Hiking the Stevenson Way

The Ross of Mull

April 26 - 29, 2018


Trip Detail


Thursday, April 26, 2018 (Planes, automobiles, ferries, buses – and foot: 6,125 kilometers)

Lowest elevation (hiked) – Fidden Farm halfway between Fionnphort and Knockvologan – 171 Ft.

Highest elevation (hiked) – Camp One – 350 Ft. 

The bus pulled into a nearly empty Fionnphort at 6:15 pm.  For us it was all about catching a quick dinner and then setting out for our Camp One.  Only the Keel Row Pub was still serving food so we left our packs outside under their rain covers – we could see the grey slant of showers approaching out at sea – and entered the pub.    Our hostess was very friendly and cordial.  “When will we be seated?” we asked.

“We can seat you at about eight o’clock,” she replied.

The time was now 6:30.  Sunset was at 8:41 pm.


End of the line at Fionnphort

We got lucky – I guess – and they called us out of the pub at 7:30 for dinner.  We both ordered the chicken special and it was decent.  The “sauce” was really gravy and the vegetables were mushy but given our situation we cleaned our plates.  By 8:15 we were strapped up and walking the 5 kilometers to the head of the trail that ended at the Traigh Gheal (Beach of Gheal).  There was a light rain falling as we set out; however, the road was paved and only slightly undulated so we were able to maintain a 3 mph gait.  This got us to the trailhead well after sunset at about 9:15 pm.


The walk to Knockvologan

The trailhead was to our left just before we ran out of road and walked into the cattle barns of the Knockvologan Farm.  The turn-off was so close that the cattle were all bellowing at us as we turned onto the trail.  The first 350 meters was on a sort of dike with baseball sized cobbles and then there was a turn to the right and the next 450 meters was perpetually wet and boggy.  Then, we started up into the Torr Fada.  Torr means mound or hill in Gaelic and besides being totally dark, the rain which had been light had become heavier before we even left the road at Knockvologan  We went up the steep trail for about 325 meters and made it to a point about 100 meters from the top of Torr Fada.  Brian found a patch of long weeds that he felt was possible for a camp.

For both of us we had only put up our solo tents inside our houses so this was a sort of baptism by water because the rain was increasing and the wind was piping up.  This site was at an angle of close to 3° off horizontal but with the increasing inclement weather we could not afford to be choosey.  With our headlamps on, we got our tents up and rapidly covered them with the rainflies but I could only clip it in at the corners before the front rolled through.  I darted outside and strung all the rainfly guy lines and then darted back inside just as the second front rolled in.  Both our tents had large vestibules so our packs were completely protected from the storm.  Both tents bore the storm well.

I had no problem sleeping but I woke up a few times and always found myself scrunched at the downward end of the tent.


Friday, April 27, 2018 (Camp One to Camp Two at Port Uisken – 10.77 kilometers)

Lowest elevation (hiked) – Camp Two at Port Uisken – 79 Ft.

Highest elevation (hiked) – Bealach Buidhe Mountain Pass – 486 Ft. 

The morning was chilly at 5°C (41°F) but the sky was clear, the wind was calm and the sunshine was brilliant.  From our vantage point on the hillside of Torr Fada we could clearly see the island of Erraid and the Island of Iona beyond that.  Beyond Iona the Atlantic spread out to the horizon and in the hazy bright sunshine both ocean and sky looked the same and the horizon line was difficult to determine.


Camp One on the western slope of Torr Fada

We completed the final 100 meters to the top of the hill and were a little surprised to find the trail wet and muddy all the way including at the top.  Passing over the summit, a little more than a kilometer-and-a-half toward the bottom of the hill on the other side, our GPS told us that this was the point we would leave the trail and set out overland.  We both assumed that the trail had become a sort of stream-course so we were more than happy to be leaving it behind. 

