15 October 2011--I had some big ideas when I suggested to Ron that we go to Knoydart. I was thinking of a fourteen-mile circuit
taking in Ladhar Bheinn, the highest peak in the area at 1020 meters (3346 feet). Walkhighlands suggests allowing nine to twelve hours, pushing the boundaries for this time of
year; we'd have needed to start before sunrise, and perhaps been prepared to do the last mile or two, on an easy dirt road, after sunset.
I don't have the confidence to do this kind of thing on my own, and was counting on Ron for the needed boost. I've known for weeks now
that it wasn't going to happen. Ron is not as fully recovered from his leg issues as he would have liked, and truth to tell, I'm not
ready for it, either. There's no one to pin that on but myself...I need to find a few walks somewhere between Dun Caan's level and this
to gain the necessary experience. And I need to stop dithering and making excuses, and just do it.
It's not the great disappointment it might have been, anyway, when the day dawns soggy and misty. We'll go for a walk, but nothing too ambitious. We don't get out any too early, either--the fact is, we're quite enjoying the view from our quiet and cozy cottage. We decide to walk out the road west of the village, toward Doune. We're surprised to find it well paved, at least for the distance we go, which makes us feel even more like slackers. We go four miles out and return, not seeing much but rolling misty moorland. It's a taste of the country, at least.
Loll around the house for a while, reading up on the history of Knoydart. Once part of the Lordship of the Isles, the peninsula formed an estate that passed from Clanranald to Macdonnell of Glengarry in the 17th century. It was under the absentee Macdonnells that the 19th-century Clearances took place, hundreds of residents being shipped to Montreal and left to fend for themselves. In the early 20th century, the estate was purchased by the notorious Nazi sympathizer, Ronald Nall-Cain, 2nd Baron Brocket. This charming fellow envisioned the estate as a hunting preserve for his wealthy cronies, and did his best to force the remaining residents out. In 1948, the Seven Men of Knoydart attempted to stake crofting claims in an effort to avoid eviction, citing a post-WWI law designed to encourage settlement on underutilized land. They ultimately failed (a summary of the episode can be found here), but they set the stage for land reform, not only in Knoydart, but across Scotland. Brocket sold the estate shortly after, and after a period of less contentious stewardship under several different owners, the remaining estate was purchased in 1999 by the non-profit Knoydart Foundation, with the stated aim of promoting "employment and settlement on the Knoydart Peninsula without detriment to its natural beauty and character and to seek and encourage the preservation of its landscape, wildlife, natural resources, culture and rural heritage."
To an American, it seems strange to realize that echoes of medieval feudalism still resound here in the 21st century. But when I consider that land and resources, in those days, were the primary measure of wealth, and think about the way the moneyed elite behave today on our own side of the pond, I realize that things haven't really changed so much. The wealthy have always gone about accumulating more and more wealth, viewing the rest of us as fungible assets, at best. But I guess that's just me engaging in class warfare, isn't it?
The sun, absent all day, shows as a dying ember as we head back to the Old Forge for dinner and pints. It's quieter than last night, and we don't stay late.