up early to drive an hour from Portree to the ferry terminal at Armandale and catch our 8:40AM ferry. We took that ferry (about an hour) to Mallaig and then had to find a place to park our car before heading over to catch the 10:30 ferry from Mallaig to Inverie. We were a little worried about finding somewhere to park, but it actually wasn’t an issue at all. There is a parking lot just west of the train station where you can leave your car for free, but it fills up and when we went to park, there were not any spots available. It wasn’t an issue though because if you follow the main road East, there are parking spots along the water and the closest ones have time limits but if you go a little further, there are spots where you can leave your car for up to 7 days, so it’s quite easy to drive to Mallaig and stay in Inverie for as long as a week if you’d like. We didn’t have any trouble finding one of these spots, but it was also pretty early in the day. Unlike the ferries we’ve taken before, the ferry to Inverie is a tiny one with a few benches outside and a little cabin on the inside. It’s a pretty comfortable boat and it’s a beautiful trip!
Upon arrival at Inverie, were were tired! We got off of the ferry and had about 3/4 of a mile to walk to the Knoydart Foundation Bunkhouse (a hostel). The walk was beautiful, a little long with our backpacks, but we made it. If you want to get a ride to your accommodations on the island, you need to plan that in advance, there are very few options, and not really any last minute options. On the way to the hostel, we were hungry so we stopped at Knoydart Pottery and Tea Room for a little breakfast. I had a scone and it was amazing, Kim had a breakfast sandwich which was also very good. The tea room was so cute but we were unfortunately too sleepy to remember to take pictures of the inside and outside of the cafe. But seriously - if you go - stop in and get their berry scone! After that, we were able to check into the hostel and then go for a little hike!
The hike was gorgeous, Inverie is so remote and it would be hard to find better views and a more peaceful atmosphere. We had a little trouble finding the exact route that the woman at the information desk suggested, but we got along just fine on the path we found. There are definitely hikes for very advanced hikers, but there are also easy paths as well. It started to rain a little bit, but we didn’t mind! Scotland is gorgeous in the rain and in the sunshine. As we were wondering if it was time to turn around or not we came across two highland cows! It was really exciting, but we weren’t sure how close we should get to them. Since they have horns and we were in a very remote location and hadn’t seen people in a VERY long time, we decided to turn back. In all though, we ended up walking about 7 miles but it definitely didn’t feel that long since the walk was so serene. After the walk, it was time to shower and get ready for dinner at The Old Forge.
Our dinner at Old Forge was good but what we really enjoyed was the company. There were a lot of other hikers there that night and we ended up drinking with a group of Scottish men that take this trip together every year. They were a lot of fun! They ended up taking a guitar off of the wall and playing some tunes, the owner of the pub was happy enough to turn the music off so we could enjoy a little sing-along.
Some Gossip: From what we hear, the locals aren’t very fond of the owner of The Old Forge. It used to be run by a local man, but a Belgian man bought the pub in 2012. He was a little rude to us, but it didn’t put a damper on our time here. What really made the night were the other tourists, so hopefully when you go to stay you’ll run into a group as fun as the ones we met. There is a little video of our time below, please excuse our singing!
We didn’t get much sleep in the bunkhouse but our new friends did make us some smashed banana on toast and ramen to soak up the whisky. Smashed banana on toast sounds weird, but it’s actually quite good. . .at least after a few beers and some whisky ! We had to get up early that morning to make our ferry back to the mainland but we were sad to leave! Hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to come back one day to this beautiful part of the world. ~Annette
Isle of Skye, Scotland
We had to wake up early this morning to catch the 9:20AM ferry from Mallaig to Armandale on Isle of Skye. It’s a quick ride, it took about 30 minutes and we were able to drive our car right on and off of the ferry. There is also a beautiful deck on top where you can sit during the ride. You can stay in your car if you want to, but I wouldn’t recommend it, there are beautiful views from above. Once we docked at Armandale, we had to get gas and found a gas station a little bit down the road. Pro tip: fill up your tank before you get on the Isle of Skye because gas is so expensive there! We couldn’t check into our Airbnb in Portree until 6:00PM so we decided to head over to the Fairy Pools in Glenbrittle first, the drive took a little over an hour. You will encounter sheep, and a lot of curvy and one-track roads on Isle of Skye so always leave yourself extra time to get where you want to go. There is a small parking lot for the Fairy Pools, but it fills up quickly, so prepare to park along the road to the entrance of the trail. We had to park pretty far down.
”Fill up your tank before you get on the Isle of Skye because gas is so expensive there!”
