http://www.crux.u-net.com -> Corbetts ->Section 10b->Barrisdale
Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais 885
Buidhe - bheinn 885
Beinn na h-Eaglaise 804
Beinn Loinne 790
Sgurr Mhic Bharraich 781
Beinn nan Caorach 773
Sgurr a'Choire-bheithe 913
Sgurr an Fhuarain 901
Sgurr nan Eugallt 894
Ben Aden 887
Fraoch Bheinn 858
Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh 835
Sgurr Coire Choinnichean 796
Beinn na Caillich 785
Ben Tee 901
Sgurr Mhurlagain 880
Meall na h-Eilde 838
Geal Charn 804
Meall Dubh 788
Bidein a'Chabair 867
Carn Mor 829
Sgurr an Utha 796
Beinn Bhan 796
Meall a'Phubuill 774
Braigh nan Uamhachan 765
Sgurr a'Choire Bheithe and Luinne Bheinn from Barrisdale.
Sgurr an Eugallt 898m 2933' Death Streams? or Precipices. Map Sgurr a'Choire Bheithe 913m 2994' Birk Corrie Map .
Sgurr nan Eugallt 898m
Sgurr na Eugallt from the pass above Loch Quoich.
Sgurr nan Eugallt has such a curious name, 'death streams'? perhaps there were a series of drownings on burn crossings here. Other sources have the hill as 'peak of precipices' and this may be grounded in hisory. Sgurr nan Eugallt nearly achieved what the Redcoats could not do, cause the demise of Charles Edward Stuart.
On the run and heading north through the rough bounds, against the grain, Eugallt was so nearly a ridge too far. The hazardous crossing of guarded Glen Cosaidh completed, the party had big problems descending the wild corries to the north of the long ridge of Sgurr nan Eugallt. Somewhere above Coire Shubh, the prince fell on a precipice. Quite ironic, as although the hill is still big and rough, it is now the easiest hill in all Knoydart.
Firstly, it's the only Knoydart hill, that you can get a car near, the hill overlooks that wild pass above Loch Hourn, the only place in Knoydart linked to the highway system. The road could be extended from Kinloch Hourn to Inverie, but fortunately the folk of Knoydart prefer their isolation ,and have refused the road. Had the MOD taken over in 1983, there would have been a road over the Mam Barrisdale. Today, the walk in from Kinloch Hourn remains the most celebrated of low level routes, and ensures that most hill goers set foot upon Sgurr nan Eugallt, even if few make an ascent.
So you can park a couple of cars at or near ruined Coireshubh cottage, handily placed below the summit, but that is not all. One of the finest stalkers paths of all means that the first 600m of the ascent are effortless, and when the path is over a fine ridge leads upwards at a friendly angle. Almost all over approaches are normal Rough Bounds steepness, so nearly every one goes up this way.
The hill is a long ridge with many tops, if the ridge were higher , there would be more than one Munro on it. The south side is uniform and steep, falling to the attractive Glens Barrisdale and Cosaidh, the north is scalloped into a series of fine corries giving fine scenery and stalking. Someone said that the Corbetts were fine hills, but lacked size and bulk. There is no such problem here. Glen Cosaidh is notorious for its tough burn crossing, and was inhabited by one family in the early 20th Century. It was not so remote then. Folk planning a cross country trip here should note that the rainfall record is still held by Glen Quoich Lodge, ironically now drowned below the enlarged loch. Eugallt could well be the wettest Corbett. While we are neck deep in water, the hill has another curiosity to offer, Its a west coast hill, rising out of Loch Hourn, yet it is also on the watershed. Potential Nick Middletons shold note that the record rainfall on this hill is as likely to find its way under the bridges of Inverness and into the North Sea as the nearby Atlantic. Here Dave Hewitt's epic walk up the middle of Scotland (Walking the Watershed) turned into a coast walk. The watershed is further confused by the ttwo dams of Quoich, The Loch itself is raised above the watershed.
