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Knoydart is not what it once was. In the 18th and 19th centuries the population peaked at about 1000, far too many for the land to support. So people left voluntarily, or were cleared out by the sheep or deer obsessed landlords. The population dwindled to about 80. By the second half of the 20th century everything was almost over as somewhere for ordinary people to live. The estate was by then owned by crooks who ended up in jail. But in 1999 came the community buy-out of the estate which covers about one third of the peninsula — by the Knoydart Foundation. Now the place has busily recreated itself as the last wilderness in Britain, with the inevitable result. It is a honeypot for not just the real intrepids, but also the pseudo-intrepids who arrive by cruise ship. There is even self-catering with hot tubs. But at least this all brings in an income to support the population of about 120 who are now almost all incomers of one sort and another, along with income from the walking and mountain bike trails, mindfulness walks (got the idea?), photostalking with cameras as well as deer stalking with guns, team-building activities, the bunkhouse, and the rather temporary looking but fun sculptures scattered around the place. The £6 million new-in-2006 pier must have helped all this to happen, along with a regular ferry from Mallaig.
So what to do? Walk about in the lovely woodland of course, in among the native and foreign trees, stroll to the campsite on the Long Beach, look at the sculptures. And of course visit the Old Forge which has become more of a restaurant than the cosy pub it was a few years ago (ph 01687 462 267). The visitors in the summer vastly outnumber the locals and you need to book a table, but I am not sure how when there is no mobile phone reception. It bills itself as the most remote pub on the mainland of Britain, and I guess that is right — 16-or-so rough walking miles from the road end, if you don't come by your own boat or the ferry from Mallaig, or helicopter. There is also a small but nice tearoom (ph 01687 460 191).
I have not been there, but across the river by the Long Beach there is an old burial ground at Kilchoan, with graveslabs and a stone cross, unusually with a hole in its centre.
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A Gormleyesque sculpture on the Long Beach
Sculpture in the woodland, now gone