I’m not sure that magical or beautiful or stunning or any word really can do the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye justice. The hike to the fairy pools is pretty long, the trail is rocky, and it goes up-hill so be prepared with good walking shoes. You’ll also likely want to climb around the rocks which can be slippery so you’ll want a good grip there as well. We didn’t think to wear our swim suits, but the water was warm enough to swim (still pretty cold, but it was a hot day) so bring your swim suit and a towel to take full advantage of the experience. The hike is long, but don’t stop and turn around at the first pool you come to, there are so many beautiful ones and each looks different from the rest. There are rocks to jump off of and narrow pools to explore. The landscape itself is beautiful, and you’ll definitely want to be prepared to take pictures. If you’re going to swim, a go-pro would be an awesome accessory to have on hand. This is also a good place to bring a picnic, there are plenty of places to sit and eat, but you’ll definitely want it to be something easy. Don’t bring valuables if you want to swim as you’ll need to drop your things off a little bit away from where you are swimming and won’t really be able to watch them. Take note that there aren’t bathrooms or any food and drink shops around, so you’ll want to make sure you have any food or water you need and that you use the bathroom beforehand. A sign near the parking lot said they were working on building some bathrooms and a center, so in the future, there will likely be those facilities. Let us know if you go there and it’s finished! I’d set aside at least two hours to explore the fairy pools but honestly you could spend the whole day there, bring a book and sit around and read, you honestly can’t get a better view!
”...be prepared with good walking shoes...the rocks can be slippery so you’ll want a good grip there....bring your swim suit and a towel to take advantage of the full experience.”
The drive from the fairy pools to our Airbnb was about an hour as well. Isle of Skye is huge, and the roads are slow, so we definitely spent a lot of time driving around the island. Everywhere you look is another beautiful view, each one different from the last, and our car was blocked by curious sheep a couple of times. We also really learned how to correctly use the passing places for the one-track roads on the isle of Skye. A brochure we picked up at the gas station helped us with all of the rules, but if you don’t want to stop then pay attention to the rules found here. This simple knowledge will help you be a considerate driver and seriously increase your chances of avoiding a wreck on unfamiliar roads. We had some time to kill after we left the Fairy Pools before we could check into our Airbnb so we decided to go into Portree to get a beer. We found a little pub in the main square called The Isles Inn. We both had a very well earned beer! Luckily it wasn’t long before we were able to check into our place. Portree is a great place to stay, it’s the biggest “town” on the island and there are shops and restaurants around. I wish we had more time to explore the shops while we were there, but we don’t have room in our backpacks, so it’s probably best that we didn’t! As we have found in other small towns in Scotland, if you want to eat dinner make a reservation! We failed to do so beforehand, so we didn’t really have anywhere to eat this night. We did however make a reservation for tomorrow night at a restaurant that our host recommended, but we were lucky to get a 7pm slot. It was the only one left that wasn’t at 5:30 or 9:30! Since we didn’t have a proper restaurant to eat at, we walked into town and ordered Chinese food from Fat Panda in Portree. The food was very affordable and good. Our host requested that we didn’t eat food in the room, so we walked down to the waterfront and ate at a picnic table near the camping area which was frankly better than any view we could have had from a restaurant! All in all, we had a lovely first day at the Isle of Skye and are excited to get back out there tomorrow. ~Annette
Fort William, Scotland
We weren’t sure what we wanted to do today. We knew that we were waking up in Fort William and needed to end up in Morar ( a small town very close to Mallaig) but we had no specific plans. We stayed at Stronchreggan View Guest House, a bed and breakfast on Achintore Road (a road filled with B&Bs. The house was beautiful and the view of the lake from the front yard was beautiful. The host was a bit rude to us, rare so far in Scotland, but there is always someone! Of course if you’re looking for an affordable place to stay, it’s comfortable with good views and the breakfast was lovely. We looked through some brochures in the B&B and decided to hike Steall Falls. I was convinced the whole time that they were called Speal falls so you can watch me annoyingly correct Kim’s right pronunciation with my wrong one. . . Big sister fail! (Note from Kim: Annette is a very good big sister.) The hike was such a good decision. Luckily we got there early and were able to park very close to the beginning of the trail. When we came back down the parking lot was crazy. Somebody was waiting for my spot, and I had to do a 5 or 6 point turn to get out without hitting the cars that had parked behind me. I’m sure to locals there are rules, but one thing we can say about our time in the highlands is that we learned that there don’t really seem to be rules for parking, people just find a space and go for it, but so far we haven’t been blocked in, so it’s not a bad system! (Note from Kim: I saw other people blocked in occasionally, so I’m not a huge fan of this system.) Anyway I’ve gotten off topic! The falls!! The hiking path starts with a warning (pictures below.)