The wet trail down the eastern slope of Torr Fada

But we were soon to learn a basic truth about the Ross of Mull.  The terrain is mostly bog and wet heath.  We followed a fence line that led through a collection of ruins of what looked like once had been blackhouses.  The stones outlined their small rectangular shapes and it seemed that some had chimneys while others did not.  The classic Scottish blackhouse did not have a chimney and as the residents burned their dried peat in a center hearth, the smoke found its way out through the thatched roof and cracks between the stones.  This left the interior black with soot and though it is argued among historians, some say this is where the term blackhouse came from.  Perhaps the more affluent villagers lived in the houses with chimneys. This particular village was on the map and was called Tir Fhearagain.  This settlement and others like it were victims of “The Clearances” in the mid-1800s.  The buildings had been built on the high ground but they sat on wet heath and there was bog on their west side where the fence line ran.


The settlement of Tir Fhearagain – a victim of “The Clearances”

After Tir Fhearagain we reached a promontory and we could see the fence that ran in more or less a straight line through the Gleann na Muic.  We went down the slope to follow this fence.  As we now clearly understood, this land did not drain and there was more of the wet heath and bog.  Sometimes the bog was obvious and could be avoided but other times it was indistinct and concealed and we would step in half-way up our gaiters.  This was the walk along the seven foot fence through the glen.

At one point in a low area of the glen we encountered a large boggy area and we had to climb over the fence to the other side.  It was not as wet on the opposite side of the fence but we began to encounter large bushes of Gorse.  These bushes had very bright yellow flowers but also hidden two-inch thorns.  We followed this route of wet heath, bogs and Gorse until from a high point, Ardalanish Bay came into view. 


The Gorse in all its thorny beauty

We followed the best path we could find until we connected with the lane that led down to the beach.  We passed the Ardalanish Woolen Mill and we saw the sign for the Ardachy Hotel.  There was a car park and then the Ardalanish beach path ran for another 400 meters down a gentle slope.  A sheep meadow was on the left and it was full of bleating sheep as we walked to the beach.  The beach itself was sand interspersed with cobbles and ringed with kelp where the sea met the land.  Certainly not Laguna Beach or Myrtle Beach but quiet, remote and beautiful. 


Ardalanish Bay

We crossed a sheep meadow behind the beach to look at the standing stones which are denoted on the map.  Looking at the standing stones – there were several of them – we had no idea what the story was behind them, who put them there or how long they had been there.  According to the Mull Historical & Archeological Society, their origin and history are uncertain.  However, it is believed that many of the standing stones of the west coast were erected in the late Neolithic and Bronze Age.  The Neolithic (new Stone Age) spans the years 4,000 to 2,500 BCE and the Bronze Age 2,500 to 800 BCE.  We eventually climbed the wall and followed a fence line to the Uisken Road.  This was not a long distance but it was boggy and bushy and far more difficult than we anticipated.


Typical overland terrain

The Uisken Road was a single lane paved road that ran downhill to the beach and campground at Uisken.  There were no designated campsites at this camp and the caravans were lining the lane along a fence that held sheep on the other side.  There was a nice flat grassy area right on the edge of the beach and we decided to take it.  We set up our tents there.



Our site for Camp Two overlooking the bay at Port Uisken

Once we had set up camp, a woman drove down in a small SUV and told us it was £2 apiece per night.  We asked about filling our water bottles and she said they had a tap up near her cottage and offered to drive us since it was back up the hill which we had walked down to the beach.  On the drive to her cottage, I asked her who maintained the camp and she said the Croft.  Brian asked if the Croft was a collective of the property owners in Uisken and she replied, “Oh no dear, the Croft belongs to the Duke of Argyll.”  The original Duke of Argyll was a Campbell allied with the Crown and after the defeat of the Stewarts in the late 18th century, much of the highland and island properties were awarded to them and the other clans allegiant to the English Crown.  The Clearances followed in the early to mid-19th century.

That night we slept on level ground in calm, dry conditions with the sound of the sea gently lapping up against the shore.  We were in our tents and asleep by 9:30 pm.  The night-time temperature never fell below 6°C (43°F).  As rough going as it was at times, this would turn out to be our easiest day.


