Ardnamurchan - journey to the wild west of Scotland.
The Ardnamurchan peninsula feels more like an island, way out west on Scotland’s seaboard. Rugged with a remote air, it’s quite a Highland adventure.
This is a little piece I once wrote after a visit to Ardnamurchan, where we went all the way to the end of the peninsula, to the lighthouse. The picture below of Ardnamurchan Lighthouse was taken from the ferry to Lochboisdale, South Uist. And, as we have been on the island of Mull from time to time, on this page there are also some views with the Ardnamurchan peninsula as a backdrop. This peninsula is always described in guidebooks as ending at the most westerly point in the UK mainland, marked on the Ordnance Survey maps as Point of Ardnamurchan, roughly translated as 'point of storms' in the Gaelic – say it out loud and roll it around your mouth and it even sounds grumbly and stormy: ‘Arrrid-na-murrri-chan’ . (Work with me here, will ya? The 'ch' is the same as in Scots - Gaelic - loch, of course.)
Anyway, strictly speaking, the most westerly chunk is called Corrachaidh Mor and lies just to the south of Ardnamurchan Point. Though it is a peninsula, it might as well be an island. That’s my overall impression – it has that sense of being a long way out west. The driving route from the east, is probably most commonly done via the Corran Ferry across Loch Linnhe (non bookable, frequent). After Salen, this route narrows – winkling its way through the mossy woods west from Salen, along the shores of Loch Sunart. It’s quite a slow progress, up and down and round the rhododendron-shrouded blind bends. With the car pitching and rolling you might even think you are at sea. It just feels a long way – but it really is worth the journey. Just allow enough time.
(Pictured here) The quintessential Hebridean view – Rum (left) and Eigg (right) from the north shore of Ardnamurchan. Smell the salt air!
Exploring the peninsula is a worthwhile option if you are on a freelance ‘see-how-the-Highland-weather-goes’ trip and find yourself in that great route-centre of the Highlands: Fort William. Or, you might take it into your head to visit as you look across Loch Linnhe to the inviting gap between the big hills of Ardgour which leads on to Glen Tarbert, Strontian, then Salen, as described above. (Best of all you might be gazing at a sunset over these hills from the dining room of the Holly Tree Hotel at Kentallen, where they serve the best ever squat lobsters, in which case life may feel, for the moment, complete. Or, at least it did, the last time we were there. Cue: ‘Contented but kinda wistful sigh‘.)
Tobermory on Mull is easily included on a trip along the Ardnamurchan Peninsula (or vice-versa) There is a ferry link from Kilchoan on the peninsula. Ardnamurchan itself has the feel of an island – a place apart.
The view here is actually from an island – Mull – looking across from Tobermory towards the peninsula in the far left background.
Anyway, make that trip west, for a whole variety of reasons. Take your time. Stop often on the way. Enjoy the birdsong in the oakwoods of Sunart. On the way west, you’ll find a natural history and visitor centre in Glenmore. They are so integrated with the local wildlife that last time I was there, they had a pine marten using the place as its den. There it was, sound asleep – you could look at it through a special window. The owners tell me the beasties are still around. High hopes of a family party of pine martens taking up residence in the spring. And it’s about as close as you’ll ever get to a real wild pine marten unless you’re very lucky. Discover more on Scottish wildlife.
(Pictured here) Actually, the whole area is big on the unspoilt environment. As well as being a National Nature Reserve, the Ariundle oakwoods are so green, mossy and other-worldly that you half-expect to meet a hobbit on an elf-guided walk.
It seems to be a fact not often mentioned in guidebooks that this Atlantic woodland is actually older than the Caledonian pinewood which is usually exemplified as the great natural woodland of Scotland. However, all this greenery and wild nature in the west of Scotland has a price – and that’s the rainfall – obviously why it’s so green in the first place.
Anyway, onwards to the Point itself. It has a lighthouse which houses in its adjacent ancillary buildings a most informative exhibition. It even had a café nearby, housed in the old stable block. So, as you’ve come this far, it’s best to hang about for a bit, perhaps down by the old fog-horn, where you can work out which island is which out to the west. – especially the Small Isles, with the Sgurr of Eigg as an easy landmark – they’re all out there if the visibility is half-decent. There is an exhibition and also a chance to climb to the top of the lighthouse. It’s a community run thing, and there is an admission charge. There’s a cafe as well.
Finally, if you really find the road to Ardnamurchan too much to face on your return journey, then - just to repeat - combine it with a trip to Mull, using the ferry from Kilchoan, on the peninsula, to Tobermory on Mull. That way you ‘escape’ the peninsula’s return journey eastwards – though escape is a term used loosely here. You may not want to leave this especially atmospheric – if out on a limb – part of Scotland.
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