Mike Vickers' Blog

May 31, 2019

Knoydart: A Community with a future.

Filed under: Knoydart, Land Ownership, Railways, Reality, Sustainability — derryvickers @ 11:46 am

We spend three days at Knoydart staying in the Knoydart Foundation’s bunkhouse at Inverie. Inverie is the main village, indeed the only village.

The Village

There are a few scattered houses across the peninsular.

We did two good walks from Inverie, to Doune where there is a good restaurant near the shore (although at 200 meters downhill we refrained from sampling) and to the Waterfall on a burn below Ladhar Beinn (a Munro), each around 20 kms.

The Waterfall


See simple map

Map of the peninsula

A Simple Map of Knoydart

A little background: Knoydart was one of the early buys out by the Community from the landowner of the Knoydart Peninsular. Half is now owned by the Community while the other half is owned by the John Muir Trust. Knoydart is not an island although effectively it is as there is no road connection to the Community. You can walk there from Loch Hourn, but it takes two days over moorland. You can also walk from Glenfinnan but at present there is a vital bridge being replaced.

I quote ‘The Knoydart Foundation was established in 1997 to work on behalf of the community in taking ownership of the area of land covered by Knoydart Estate at the time. The Knoydart peninsula, which is not connected to the mainland road network, is part of a National Scenic Area (click to download information leaflet).’

For a little more detail see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knoydart with plenty of photos.

But the essence of Knoydart is its community which has built up to around 100 people. Knoydart was effectively cleared during the Highland Clearances. People do of course leave but more arrive. There is now an active primary school while secondary school children are weekly boarders at Mallaig

Boats at Mallaig Pier

Mallaig – a busy port

the nearest town with a mainland road connection._ The community must be self-supporting and there is the village shop, the cafe run by two excellent baking sisters, the Foundation Office and the Local Pub which claims to be the furthest west on the mainland of any pub in the UK. Electricity is powered by a locally deigned and built hydro scheme supplied from a nearby loch and TV and Internet from a receiver / transmitter, high above the village; also, home designed and built. The scheme is communal linking in Mallaig and South Skye as well.

A main activity is logging for export

The Timber Yard

; houses are unsurprisingly built from wood and there are some lovely new ones in the village. Land is being replanted for the future although simple plantings still abound

An untouched birch grove on the way to the Waterfall

. While deer stalking may be considered a sport of the wealthy, on Knoydart it is a necessity as the deer need to be culled to control their numbers; new fencing abounds. The Foundation is about to start doubling size of the Village Hall; it is the centre of the Community but needs expanding to provide a home for all that goes on.
A friend of ours is Davie Newton who undertakes and directs the operational management. There is always plenty to do and while we were there, there was a group of ‘jolly’ volunteers from the John Muir Trust redoing the ditches; rainwater is always a problem.

John Muir Volunteers

The John Muir Team of Volunteers

Although there is no road connection to the outside world Knoydart has its own road network and cars and 4by4s are ferried in and much appreciated! The ferry is of course an essential connection for people and food and to underwrite how there is faith in the community the Ferry Company, Western Isles Cruises, has recently acquired a new fast boat which plies between Mallaig and Inverie and the crossing time has reduced from three quarters of an hour to less than half an hour with the older more traditional boat (which is still in service).

The big boat with Rhum in the distance

A key feature of development is managing the land and there is a dedicated and very active Ranger, Amie, who manages the land and concentrates on ‘Sustainability’ particularly planting new trees. She points out that the older forests can’t be easily harvested because they were planted with horse extraction and there are no horses on Knoydart anymore; a not easily reversible change where tractors now dominate.  Amie provides organized trips round her Land Rover; The Land Rover Defender is the dominant 4 by 4 not surprisingly and I am unclear what will happen to spares now the Land Rover are not making them anymore.
Of course, tourists are a source of wealth and Inverie is a centre for keen walkers coming by boat or in from Loch Hourn and Glenfinnan.

As an aside, for Stuart fans Glenfinnan is where Bonny Prince Charlie raised his standard in 1745. More recently for Harry Potter fans the Jacobite Stream hauled train runs between Fort William and Mallaig via Glenfinnan over Concrete Bob’s viaduct. The train and coaches were in Mallaig Station when we arrived

The Jacobite waiting to depart from Mallaig

As I see it the Knoydart community is to be lauded; they have bought out and set up the foundation and over the few years we have been going to Knoydart the community is growing in strength and resilience and perhaps more importantly life is taking on a ‘normality’. I appreciate that life in the Summer looks easy (apart from the midges)

Sunset looking towards Rhum

but then there are the long dark winters, although some of the community have told us these are better days as they can relax and do what they can’t in the summer. Scotland needs such communities, replacements for the villages removed by the Clearances, and it is good to see Knoydart flourishing and the New Village Hall is a sign for the positive future.

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