Saturday, April 28, 2018 (Camp Two to Camp Three at Carsaig Arches 15.58 kilometers)

Lowest elevation (hiked) – Camp Three at Carsaig Arches – 71 Ft.

Highest elevation (hiked) – Cnoc Reamhar, Eastern-most end of Forest of Scoor – 929 Ft.    

We were blessed with good weather.  This day broke the same as the day before – clear, calm and temperatures around 8°C (47°F).  At the east end of the beach there was a stone wall with a pass-through step and on top of the wall was a block and carved into the block was the symbol for “Scotland’s Great Trails”.  This was the first of this sort of sign we had seen and it was also to be our last.  There were no other trail markings of any sort.  What appeared to be the path switch-backed up a steep exposed rock cliff which required a little rock-climbing where the path was non-existent.



On the bluff east of Uisken with Jura and Islay on the horizon

Our route was to move northeast inland away from the coast and pick up the fence line and trail shown on the map that passed through a glen just under the steep little hill called Cnoc Mor.  We picked up the fence line but the trail was not yet obvious.  By mid-day, the temperature had climbed to 10.5°C (51°F) and the day was still clear and relatively windless.  This caused us to kick up small swarms of Midges but it was early in the season for them and they never rose to more than knee-height so they were not a problem.  Following the fence line through this area the bogs became more expansive.  They were also exacerbated by the deep impressions of cattle.  We hadn’t seen the cattle yet but they had really torn up the heath and bogs with their hooves.  Brian was about 200 meters ahead of me and had disappeared over a low ridge and then I saw him walking back toward me.  He said there were cattle over the ridge and as he approached, they all turned and started walking toward him in unison.  Neither one of us knew anything about the temperament of cattle so we thought it would be prudent to climb the fence. 



Separating ourselves from the cattle

Once on the other side of the fence, we saw they were all Highland Cattle.  Most were a rust color and a few were black but they were all very shaggy.  With all the draped hair we really couldn’t tell if they were male or female or a mixture of both.



The Highland Cattle

Shortly after circumventing the cattle, we saw ruins in the distance.  Given their position we knew it was the ruins of a church which is called out on the map as “Church (rems of)”.  We had this waypoint programmed into our GPS.  This was the 13th century Church of Kilvickeon.  We climbed a low fence which had a top strand of barbed wire and left the farm lane heading for the ruins of the church.  The ground around the church was more grass-like and it was dry.  There was very little of the church left – maybe two walls and two partial walls – but surrounding the church ruins on all sides was a graveyard.  This in turn was completely surrounded by a stone wall which had been obviously maintained over the years.  Many of the gravestones were very old and their inscriptions were illegible but there were also quite a few that had been placed since the early 1900s.  Some were even much more recent than that and it was obvious that this was still a functioning cemetery.  The Scoor  Cottages with their very private beach were to the south but, we were going the other way and began walking north toward the entrance to the Forest of Scoor.


Ruins of the Church of Kilvickeon – 13th century

The single-lane road was paved and it went gradually uphill for a little under two kilometers passing several houses.  We came to the entrance to the Forest of Scoor which was obvious by the overbuilt road, large gate and a sign that said Welcome to the Forest of Scoor.  The sturdy road was needed to support the timber trucks because 70% of the Forest of Scoor had been cut down and removed.  This upset both of us because we had hoped to be walking in shade as opposed to bright sunshine but mostly it upset us because there were few trees left anywhere on the Ross of Mull.

Along that desolate stretch we did see a White-tailed Eagle making its way up the valley. I suppose the upside of all the lumbering was that it would be easier for this eagle to spot its prey.  We walked the road for 5 kilometers before we reached the eastern side of the forest that had not yet been cut down.  Almost immediately a herd of Red Deer emerged from the trees on our left, ran across the road in front of us and disappeared into the trees on our right.    Another 2 kilometers and the road we were following came to an end at a turn-around.  This was the place we had originally planned to set up our Camp Two.  There was a creek here and we stopped and filled our water bottles and had something to eat but it was the middle of the afternoon so we didn’t rest for long.  Beyond the creek, there was an ATV trail and we followed this out of the woods and onto a highland moor of long grass and dry ground.  There were several divergent trails through here but Brian had our departure point programmed, a steep gully shown on the map, which would take us down to the shore.

