the peninsular - knoydart
'The last wilderness of the British Isles', dividing the lochs of Nevis (heaven) and Hourn (hell).
Only reachable by sea, foot or horse.
Outstanding, untouched landscapes and the wildest of wildlife.
A traditional highland community.
55 square miles of Scotland.
Hiking, boating, stalking and fishing.
Entirely community-run estate.
Dividing the deep sea lochs of “Heaven and Hell” (Loch Nevis and Loch Hourn) is the spectacular rugged landscape of Knoydart, one of the most remote areas of Scotland; and arguably the remotest part of mainland Great Britain.
Of all the peninsulas that thrust out from the western seaboard of Scotland, Knoydart is without doubt the grandest. Knoydart's 3 great Munros (Ladhar Bheinn (the most westerly), Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe) dominate the horizon, whilst other smaller mountains make up the landward barrier. Knoydart has been described as The Last Wilderness Of The British Isles and still remains undiscovered to me now, over 30 years later.
Being virtually an island, although actually a peninsula, Knoydart is unspoilt in its natural, wild beauty.
Wide open landscapes and a predominantly mild climate help to provide a haven for diverse wildlife here.
Permanent inhabitants include:
Red deer and wild goats frequently graze the grass around the cottage. Badgers and pine martens take shelter in the woods. Otters and Seals swim in the Bay amongst the surrounding islets.
The diverse habitat means there are waders, divers and geese on the foreshore, whilst song birds increasingly populate the growing woodlands around Sandaig Bay.
Buzzards are frequently spotted and rarer raptors, such as Merlin, Hen Harrier and even Golden Eagles can be seen.
Visits from the famous Sea Eagles of Rhum are an increasing sign of their re-population.
Dolphins, porpoises and whales can sometimes be sighted in the sound of Sleet.
The name Knoydart is believed to be of Norse origin, meaning Knuts Bay as in King Canute - commander of the waves, a reminder of the Vikings’ raids and pillage.
The landscape is steeped in cultural history right from the Vikings, to the Highland Clearances and crucially now to the recent community ownership and operation of the surrounding estate.
After 1945 a long drawn out period of emigration from Knoydart began. Towards the middle of the 19th century, a combination of potato blight and failure of the migrating herring shoals to arrive brought famine and dire poverty to the area. The Chief of the time, Arenas of Glengarry, sold all his lands except Knoydart and sailed to Australia only to return in 1852 to die in Inverie. After his death, agents for his widow Josephine MacDonnell removed the remaining tenants to make way for sheep. In 1853, over 400 people were evicted from their homes in one of the darkest episodes of the Highland Clearances.Whilst many opted for emigration, albeit unwillingly, those who stayed were forced into homelessness and starvation. The then priest Father Coll came to their aid, feeding and clothing many at his own expense, procuring tents and, at one time, 7 or 8 families lived under canvas in the chapel garden at Sandaig.
In Victorian times Knoydart was a major sporting estate, centred around Inverie House and providing stable employment for the community. It subsequently passed through several changes of ownership, not all of them popular.
The community of Knoydart is now peaceful; having itself recently obtained ownership of the main body of the Knoydart Peninsula, including many of the buildings in Inverie. The community holds the banner or the Knoydart Foundation and safe guards the peninsular's long term interests and sustainable survival. The purchase was a landmark in reversion of land ownership to community interests. It followed a similar recent purchase made by the inhabitants of the Island of Eigg and was widely reported in the press and much celebrated on Knoydart.
Community life is focused on the village of Inverie, lying on the northern shores of Loch Nevis. Inverie has a thriving pub, the Old Forge, guest house, a primary school and a post office with some groceries.
The fishing town of Mallaig, from where one catches the boat to Knoydart, provides a range of shops, hotels, banks, schools and a railway link to Fort William. Further shopping, including a large supermarket, leisure facilities and further schooling are available in FortWilliam, about 38 spectacular miles away by road or rail from Mallaig.
Some parts of the Knoydart peninsula are in private ownership, including a large estate to the west of Inverie. However, walking access to all of Knoydart is generally available to everyone under "Right to Roam", subject to safety restraints that may be in force seasonally, particularly when stalking is in progress.