Occasionally a place really hits you, bang! Right in the heart and you fall madly in love.
This weekend it happened, in Scotland! I fell in love with Knoydart. A small peninsula off north west Scotland, across the water from the Isle of Skye. Home to the most remote pub in Britain, a cafe, a post office and 115 permanent residents.
Knoydart isn’t an island, but the only way to reach this small dwelling is via boat from Mallaig or by walking 14 miles over hills and mountains through the wilderness. We opted for the boat.
The arrow struck before we had even reached the jetty, our friendly Captain welcomed us on board a small boat that could fit no more than 12 people for the half hour journey across the water. Half way their and we stopped close to a different shoreline to snap some photos of Basking Sharks… yes sharks.
There were about 7 sharks, some with calves, happily swimming along, fins above the water, they came up close to the boat as the six of us on board couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing. Our short commuter boat had turned into an adventure cruise.
I jokingly asked if on the return journey the captain could provide sightings of whales and dolphins, he laughed, and then two minutes later there they were… Dolphins (or Porpoise) jumping through the water only metres from our boat. WOW!
The sun set behind us, shimmering on the sea as we raced into port, I couldn’t get the grin of my face and what had first seemed a necessary stop off with dad, who had business here, had become a new exciting adventure to a beautiful place.
We were picked up by one of the few vehicles (90% Land Rovers) who are said to ‘come to die’ at Knoydart. Vehicles are MOT exempt, not surprising when the nearest mechanic is an expensive and rare boat ride to Mallaig. We were staying in the Foundation Bunkhouse, I was expecting bare brick walls and an empty mattress but was surprised to find bedding, a bathroom and fully equipped kitchen for our use. AND… they even had wifi in the shared living room across the courtyard.
For dinner you have two choices… the pub or eat at home. There is one other dining establishment, a small cafe that is open for dinner three times a week and breakfast, lunch and cakes every day.
The Old Forge pub has won countless awards for their freshly caught scallops, langoustines and mussels. You can wander the island at night and not see a soul, walk in the pub and there they all are. We walked in to a warm welcome, a mixture of friendly locals sat jamming on their bagpipes and guitars, to tourists greedily eating the fresh caught seafood and local venison.
The food was delicious, but the atmosphere made the evening, I could have sat and listened to the musicians all night. The pub has instruments dotted around the room that you are welcome to make use of. I love it here.
In the morning we woke up and strolled to the Knoydart Pottery and Tea Room (dining establishment No two), for a bacon sandwich and mug of tea. The cafe had a range of magazines to flick through and the log fire and leather sofas I can imagine are very popular in the cold winter months.
Once fully stocked up on warm food and drink, my brother and I headed out to explore the local trails. We walked along the coast line, looking out over the water, watching the occasional boat go past and spotting local wildlife. The Knoydart Foundation have organised volunteers to make a few random wood and stone carvings to look out for on their nature walks above the town, including various wooden people hanging from trees and lazing on rocks. It adds a bit more adventure to your walk, especially for young children (this includes me!).
Once you have worked your way through the pub menu, explored a few trails and off track walks through the mountains and perhaps done a spot of mountain biking or cycling you have pretty much reached your fill of things to do on the island. But then there is always drinking with the locals and just sitting back and relaxing.
I could definitely see myself returning and renting a small cottage or staying in one of the small lodges to while away my days reading and writing looking out over the ocean and feeling so blissfully lucky to be in such a beautiful place.
As I write this post I am sat on a bench outside the pub looking out over the water to the mountains ahead, I have already befriended the local dogs with one snuggled by my feet and after being here less than 24 hours have come to recognise most people around and know some of the locals by name. This is definitely a part of Scotland I want to return to and somewhere I think you should add to your bucket list.