Like Druim Cosaidh (Sgurr a'Choire Beithe) the hill spans Barrisdale and Loch Quoich, but is a more complex ridge than its southern Munro in waiting. The path to Barrisdale struggles along its Northern flanks with much up and down. As said before this path is celebrated, and is compulsory fare for all lovers of Highland scenery (there is another good one on the Glenelg shore as well). Each stream mouth had a settlement probably important in the days of the great Hourn herring fishery at the start of the 19th Century. When I passed this way en route to Stonehaven in 1987 no one lived here, but Skiary is now a very upmarket B&B. The path is a good one , and when someone in Inverie wanted to start a herd of Highland Cattle, they were driven in this way in 1999. It still happens! I bet getting the cattle truck down to Kinloch Hourn was the hard part.
There used to be an extortionate charge of £1 a night to park at Kinloch Hourn, that was in the mid 1980's. In 2001 the charge was still £1, 14 years on, this had become a bargain. If going in to Barrisdale, be warned, parking spaces are at a premium. I have seen 40 tents at Barrisdale in 1987, its bound to be busier now. If doing Eugallt you have about 3 places around Coireshubh, but of course there is not quite the same demand.
The Ridge from Sgurr Dubh to the West top.
Strangely I had never before travelled the full length of the 22 mile cul-de-sac to Kinloch Hourn before 2001. I had walked in to Barrisdale and Kinloch Hourn from other places, most notably the 1987 coast to coast crossing, but never the road. There is a post bus 3 days a week, a 4 seater Landrover, but the road is probably easy to hitch now that the hills are busier. On this occasion there were quite a few vehicles parked below Gleoraich. The loch was drawn down almost to its original size, not a pretty sight. I am always amazed as to how such a big loch is formed by such an insignificant dam.
I was lucky to get as far as the hill, having been forced off the road by a blind summit overtaker just past Invergarry. I had no choice but to leave the road, but managed to miss the trees. The road is not always empty at 8am. Other than survival, I had also a problem of waking up with a flu like illness. I found the first 200 metres along the excelent path very hard indeed. It was a heavy humid day threatening afternoon violence. It was hazy and felt like August, rather than glorious May. The willow warblers , sandpipers and cuckoos made it very clear that it was May
May is always wonderful, and with the fresh green of the birches and the incessant call of the cuckoo, I had more than enough to take my mind off my bursting lungs. As height was gained, via a strange slot as well as the traditional zig zags, the day warmed up and I was soon reduced to the bare minimum of clothing. It became a race to get high up before the UV levels forced clothes back on. The idea was that by the time the sun had burnt off the haze, I would be high enough to cool down. The joys of summer. My previous hills were forested in Thrace, so I was enjoying being back out in the open, even if it was just as hot.
The path continued beyond its OS terminus, and lasted well on to the ridge, beyond Sgurr Dubh. This ridge was narrow but a walk and gave fine views into the corries and down to Loch Hourn. A short scramble up a flaggy buttress gained the East (pre 2001) summit, a mossy cairn over looking a worn out trig point. I was aware that there was doubt as to the true summit, so I dragged my self over the obstacle course of the summit plateau to the West top. This appeared to be the same height than the trig, but the next day at a protest against access restrictions on Ben Lawers, Alan Dawson had great pleasure in telling me that the West Top was 4 metres higher at 898m. Had he hoped I had not gone the extra 400m? Schadenfreude is such a tempting emotion. The West top, is unmarked. Beyond is a substantial cairn on Sgurr Sgiath Airigh.
The summits: Cairn (895m) foreground, Trig(894m) and West top(898m) background.
That was it. The West top was as far as I was going. Death Streams, more like feeling like death streams or even nose streams. One hour in the sun, with my flask of blackcurrent tea was all I was good for. Any plans to head to the Graham of Meall nan Eun were shelved on health grounds. I was only good for the easy path down. I could still appreciate the view, although haze cut the view off at a snowy Ladhar Bheinn. I was in Knoydart, on a day trip, in the month of months, and all was well with the world, thank you.
