Ardnamurchan is sometimes referred to as “almost an island”. You could easily spend all week exploring the peninsula without ever having to take the ferry to the ‘mainland’. This page describes some of our favourite places.
This now-peaceful woodland is a rare surviving fragment of the native oak woods that once spread along the Atlantic coast from Spain to Norway. Ariundle is a treasure house of primitive plants with a huge diversity of mosses, lichens, liverworts and ferns growing over the damp woodland floor. These are fascinating reminders of some of the earliest forms of vegetation on Earth. The woodland is also home to rare and beautiful butterflies and dragonflies, and is rich in birdlife.
There are a number of easy, way-marked paths in this National Nature Reserve, which take you deep into the wood or out along the Strontian River. A good circular path combined with ‘The Fairy Road’ takes you through different ecosystems, then into the village of Strontian.
The ancient fortress of the MacDonalds, Castle Tioram was built in the mid 13th century and extended in the 14th century as a testament to the independent rule of Rough Bounds by the Clanranalds, Lords of the Isles. It is situated in a strategic location on a rocky tidal island of Eilean Tioram at the confluence of Loch Moidart and the River Shiel, occupying the whole summit of the rock in Moidart.
The Castle’s reputation as an impenetrable stronghold is borne of its design, construction and location. It has been taken only once and then by deception and cunning. It was set alight in the 18th century on the order of Allan, 14th chief to prevent it falling into the hands of the Government. It now stands as a sombre testament to the changing fortunes of the Clanranalds.
Sanna lies some six miles north west of Kilchoan, a little to the north of the tip of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. It is a small crofting settlement with two separate centres, either side of the road that approaches it. But it isn’t the settlement that you’ll have come to Sanna to see. Rather it is the beaches, the rocks and the dunes that lie along the west-facing side of Sanna Bay. What you have come for can be found through the dunes to the west. Some of these are very large indeed, and very well established. ASanna Baynd beyond them are a series of sandy bays in a variety of sizes from intimate all the way up to huge. The real joy of Sanna lies in its variety of coastal scenery. Its beaches are magnificent. Its dunes are impressive. And the sea is – if you catch it in nice weather – either a deep dark blue or a stunning light turquoise depending on whether the sea bed at that point is sand or rock. And for the more active there are rocky points dividing each beach from its neighbour, providing an excellent selection of rock pools to explore.
Ardnamurchan LighthouseArdnamurchan Point is the most westerly point of mainland Britain. It is crowned by a lighthouse – one of many built by the Stevenson family – which doubles as an exhibition centre. Those with a good head for heights can climb the 152 steps, and on a clear day the views to the North and West are unsurpassed. The less adventurous can take advantage of the tea room, or explore the tiny shell-sand beach.
This is a wonderful place to simply sit and stare – maybe with a coffee and a cake in front of you. It’s a great spot for seeing otters in the bay, or watching the many seabirds. If you’re lucky, you can see whales from the viewing platform beside the enormous foghorn, and basking shark are frequent visitors.
Craig na Shee is the perfect base for exploring this part of the Highlands. Here are a few suggestions for day trips:
Mull & Iona
Take the ferry from Lochaline to Mull. You could do a gentle circuit of the island, taking in the dramatic cliffs at Gribun or the beautiful beach at Calgary – there’s loads to explore. Or extend the tour to include the breathtaking Isle of Iona, leaving your car at Fionnphort and doing the island on foot. Head back via Tobermory and catch the ferry from there to Kilchoan before making your way back along the peninsula to the cottage.
A word of warning – if you’ve got kids you’ll be singing the Balamory theme tune either out loud or in your head all day. In fact, you’re probably doing it right now! Sorry about that.
The Harry Potter Train
Glenfinnan ViaductOr, to give it its proper title, the West Highland Line (Mallaig Extension Railway). Taking the Jacobite steam train from Fort William to the busy port of Mallaig is a definite highlight. The views from the train are amazing, and the run over the Glenfinnan Viaduct is unforgettable. There are plenty of interesting stops along the way, including the small museum at Glenfinnan Station with its cafe in an old railway carriage, and the beautiful village of Arisaig.
Although you can experience the steam train, the line runs ‘ordinary’ scheduled trains at a lower price if you’re on a budget, and you can still catch a glimpse of the Jacobite in all its steamy glory.
The Isle of Skye
Just a short ferry ride from Mallaig and you’re on the famous Isle of Skye. A great circular driving route would be to take the ferry over from Mallaig, and return by the Skye Bridge. It’s a long but rewarding day out.