Unique tourist locations, sometimes disguised as tourist traps, can sometimes expose one to special places. I had one such experience during a Whisky exploration trip to Scotland. As a part of our week-long trip across the country, we dedicated a day for a trip to the remotest pub in UK, the Old Forge, located in the tiny town of Knoydart. The town is accessible by walking across 18 miles of Munroes, Corbetts and Glens. Though scaling these peaks and valleys would earn us the real right to enjoy a pint at the old Forge, we took the easy way.
The easy way entailed taking the early morning Armadale ferry (~7:30am) from the Isle of Skye to the port of Mallaig. Visitors on the mainland can drive to Mallaig just the same, but since we happened to be on Skye and private boats weren’t available, we accomplished the trip with two short ferry transports. The ferry ride itself was very comfortable, representative of other Caledonian Macbrayne ferries. It dropped us off at Mallaig in time to grab a quick coffee and buy our tickets to Knoydart.
Though there are two ferries from Mallaig to Knoydart, we chose the more frequent Seabridge ferry purely to fit into our schedule. Both the Knoydart ferry and the Seabridge leave from the same dock and the boats, are nice and comfortable for the short 20 minute ride. The boat ride was a sheer pleasure and we spent the ride chatting up Tom, our captain and a bloke of but 19-years old. We learned about many local fables and legends and were both surprised to have him know where Iowa was and embarrassed by his admonition of us – “why I saw it in the Atlas, of course!“.
The first realization that hits you about Knoydart is its tiny size. The small size is further dwarfed by the terrain nearby. The row of Range Rovers at the dock were a clear indication of the remoteness of the town. The village is tiny, of population 120 during the off-season and *everything* including the seafood we were about to consume comes off the ferries. There are some vegetables are grown locally and venison the primary meat served in winters from hunting expeditions . The area is stunning beautiful with amazing peaks in several directions and the sea in the remaining. We arrived there by 10:30am and the Old Forge was to open in a half-hour or so and we chose to explore the area a bit.
Other than knowing that the Old Forge was a music and seafood haven from its website, I didn’t try to prepare myself much. I’d stayed away from photographs of the pub and desired to be surprised. Entering the pub, we found a very well-maintained, nicely appointed pub that appeared to be more of a restaurant than a bar. The bar itself was small with clean surroundings and tables. The menu was handwritten on a chalk-board and promised some seafood delicacies. Click the photograph of the menu to see it in detail. Having visited several seaside pubs and tourist traps in the US, I figured the food would be relatively common, even bland. Was I about to be proven wrong.
We ordered a pint each, a seafood platter and a couple of other courses for the meals. As we enjoyed our beers and food, several other patrons filtered in, hikers, families, children, couples from all around the world. The accents and languages were global and the Old Forge quickly proved itself to be everything a tourist trap isn’t – a sight to enjoy, great food, good beers, a part of Scotland seen by few, and a little treasure that must become stunningly beautiful, albeit a bit lonely in the winters. A loner’s paradise, I’m certain.
The ferry ride back to Mallaig was fun and we grabbed another Americano and Espresso before catching the Armadale ferry back to Skye. A stunning, Michelin star dinner would await us at the B&B that night. That story, another day….