On return I met someone at the trig, he was at the end of a long trip, chasing Corbetts and dodging the few remaining access restrictions from the Foot and Mouth. He was impressed that we were to walk against the NTS the following day, but he had eyes on Sgurr a Choire Beithe. I warned him ,that the hill is a potential Munro addition, and that he ought to go the West top of Eugallt, just in case. Enjoy your return visit, its worth climbing again anyway.
Barrisdale from the West top.
From the trig its easy enough to do a round over the Eastern tops of Sgurr a Chlaidheimh and down to the road by the new telephone relay mast at the pass, but I had a sick note, so enjoyed a slow plod down in company, before finishing the day with a brew at Loch Coire Shubh. During this time I noticed very big clouds building over Affric and Loch Ness. By the time I reached Tomdoun for a pint, Michael Owen had won the FA cup for Liverpool and it was hammering down. By the time I had ordered my pint, the transformer had taken a direct hit, scattering the ponies and cutting the power. It had the decency to wait for full time.
The following day we had a very successful walk up Ben Lawers. Along with the summer, the liberation of Perthshire had begun.
NB Sgurr nan Eugallt's summit is now at 898m at GR 927048.
Sgurr a' Choire Beithe 913m
Its 1984, tales are coming out of Knoydart of a great deal of interest in the Barrisdale area. Visitor numbers are up and they all seem to be boating on Loch Quoich or trudging up Gleann Unndalain. Some of these folk were hotfooting it from Glen Spean. The word was out, there is another new Munro. Sgurr a'Choire-bheithe was about to join the elect. Soon things quietened down, Choire-bheithe had proved like Oighreag before it to be a false alarm, the promised new map never appeared, and the hordes carried on knocking lumps off of nearby Luinne Bheinn.
Sgurr a'Choire-bheithe is still a fine hill, it does not know about arbitrary lines, and remains a challenge for those averse to long walk-ins. Sgurr a'Choire-bheithe is the highpoint of the Druim Chosaidh, an eight mile long ridge tucked away behind the parallel Sgurr nan Eugallt, eastward access is complicated by the raised Loch Quoich, and from the west you have to get to Barrisdale first, only six miles from the road, or a ferry from Arnisdale. Is a well moated hill this one, and it would have been a rude shock to retired Munro baggers.
Like Sgurr nan Eugallt one end is in Loch Quoich and the other in Loch Hourn at the point where the watershed gets closest to the West Coast. It's a simpler hill than its northern twin, not so many deep bitten corries and a more slender and graceful hill. Both northern and southern flanks are relentlessly steep with that frustrating lack of big crags that is a characteristic of Rough Bounds hills. To the west the ridge declines to the pine woods behind Barrisdale and to the east a narrow knolly ridge eventually reaches Loch Quoich. Approaches from Quoich are long, and not aided by the lack of a path along the tide line of the enlarged loch. Then there is the trap of the infamous Abhainn Chosaidh, a burn that has trapped a few over the years in this the wettest quarter of Scotland.
Druim Chosaidh (sunlit hill, centre) from Sgurr Mor. Ladhar Bheinn in the distance, and just to its right, the snow covered summit of Sgurr a'choire-beithe.
That leaves Barrisdale as the only other straightforward alternative. Now its just a crude shelter and campsite with a couple of houses, but its not so long since a thriving community was sited here making a living out of a prolific herring fishery. It features strongly in the history of Knoydart and has given the world the word 'blackmail', from the antics of its most famous resident, Coll MacDonald.
Coll had the usual casual attitude to other people's cattle, and was reputed to raid over quite a large area. He also used the more subtle device of providing his private army to protect the assets of his neighbours, for a price. The price of not hiring him, was of course greater. He was so efficient at regulating the raiding that he was credited for bringing it to an end. This protection racket was paid in 'black meal' i.e. cattle, hence the term. All the cattle raiding was in vain, the entire Knoydart herd was forfeit after Culloden, and his fine house at Inverie destroyed.