From our high vantage point we could see the head of the gully and the river, beyond, which on the map was called Allt an Easa Criarachain (translation: Criarachain Stream and Waterfall.) From our hilltop we could see the river flow right to the edge and disappear.


Allt an Easa Criarachain (The brown ribbon is the river flowing to the precipice)

The way was steep just going down to the top of the gully and we had to switchback down in order to maintain control.  Once we got to the head of the gully we realized and I might add somewhat surprisingly that the gully was actually a 200 meter couloir filled with jagged talus.  It was basically an avalanche chute and it was right at the angle of repose.  The angle of repose is the steepest angle of descent relative to the horizontal plane to which a material can be piled without slumping. At this angle, the material on the slope face is on the verge of sliding.  For this type of loose bedrock material, the angle of repose is about 35° off the horizontal.  Brian went first and it was more of a controlled slide than a walk.  A lot of loose rock slid before him so I waited until he was all the way down before I began my own descent.  I was afraid that if I followed him closely, I might send cascading rocks down on top of him.

Going down this vertical ravine was sort of a controlled fall and when I reached the large boulders at the bottom, I knew one fundamental truth.  This was the point of no return.  Regardless of what lay in front of us, there was no going back up this avalanche chute.  The river that from above disappeared from view at the precipice, was a narrow ribbon of a waterfall vertically falling about 150 meters (500 feet) to the shore.  It split into many small channels as it found its way through the boulders and into the sea.


Descending the couloir – The point of no return

No trail was obvious through this section and we chose our way around and through the boulders until we came to a small shingle beach of cobble-sized gravel.  This was about 100 meters past the waterfall.  Beyond this was more of the same – boulder fields and talus slopes.  There was no trail – not even a goat path to follow.  The straight-line distance to the Carsaig Arches was about two kilometers but it was slow going as we carefully picked our way along the rugged shore line.  A Golden Eagle was lazily turning circles near the cliff face probably looking for some hapless rodent or a snake.  When we were about 50 meters from the arches we picked up a goat path.



Picking our way along the shore through talus and boulders


Looking back at the Criarichain waterfall

There was a relatively flat grassy area that had been mowed down by the various wildlife in the area but as a result it was full of goat and Red Deer droppings.  The goats were the feral goats that many had written about and was one of the attractions for the hikers to the Carsaig Arches.  A large Basalt outcropping formed a palisade-like wall between us and the ocean giving this camp a very private feel.

Brian built a fire of driftwood and it became really roaring so Camp Three was turning out to be the nicest of all.  The Carsaig Arches were fully visible especially what was generally referred to as the second arch.  Hikers were primarily coming from Carsaig (the opposite direction) and only a few took the chance of crossing the thin goat path between the two arches.  To them this was the second arch but we were camped in the shadow of this “second arch”.  The time was about 11:00 pm when we retired to our tents.  In the middle of the night, we were both awoken by a solitary Red Deer grunting.  It was somewhere just behind us and it sounded more like the bark of a hoarse dog.  The deer kept this up for about an hour and then all was silent again.  From inside the tent it sounded like he was angry at our intrusion on his space but like so many things, I didn’t know anything about the habits of the Scottish Red Deer.



Camp Three in the shadow of the “second” Carsaig Arch


Sunday, April 29, 2018 (Camp Three to Camp Four at Pennyghael – 13.74 kilometers)

Lowest elevation (hiked) – Camp four at Pennyghael – 171 Ft.

Highest elevation (hiked) – Mountain Pass, Carsaig to Pennyghael Road – 821 Ft. 

We both slept in and by the time we were packed up our departure was at 9:20 am.  The walk was on a good goat path for 200 meters and then it went up, steeply, to pass over the 2nd arch.  Brian left before I did and I took a picture of him climbing the steep grade to get above the arch and pass between the 2nd to the 1st arch.

