The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

 

Knoydart, is a peninsular on the west coast of Scotland and east of Skye, separated from the island by the sound you can not hear, the Sound of Sleat. Knoydart is very remote but such a magical place, you really have to take time out in the long summer days to do it justice. The first time we visited it was winter and the days were short. We had organised a drop-off by landrover at Arnisdale, were we had arranged for a retired shepherd to take us in his small open boat to the other side of Loch Hourn. During our time away he would spend his time visiting with the folks at the Glen Arnisdale estate. The first time we visited the estate boasted a young unmarried gamekeeper. A forester, his wife and two children, and since there was no school a retired school teacher lived in a car-a-van in their garden. On the second visit, the young gamekeeper had taken a wife. Our over ambitious route that day would take us first up Ladhar Bheinn then on to Luinne Bheinn, but as the old shepherd was concerned about crossing the loch in darkness we only climbed Ladhar Bheinn, even then it was getting dark when we hit the shore, where the boat awaited our coming.

We crossed the loch without incident, arriving outside the shepherd’s cottage, he and his wife lived in one of the houses strung out in a row along the shore. His wife welcomed us in to the snug and warmth of her home, a big fire was burning in the grate and after tea and fresh-baked scones and fruit cake, my eyes were closing, the heat was getting to me it would not have taken much for me to drop off to sleep in the big armchair.

There were televisions in Scotland at that time but here in the highland getting any kind of signal was near impossible, so the radio was their ear on the world. I was asked where I was from and when I said Dunfermline, the old boy was able to tell me the name of every member of the Pars (Dunfermline Athletic) football team and certainly knew more about the outside world news than I did. Then he asked,

“Will any of you lads be going near a big town, you see I need a new valve for my radio, I’m lost without it?”.

“Are you sure that it is a valve?” I asked.

“Oh, yes” he assure me “They all light up but that one”.

I checked the radio over for him and jotted down the chassis number, when I returned to Kinloss I went to the stores and asked for two of each valve for that chassis packaged them up and sent them off to Arnisdale. When we were leaving we tried to press money into the old boy’s hand, but he would not hear of it, so instead, we left him with a five-gallon jerry can of petrol and a used 150-foot climbing rope for his boat, his face light up as if we had just told him he had won the football pools.

We did very little, in climbing terms, but that was an unforgettable day, a trip that will live with me for the rest of my life.  

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