The only ways to get to the Old Forge Pub are by sea ferry or by a two-day, 18-mile hike across the Scottish Highlands – a trip that gives new meaning to the term “pub crawl”.
Our journey began at the end of the road. The longest dead-end road in Britain, in fact. It took two hours of knuckle-whitening jags around hairpin bends and past sheer descents, on a 22-mile taxi ride from the town of Fort William in the western Scottish Highlands, to get to our starting point of Kinloch Hourn.
In the company of two friends, Carl and José, I was embarking on a journey to the most remote pub in mainland Britain. Accessible only by sea ferry or by a two-day, 18-mile hike across the Scottish Highlands from the small settlement of Kinloch Hourn (or an even longer, 28-mile yomp from the hamlet of Glenfinnan), the Old Forge sits in the village of Inverie, on the southern coast of the Knoydart peninsula. “Walking in” to the pub is a rite of passage in the outdoors community, and one we were keen to tick off, thirsty in equal measure for adventure and the extreme satisfaction of a pint well earned.
Forming part of the so-called Rough Bounds – the “highlands of the Highlands” – Knoydart is remote and inaccessible even by local standards. There are no streetlights, you can’t get a mobile phone signal, and the seven miles of paved roads are unconnected to the mainland network. Around 120 residents lived here at the last count, spread across 86 square miles (that’s approximately the same population density as Alaska). The majority of those brave and hardy souls live in Inverie, and now, after a community buyout in March 2022, most of them own a stake in the Old Forge.
In the decade prior, the pub’s legendary status had waned, with the previous owner closing for six months each winter when tourists were few. The pub’s community spirit was lost; so too its status as a year-round sanctuary for tired, thirsty hikers. Even to summer visitors, impressions were often not good. “This place used to be jumping,” reads one of the many unflattering online reviews from this dark period. “Now it is like a morgue.”