Please note:  The stevensonway.org website, which was the inspiration and preamble for our own route finding, does not recommend this coastal route because of the danger of the washed out path between the second and first Carsaig Arches.  Their recommended route is to stay above the cliffs as the hiker passes over Malcolm’s Point.  In fact had the trail been wet this short section between the arches could have quite possibly been impassable.



Heading up the goat path for the crux move over the arches (Brian is the red speck)

From the earliest time when we first became interested in this route, we knew the steep goat path between the 1st and 2nd arch would be the crux of the trip.  The boulder fields, avalanche chutes and wet heath were tough but this narrow pass was both tough and dangerous.  We had dry conditions for several days so the footing was solid but a two meter section of the goat path had been previously washed out.  There were now two goat paths – one a meter below the other –   and they were both very downward sloping with nothing to stop the fall into the ocean inlet 100 meters below.  There was no room for error.

Previous hikers had made comments about this section ranging from difficult but doable to a death-trap.  This was (to borrow from mountain climbing terminology) a must-make move.  Brian, about 15 minutes ahead of me, crossed first then from the rocky shore at the edge of the inlet below, he yelled up pointers to me as I approached.  This was really just his way of giving me encouragement and I did appreciate it.  I looked at this short section for about 10 minutes trying to decide whether to stay on the high trail or drop down the meter or so to the lower trail.  The lower trail looked like it had better footing but it ended abruptly and you had to go up to the higher path anyway.  Both paths were down-sloping but they were hard and the traction was decent.  From down below Brian recommended the lower trail then traverse up to finish on the upper trail.  This looked like the best to me as well and once committed I moved through it as quickly as I could digging the fingers of my left hand into the hard earth as I went.  Two days after I got home, I was still wearing the Band-Aids on 3 of the fingertips of my left hand.  I tore them up that much.



Looking back at the route going up above the basalt columns over the “first” Carsaig Arch

The path going back down to the shore was quite steep but obvious.  Because we were now on the well-traveled tourist path from Carsaig to the arches, I expected something – well – more path-like.  The trail was still a goat path and sometimes there were other divergent goat paths.  And there were still coastline boulder fields and talus slopes to cross.  We also now came upon the fabled feral goats.  They were all along the trail generally on the rocks between the path and the sea.  They had no apprehension of humans walking right next to them and barely even looked up.  We also passed a couple of dead goat carcasses.  In their state of decomposition it was impossible to tell how they had died.  Did they actually lose their footing and fall from above, I wondered?  That was a sobering thought – if true.


The feral goats

Roughly two kilometers from the settlement of Carsaig, the trail passes the large cave referred to as The Nun’s Cave.  Today the cave still provided refuge and shelter for the local residents – the feral goats.

Shortly after passing the Nun’s Cave, the Carsaig Bay with its small settlement came into view.  The path from here became more of a well-worn trail skirting most of the scree and boulder fields.  The final leg passed through a sheep pasture, forded a small creek and followed a low stone wall on the edge of the beach.  The stone wall sat below a large manor house called Carsaig House.  We had planned to be in Glenbyre, a cottage which sits between Carsaig and Lochbuie on the shoreline, for our Camp Three.  If we could have made it to Glenbyre we would have been a full day behind our schedule. 



Carsaig Bay

I was at a point when I needed a layover day – a day of rest.  There was no way we could finish this hike in the time we had remaining and Brian suggested we walk the Carsaig Road to the village of Pennyghael and try to catch the last bus to Craignure.  This road was 2 ½ to 3 kilometers uphill and then downhill the rest of the way into Pennyghael – 6 ½ kilometers total.  We were both pretty sure that we would miss the last bus to Craignure when we set out to make the walk to Pennyghael.  Just before we made our departure, we could see the slant of falling rain approaching from the north and we hastily covered our packs, slipped on our rain gear and it was upon us.

