Knoydarts Beinn na Caillich from Arnisdale by kayak

Corbetts: Beinn na Caillich

Date walked: 19/09/2020

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 8km

Ascent: 854m

Knoydart…even the word brings a smile to my face :D and with a free weekend on the horizon, I spend glorious hours planning my return trip to one of my favorite areas. The Corbett Beinn na Caillich had been on my radar for a long time, but I wanted a new approach. The most common approach was from Inverie, the second approach I was able to find online was up the long glen Allt Coire Sgamadail from Loch Hourn (with an option to hire a boat man from Arnisdale to take you) . However I had spotted another option, which for a while I had marked on my online map. I had studied some photos and decided that it should be ok. With the route handed to Kevin who was visiting family this weekend, I set off for a solo weekend trip into the wild of Knoydart.

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The sun was low in the sky when I arrived in Arnisdale. I parked the car and started to blow up my inflatable kayak and got my gear ready for the paddle across. A couple from Manchester who had just return from a kayak trip to Barrisdale approached me and we chatted about Mountain trips and how glorious the last few days had been. Its always nice to meet like minded people on trips like that.

With my gear piled in the kayak I said my goodbyes and paddled across the nearly flat waters of Loch Hourn. The sun was setting and an orange sky illuminated the sea and surrounding mountains in glorious evening light. It was so calm and peaceful that I had to stop a few times and just drink in the atmosphere. It was simple breathtaking! A splash and breathing sound interrupted the tranquillity and turning around I spotted a couple of seals who were eying me up. I did not know then, but the seals would stay my closest neighbors during the entire weekend.

Sunset looking towards the Cuillins

Towards Barrisdale

The area I wanted to camp was between Li and Ceum an Doill. A 2.5 km paddle later I was paddling along the empty shore and decided on an area close to Allt na Leth bheinne. Stepping on land and walking around it became clear why probably no one had ever lived here before. The ground was incredible boggy and it was literally impossible to find a square meter of flat ground which wasn’t covered in bracken, heather,blackberry bushes and lumps. Ok I did not expect that and returning to the kayak with darkness approaching fast, I had to think fast. I had spotted a faint path, only 2 meters of the high water mark which followed part of the shore, it wasn’t perfect, but better than any other area, so for that night it would have to do. I set up my tent (rather loopy sided) and settled for the night. While eating dinner and having a can of beer I listened to the noises outside.

Camp spot for the weekend

Its incredible what noises the night produced. Some I recognized, some like a dry cough like bark I didn’t. I was laying awake for ages and woke frequently through out the night. Not the best sleep I had, but with the morning sun beating on my tent I opened the door and with the high tide only 2 meters away from the tent enjoyed the sound of the small waves against the rocks while having breakfast. I was delighted when I spotted 2 seals swimming really close to shore, I gave them a wee wave and watched them swimming in the bay between me and the island. They were a curious bunch…every time I moved or walked around, they seemed watch me. In return I learned a lot about their behavior during the weekend. At high tide they were out playing with each other, or fishing. At low tide they lay of some rocks, only visible when the water was low, and seemed to chill in the sun. During nighttime they seemed to be hunting, based on the frequent splashes I could hear well into darkness.

My curious neigbours


With my gear packed and the kayak and tent secured for the day I set off to climb Beinn na Caillich. From my tent I walked up towards a fence line, crossed the fence and stayed in the middle of the two burns Allt na Leth bheinne and Allt Coirein na Leacainn. The ground was steep and covered in thick bracken, heather and long grass and was incredible boggy- horrible stuff. I stepped into numerous watery bog holes hidden well out of site, slid down muddy ground and had to be careful not to end up flat on my face. To make maters worse, the warm wind still warm day made me sweat buckets and I was attacked by hundreds of deer flies. They stuck to my face, hair, even eyelashes, I was nearly going insane. :roll: :wtf: Luckily the drama only lasted until I reached the 220m mark.
From here onward the ground slightly improved and the deer flies disappeared. Looking around I spotted a deer track. I had originally planned to take a slightly different route, but when I have learned one thing during the years, is to stick to deer tracks if no other path exist.
The deer track clung close to the right hand site of Allt Coirein na Leacainn. The hillsite dropped steeply, but the route was great and led straight down to the burn at around the 350m mark, which was a good opportunity to refill my water bottle and have a rest at the massive square boulder which was laying across the burn.

On the way up looking back

The deer track higher up...hard to spot, but once you are on it , easy to follow

At the square rock (bottom right)

I continued sticking close to the right hand site of the burn, when the deer track frizzed out until I reached the magnificent Bealach nan Creagan Dubha. Its an amazing area, covered with huge boulders, lochans and grassy ground. The burn I had followed, suddenly split to the left, with much smaller streams continuing straight and to the right. I continued straight until I reached Loch Bealach Creagan Dubha . Sticking to the left hand site of the loch, the views all around me were amazing. It was also the first time I was able to see Beinn na Caillich, which raised steeply in front of me. I continued a straight towards the hill approach , when I came to the edge of a cliff face. I wee exciting scramble later and it was a short walk downhill before the actual climb could begin (if you want to avoid the scramble walk toward Lochan a Mhill Ghruamaich once you reached the bealach and stick to the right hand site of it)

Beinn na Caillich in the distance

The lovely Plateau

From the scramble towards Beinn na Caillich

I climbed straight up Beinn na Caillich, as I did not realize there is a faint path up Carn Dubh but even the straight up approach wasn’t bad. Once I reached the top wonderful views out towards Skye, Koydart and the mountains out towards the north, east and south had to be savored. Its an incredible view point and I stayed a good hour at the top. It was incredible as I have not seen a single soul, not even walking in the distance all day.

On the way up looking back

Mountain vistas

Views from the summit

Myself with the Cuillins behind me

Close up towards the Red and Black Cuillins

Ladhar Beinn


The isles of Eigg, Rum and Canna in the distance

During the return walk I found the path down Carn Dubh and otherwise just returned the way I came. Minus the first 200m in height the route was great and the high bealach was a place I would love to return to even for an overnight camping trip.

On the way back down again

Happy in the wilderness

The lovely lochans on the bealach

Caillichs afternoon Reflection in one of the lochans

Now where is the deer track again?

Its a long way down to sea level

'Home' in sight

Lovely views across the water during the evening

The wilderness of Knoydart had showed its magic again and apart from the family of seals with had presented my evening entertainment, a group of roaring stags in the distance, a sea eagle flying high above me and a few sheep I had not seen any other human until I returned to Arnisdale.
I was sad when I had to pack to head home, but at least I know I will return for another adventure in the great wilderness.

On my back home across the water

Stopping off at the wee island on the way back

Last view back

Beinn na Caillich from the road back

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User avatar
Location: North Ayrshire
Occupation: HR
Activity: Munro compleatist
Pub: The one which serves beer
Place: Sutherland
Gear: My walking boots
Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ1000
Ideal day out: Overnight camp on a mountain and some scrambling
Ambition: See the world
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