It was a mesmerising sight – a vast panorama of mountain ridges and high tops as far as the eye could see.
We turned in the other direction and the grey shimmer of Loch Nevis flickered in the distance, with the spurs of the nearby mountain slopes framing into picture-perfection the Hebridean islands of Rum, Eigg and Muck.
But despite being over 3,000ft high here on the summit of Meall Buidhe in Knoydart, the air was still and hung heavy, with bothersome midges flitting around us. It had been a tough climb, but a rewarding one too, for on our way up Gleann Meadail the wet flushes abounded with heath-spotted orchids and other wildflowers.
Indeed, I was rather grateful for these flowers as they provided a convenient excuse to stop for frequent rests to examine them. As well as the orchids, there were the yellow-flowering spikes of bog asphodel, the ground-hugging pinkish blooms of lousewort and the ever-present white fuzz of heath bedstraw. It was a botanist’s paradise.
A splattering of blue-violet on a large rounded mossy rock glinted and gleamed by the path edge; they were butterwort flowers held aloft on spindly stems and somehow gaining fragile tenure on this thin layer of moss. Only a butterwort could scratch a living here, for they are carnivorous plants that gain precious nutrients by trapping midges and other tiny insects on their sticky leaves, which are then slowly digested.
On wet peaty margins, we found many sundews too, which are also voracious insect predators. A forest of little red hairs adorns their waxy leaves, each one tipped with a tiny glistening droplet. These droplets are the deadly lure, the bait for the trap.
The droplets are irresistibly attractive to a midge or other small insect but once the midge alights on the leaf it is trapped by sticky glands and the leaf edge gradually curls inwards to enclose its victim like a clenched fist.
As we gained height, the flora changed, first with the appearance of the miniscule purple blooms of wild thyme, and once on the higher reaches by the subtle yellows of alpine lady’s mantle. It had been a good day for flower spotting, and there were more surprises on the way down, including finding a clump of dwarf cornel, a plant I had never encountered before.
Back at the campsite on the shore near Inverie, small groups of red-breasted mergansers fished out in the bay and a heron stalked the water’s edge. A cuckoo began to call, a soft and far-reaching sound that floated across the glen.
We left early the next morning to catch the boat to Mallaig, our minds buzzing from the wilderness experience of Knoydart. As the vessel motored along the shore of North Morar, a dark rolling fin broke the surface, and then one more. Porpoises! But soon they were gone and, in our wake, the rugged outline of Meall Buidhe gradually faded into the hazy distance.
One study estimated that sundews in a two-acre bog can trap about six million insects during a season. There are three different sundew species in Scotland, the commonest being the round-leaved sundew.