Ummmm Yikes! I think this started my anxiety going a little and a little bit after we started going, I was feeling dizzy and breathless so Kim and I sat down for a little while I gathered myself. I knew that if I gave into it and turned back, this feeling would over come me the next time I went on a hike and I am here to see the beauty of nature here in Scotland! I couldn’t let it overcome, so after a minute, we started walking again and I’m so glad that we did. After a moderate hike of about 45 minutes, we arrived at a beautiful waterfall. The hiking path is very clear, but at some point you come to a place where you can either go over a wire bridge or you can walk the other way and sort of forge your own path over the creek. We chose to forge our own path over the creek. This is another reason why earlier in the day is better than late. (Note from Kim: though I definitely thought it was better to cross making our own path across the river, I did fall on my way back. I didn’t really hurt myself, I just got a new bruise and got my clothes a bit wet. But river rocks are slippery! The water was shallow and luckily I just let myself splash into the water instead of staying dry and hurting myself by falling on rocks. So I’m totally fine, and I definitely scared Annette more than I hurt myself. But if you do this, be careful!). When we got to the wire bridge, there was nobody there and we were able to walk on part of it. When we left the waterfall to go back to the car, there were lots of people in line waiting to cross it and it’s not really a bridge I’d want to cross with other people on it as well! It’s hard enough to steady yourself on what is basically a tightrope. Where is Philippe Petit when you need him? (Note from Kim: I had to ask Annette, and this is the guy who walked across a tight rope from one World Trade Center Tower to he other.) We could have used his guidance to cross! The whole area is beautiful, and we found a nice rock to sit on near the base of the waterfall. We wished we had gone to the co-op beforehand and brought lunch with us, it was such a nice day for a picnic! It was so beautiful that we didn’t want to leave, but since we were determined to see the Glenfinnan Viaducts AND monument today, we had to eventually. Also, we were getting hungry! This blog post isn’t super long, but honestly the pictures speak for themselves! It’s a beautiful area from start to finish and I will never forget this hike! ~Annette
Slide Show of the Waterfall and Crossing the River
Slide Show of the Trail
Our Glenfinnan day was quite a busy day! We started the morning in Fort William (see our blog post on the Steal Waterfall hike) and when we finished that hike, we drove out to Glenfinnan. The drive took us about 45 minutes and was (surprise surprise) beautiful! We stopped at a grocery store on the way to get lunch food (our go-to out here is a baguette, cheese, and salami) and then headed up to where the Glenfinnan viaducts are in hopes of catching the steam train from below this time! You have to time it just right if you want to see the steam train go over the viaduct. Check the website for the times, The train leaves Fort William at 10:15am and 2:30pm each day and takes about 45 minutes to get to the viaducts. For us, it arrived at 3:15pm, but I would get there early jut in case it is faster that day. We were lucky to find a parking spot in a lot just up the road from the Glenfinnan Monument where the trail to the viaducts begins. Pictures of where we parked and where the trail starts below! We noticed that there aren’t spaces here, so you can just park anywhere you can find a spot as long as you aren’t blocking anybody in.
The path up to the viaducts is really beautiful. You can sit down in the fields and have a view of the viaducts, but we felt it was better to walk up a little bit more to the hills underneath the viaducts. It’s a great place to bring a blanket and sit down and have a picnic before or after the train arrives. If you wait around for about 7 minutes after the train coming from Fort William passes, you’ll see the train coming from Mallaig pass as well. It’s very cool to see the train go over the viaducts, but the viaducts themself are beautiful too! The whole area is pretty. On the way back down to the car, we stopped and had a picnic in front of a little stream which was so lovely. If you’re interested in seeing the steam train from the other side of the viaducts, I believe there is a trail that starts from somewhere around the Glenfinnan Momument, we saw people hiking up there. We didn’t spend too much time at the viaducts, so after we were finished, we decided to leave our car in the lot and walk down to the monument.
The monument was beautiful to see. If you want to go inside the fence and up to the top, you have to pay £3.50 each which isn’t bad, but we didn’t see the need to go to the top of the monument. We walked around it and read the inscription and then went down to the water where we saw the HAPPIEST dog playing in the water which was so adorable and added to this already great day (dog appearance not guaranteed.). You don’t really need to spend too much time in this area unless you want to. After we looked at the monument, we chose to go inside where they have a little museum set up with the story of The ‘45 and Bonnie Prince Charlie. I won’t tell you all of the details, because then what would you learn when you go? The very short version is that in the mid 1700s, Charles Edward Stuart, the son of the ousted King of England, tried to re-claim his father’s throne with support from the highland chieftains. It didn’t go well as I’m sure you know. There are so many interesting details though, so I definitely would advise you set aside about an hour to walk around the museum and read and listen to everything they have to offer. The monument museum also has a gift shop and a cafe if you get hungry. Extra tip: there is a bathroom in the museum but they ask for I think 30 pence to use it so make sure you have some change on you.
When we were finished at Glenfinnan, it was time to head to our Airbnb in Morar. Tomorrow is our day to head to Mallaig to take the ferry to the Isle of Skye so we wanted to be very close. Here is a tip for the Scottish Highlands in general: rent a car! It’s just very hard to get around and see everything that you want to see without one. The drive to Morar was stunning, but a lot of it was what we saw on the Jacobite Steam train, just from the road instead of the train tracks. If you give yourself some time, there are plenty of places along the way to pull over and take some pictures. Morar is really beautiful, it’s a very quiet little town. Our Airbnb was situated just outside of the tiny town, we were walking distance from the Morar Hotel which was really the only place around to get dinner. The dinner was ok, mostly bar food and some fancier dishes and the bar had a decent selection. The bar only has a couple of tables, but they do have a restaurant that has more seating. Overall it was an okay experience, but if you aren’t exhausted from doing two different hikes and driving a lot that day, then maybe opt to drive a little further out to find another restaurant. All-in-all it’s a good place to stay if you want a quick drive to catch the early ferry the next morning. ~Annette