As we walked up the Carsaig Road there was a sheep meadow below us that had about two dozen Red Deer.  The rain was still falling but it was getting lighter as we continued the uphill walk.  Before we reached the top of the grade the rain had stopped and the sun was poking through. 

A half mile before the Carsaig Road intersected with the A849 the stark treeless hills fell behind us and a lush, dense, moss-covered forest prevailed the rest of the way to the main road.  The time was 7:30 pm as we walked into Pennyghael and we had definitely missed the last bus.  We dropped our packs at a picnic table in a small park across from the Community Center and were eating snacks when we were approached by a man and a woman out for a walk.



The road to Pennyghael (from Carsaig)

They were very friendly and we talked for a while and found out a couple of things.  They had only been in Pennyghael for a couple of days because they had been hired to run the kitchen in the Pennyghael Hotel which was a little more than a quarter mile outside of town to the east.  They also told us that the hotel would not be opening for the season until May 2nd – two days away.  There would be no hotel room for us this night.

My suggestion was to raise the tents right in the little park with the picnic table in “downtown” Pennyghael.  Brian was less inclined to this than me so we discussed it.  In the middle of our discussion, a group of middle-aged persons arrived home directly across the road from the park and next door to the Community Center.  They were three women and a man.  They gave us pretty hard stares when they exited their car and then they took turns watching us out of their front window.  We decided to move elsewhere.



Looking across the Loch Scridain at Pennyghael and their community center

We moved down the road past the hotel and found a level patch of long grass butting up against an outcropping on the eastern end of the Loch Scridain.  This loch was a salt water loch opening out to the Atlantic Ocean 15 miles to the west at a point of land called Kintra.

Bedrock obviously ran directly under us because we could only sink our tent stakes 2 to 3 inches into the ground.  But the night was clear and calm and by 11:00 pm we had both retired.  Occasional cars passed in the night but we were about 30 meters off the road with a bank of bushes hiding us and by midnight the traffic ceased.



Camp Four – outskirts of Pennyghael


Monday, April 30, 2018 (Pennyghael to Craignure by bus – 19.8 miles)

Elevation – 171 Ft.

The morning came cloudless and brilliant.  We were up by 7:00 and there was now a fair amount of traffic moving in both directions.  The couple who we had talked to the night before had said there was a 7:50 bus and a 9:50 bus to Craignure.  We had decided we would catch the 9:50 am bus.

We finished packing up and with our packs loaded once again we walked the 600 meters back into Pennyghael near the Community Center where the bus stopped.  The bus was a few minutes late but the driver helped load our gear and then we went aboard.  The fare was £6.25 apiece and the bus was full of a group of kids who looked to be about 10 or 11 years old.  They were from the mainland and they had gone to the Isle of Iona on a class-trip.  They were incredibly well-behaved.

When we arrived in Craignure we checked on the space availability for the Ferry.  As it turned out they could only confirm us on the 6:15 boat.  We had a fair amount of time to kill so after breakfast at Arlene’s Coffee Shop, we shifted gears, became tourists and drove to Tobermory.  The walk across the Ross of Mull was officially over.   


If you go …

We both arrived at Edinburgh International Airport – me from New York and Brian from Paris.  We chose to rent a car to make the 116 mile drive from the airport to Oban.  From there we put the car on the CalMac ferry, left it in the free lot in Craignure and took the public (West Coast Motors) bus to Fionnphort.  Our hike began there.

If renting a car is unappealing, a traveler can take the tram from the airport toward Edinbugh to the fourth stop – Edinburgh Gateway Station – and catch the ScotRail to Oban.  This train could also be boarded in Edinburgh City Centre.  We needed a reservation to put our car on the ferry but if you are on foot, no reservations are necessary.  The public bus depot is right at the end of the ferry dock.  All very convenient.  From Gateway Station the train takes about 4 ½ hours to Oban.



The CalMac ferry as seen from the Craignure bus depot


Final Thoughts

First of all and most significantly, I am relating my personal experience on our hike across the Ross of Mull.  And although this could be used as reference, it was my experience.  Physically and mentally, everyone is different so my report should neither discourage nor encourage a duplication of this hike.  The simple truth is others will have a different unique experience.