Today Barrisdale is a very busy place. Its an ideal base for the remoter Knoydart peaks, especially Ladhar Bheinn, and since Knoydart became popular in the aftermath of the MOD purchase attempt, the campsite there is frequently busy. On my first visit in 1987 there were forty tents at Barrisdale. These numbers bring with them problems. On my Sgurr a'Choire-bheithe trip, we walked in from Li, west of Barrisdale. It was a tough walk and our tempers were not soothed on finding that the bridge by the campsite was missing. We found that it had been burnt on campfires. The estate had installed a warden for the summer, he was rather cynical about the antics of us hill goers, thoroughly disgusted by the vandalism but proved to be a very friendly chap once he understood that we were not on a mission of burning and pillage.
It was a tough week. I was touring around finally finishing off a Munro round. I still had Meall Bhuidhe and Ladhar Bheinn to do and planned to do them either side of a night in Inverie. Entering Knoydart by boat from Loch Hourn gave a chance to get in Beinn na Cailleach as well. Unfortunately being June I was caught in an evening blizzard on Ladhar Bheinn and had to use a trekking pole as an axe. It was a full winter ascent and I was also to confirm that the slopes above Li are magnetic. A stormy night in a boggy campsite later, I decided to escape to Barrisdale along the coast. A short but rough walk enlivened by the missing bridge.
After settling in at Barrisdale, the weather improved to sunshine and I spent the afternoon on a supposedly quick ascent of Sgurr a Choire-bheithe. My route was along the high quality pony path up Gleann Unndalain and then from the pass overlooking Lochan nan Breac, a four hundred metre slog up the south face direct to the summit. This latter part was a slog contrasting with the delightful wooded pony track below. The hill has several knolls competing for top spot and legend has it that the OS have mapped the wrong summit and it's a Munro after all.
The paths in Knoydart are reputyed to be the work of a man who left Rhodesia under scandal just before the Great War. The paths look less worn and are perhaps younger than the usual Victorian ones. Here the paths are the roads, they run through the glenns linking the corners of what was the vast Knoydart estate. Today they provide easy engineered walking through otherwise brutal terrain. Knoydart is great, even if you dont want to walk the high ridges. I had a policy of doing the knoydart hills as part of big walks, always saving some for another day. The emphasis on Knoydart trips was exploring the glens rather than raids getting as many summits as possible. Beacuse of the path network, this is one of the best trekking areas in Scotland. We walked through Glen Unndalain on our coast to coast walk, only that time I nipped up Luinne Bheinn while Frances rested at the top of the path. I did not have the brownie points in the bank to be able to desert her for a second hill. Besides it was roasting and Lochan nam Breac and the beach was irrisistable.
Just below the summit of Sgurr a'Choire-bheithe, looking towards Lochan nam Breac and Sgurr Mor.
It was a hazy day and I could only just make out Barrisdale Bay and the endless undulations of Druim Chosaidh. From here I chose to return down the steeper western end of the long ridge to Barrisdale. This provided the usual delights of a seaward descent in the west. I was feeling the full three thousand feet of ascent and quite glad to reach the tent for a brew to the sound of the bay's waders. Unlike the previous visit, the place was deserted, everyone else was driven off by the monsoon. They were the canny ones, I was to suffer the next day on Meall Bhuidhe.
Escape from Barrisdale was novel. We got a lift with the warden across to the Glenelg side of Loch Hourn. This was quite a trip in a small boat with three collies. What we did not appreciate until later was that we were to be dropped off at the end of one of the finest paths going, a remnant of the herring days. Its forgotten now, because it goes nowhere, no ferries now, but the three mile coast path east from Corran should be experienced by everyone with a love of wild places and hidden corners, to say nothing about the engineering involved. We were very lucky to use it as it was originally intended, as a road to Barrisdale.
Edition A 16/5/01
Top of the page
Return to index.