Knoydart is a very special place. A peninsula on the west coast of Scotland, accessed only by boat, it has all the feelings of a remote Scottish island. Staying in the village of Inverie, I went there recently to explore Scotland's last true wilderness.
Standing on the pier at Mallaig, I couldn't believe how many bags we had. The pier was strewn with luggage. There are no grocery stores as such on Knoydart so it is essential to take provisions with you. There are a couple of places you can pick up basic supplies. The post office sells a few household goods and provisions. The Knoydart Foundation has its own shop in the village and it has a freezer full of excellent venison and a small off licence for important stocks of booze.
You really get the feeling you are going somewhere off the beaten track particularly when you scan your eyes round the harbour. The boat to Knoydart doesn't leave from the larger ferry terminal for the Caledonian McBrayne services sailing to the Hebrides. Instead, surrounded by fishing boats, a small vessel with a cabin big enough for a dozen or so people appears round the corner and docks discretely alongside the harbour steps. We get the signal to board and before long a human chain had formed the length of the harbour steps. Bags of all shapes and sizes were passed from one pair of hands to another. There was something really lovely about how naturally a human chain formed between strangers and everybody helped out to put all the luggage on board.
The sail up Loch Nevis and into Inverie felt just magical. Surrounded by the most beautiful of Scottish Highland scenery, the whitewashed cottages that line the front of the village came closer into view. How lucky I felt, that this picturesque location was going to be my home for the next week. I couldn't wait to explore the forests and rugged coastline that stretched into the distance. Bags were unloaded into the back of Landrovers that drove onto the pier to meet the boat. After being a hive of activity, the pier was soon empty and deserted again as visitors were taken to their accommodation.
Knoydart is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors. Whether it's canoeing, mountain biking, walking or fishing, this is wonderful environment to be in. Many people go to Knoydart for its wilderness experience and enjoy the isolation in some spectacular scenery. We spent the first morning walking to explore the village and its immediate surroundings. Some beautiful woodlands line the road that takes you along towards the Kilchoan Estate.
I've visited many parts of Scotland over recent years and had some amazing experiences. I have to say however that Knoydart has taken a special place in my heart, and already I am longing to go back there. The isolation, the peace, and the feeling of true wilderness make it just magical. There are no ferries arriving each day bringing hundreds of tourists. The majority of people there are those who live there. Although this is part of the Scottish mainland, it really feels like island life. Just things like the old cars, and the lack of road signs make it feel very isolated. There is a lovely farm shop on the Kilchoan Estate selling some nice things that has an honesty box for people to leave their money. Doors are seldom locked and keys are left in cars giving a beautiful feel of community and trust.
There are those who would like ferry companies such as Caledonian Macbrayne to begin running a scheduled service to the peninsula. This would indeed bring many people and money into the community. There would however be a price to pay for this. More infrastructure would be required to support a greater number of visitors and this would change the feel of the place. Before long Knoydart would require more amenities, shops and cafes. One can't help feeling that something special would then be lost forever. I hope Knoydart remains a true wilderness and the already fragile community there survives for many generations to come.