All that being said, some foresight was necessary.  Certainly this was true for the overland portions but even the trails designated on the map required some thought on proper gear.  The trail from Knockvologan to the beach at Traigh Gheal was uneven, rocky and wet.  The trail the tourists follow from Carsaig to the Carsaig Arches followed a series of intersecting goat paths with short stretches through boulder fields and talus slopes.  These were not the sort of trails where you pile out of the car and set out in your flip-flops (although I’m sure some do just that.)

We underestimated the real distance of our route because the two-dimensional map didn’t clearly illustrate all the twists, turns and elevation changes that were encountered.  We actually underestimated the real distance by about 18%.  We also underestimated our pace; although, Brian maintained a faster pace overall than me.  We thought we could hold an average pace of about 2 mph, but this was not to be the case (at least not for me) on any of the overland portions of the hike.

By the time we had reached the beach at Carsaig we were a day behind on our schedule.  Some of that could be hung on me as I rapidly approach my 7th decade on the planet but even if we could have hastened our pace, we would not have increased our timing by a day-and-a-half.  The overland route was just tougher than we thought it would be and we didn’t plan enough time.  This was a result of our own personal schedules which dictated our timing.  However, I think with day four or five as a layover/rest day, this route as we had planned it could have been completed by the end of day eight.

We were overly aggressive on planning our own time management.  Still, as the saying goes, “It’s the journey – not the destination” and for us the journey was incredible.  I could list out a dozen adjectives that described the cross-country walk over the Ross of Mull (awesome, excellent, remarkable, etc.) but I think my meaning is clear.  So much of the countryside looked remote and primitive and at times, we felt like we had landed on a mysterious planet.  There were decisions and choices to be made nearly every hour.  Some were purely navigational but others were of a more path-finding variety.  We had to select one route over another.  This always involved obstacles like hills, bogs, outcroppings and on one occasion – cattle.

And finally a brief discussion of gear carried – what worked and what did not.  Of the major pieces of gear carried, I only used my trekking poles on that first evening heading to Camp One.  I felt they impeded my progress more than assisted and I collapsed them, placed them in their special holder on the pack and never used them again.  Brian had his fastened snugly to his pack and also never used them.  This was definitely a personal decision on our part and should not be considered a recommendation.  My idea for the tent ground cloth didn’t work out the way I had planned, either.  I used a thin Mylar rescue blanket that weighed one ounce and could fold down to about 1” x 3” but it stayed wet and was miserable to try and open and fold up.  I threw it away in Edinburgh and plan to purchase the appropriate ground cloth for my tent.  All the other gear was correct for this trip and I can’t overstate the significance of the water-proof boots and gaiters.

This is a condensed version of my more extensive and more detailed trip report.  My full detail is 33 pages including charts, maps, travel and equipment detail.  I also have 164 pictures from the overall trip.  If anyone is interested in this route and would like more extensive detail, they can send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Neil Miller


 Track from Knockvologan Farm to Pennyghael

Note:  The ochre color line is the straight-line distance measured pre-trip, waypoint to waypoint

            The black line is the actual GPS track of the route taken, post-trip.


Gear Detail - Packing - Stevenson Way (Weighed 15 Kg on airport scale)

All Gear Packed Location Used on hike Take again
1 pair lightweight polypro or Smartwool® socks N/A Yes Yes
1 synthetic pair u/pants (REI Co-op Boxer Briefs) N/A Yes Yes
Keen boots (waterproof-Goretex lined) N/A Yes Yes
Long pants & belt (North Face convertible pants) N/A Yes Yes
1 synthetic t-shirt N/A Yes Yes
REI Quarter zipper med. wt. shirt N/A Yes Yes
Wind/water-proof jacket  N/A Yes Yes
Trekking Poles N/A Briefly (1st day) Not sure
Gaiters (waterproof)  N/A Yes Yes (these conditions)
Billed cap (Chicago Cubs Hat) N/A Yes Yes
Packing (Osprey Atmos 50 AG - 50L capacity):       
Light weight long underwear (top & bottom) Upper pack Yes Yes
Polypro watch cap Upper pack Yes Yes
Lightweight polypro gloves Upper pack Yes Yes
Mid-weight Blue polypro gloves Upper pack Yes Yes
Fleece vest (for cold weather) Upper pack Yes Yes
Fleece neck gaiter Upper pack Yes Yes
Wind/water-proof rain pants  Upper pack Yes Yes
U/pants, synthetic, 4 pair (REI Co-op Boxer Briefs)  Upper pack Yes Yes
T-shirts, synthetic, 4 t-shirts    Upper pack Yes Yes
3 pair lightweight polypro or Smartwool® socks Upper pack Yes Yes
1 REI Zipper-front shirt (light weight, spare) Upper pack No No 
Food (FD meals, trail mix, flat bread & peanut butter) Upper pack Yes Yes
Energy bars - Clif® bars & Pro Bars® (Waist belt, upper and lower pack top) Assorted Yes Yes
2 Spare fuel canisters (For Brian's MSR Windburner stove) Upper pack No Yes (only 1 spare)
REI Co-op Passage 1-person tent Upper pack Yes Yes
1 REI Stratus Airpad     Upper pack Yes Yes
1 REI Stratus pump    Lower pack Yes Yes
Back-pack pillow (inflatible)  Lower pack Yes Yes
15°/20°F sleeping bag (REI with compacting stuff sack)  Lower pack Yes Yes
Spare batteries (12 AA & 8 AAA) In small net bag Lower pack No Yes but fewer
Sawyer Squeeze Water Bottle (filter system)  Lower pack Yes Yes
3L collapsible water reservoir Lower pack No No
First-aid gear (Band aids, adhesive tape, wound pads, sterile gloves, alcohol patches, Neosporin, tweezers, ace bandage)  Lower pack Yes Yes
Personal toiletries (Soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, campsuds), duct tape, spare parts, clips, repair tape, shoe laces, matches, firestarter, spare gaiter elastics, spare zip-ties, velcro straps, spoon, Leatherman tool, Swiss Army (with corkscrew) headlamp & personal flashlight (All in ditty bag)   Upper pack Yes - most Yes
Drinking cup  Upper pack Yes Yes
Camera (Carried in cargo pants pocket for quick retrieval)   N/A Yes Yes
Camp Knife - Buck Whittaker Waist belt Yes Yes
Chapstick  Waist belt Yes Yes
Passport, Drive Lic., 2 credit cards, Med. Ins. Card Waist belt Yes Yes
Glasses strap Waist belt No Yes
Notebook (waterproof) & pencil Waist belt Yes Yes
Toilet paper - Flat Softpak bio-degradable (2 in L and one in U)  Pack top (U&L) Yes Yes
Space (rescue) Blanket Pack top (L) No Yes
Compass Pack top (U) No Yes
Sunglasses Pack top (L) Yes Yes
Red cordage  Pack top (U) No Yes
Spare lead for pencil Pack top (L) No Yes but fewer
Spare tie cords Pack top (L) No Yes
Osprey rain cover Pack top (L) Yes Yes
Trekking pole rubber point covers Pack top (L) No No
Purification tablets  Pack top (L) No Yes
Sawyer Squeeze Water Bottle pouches  Pack top (L) Yes Yes
Spare Aloksak Pack top (U) No Yes
Sunscreen   Waist belt  No Yes
2 Water bottles (1 Drinking - 1 in-tent) Side pouches Yes Yes
Cat-hole spade (clipped to 'biner) Rear outer pocket Yes Yes
Backpack towel  Rear outer pocket No Yes but smaller
Mapcase  (Maps) Rear outer pocket Yes Yes
Tide chart in mapcase (taped to cardboard)  Map Case Yes Yes
UTM Grid Reader overlay in mapcase Map Case No Yes