From the Isle of Skye to Ullapool, Scotland’s west coast is renowned worldwide for its dramatic seascapes and fjord-like sea lochs, however, the Ardnamurchan Peninsula is a little bit special. Let me introduce you to one of my favourite parts of Scotland and one of the west coast of Scotland’s true hidden gems.
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remote Ardnamurchan – truly at the end of the road…
The ‘headland of the great seas’ is the most western part of the British mainland and is beautifully unspoilt, wild and remote and is home to just 2000 people. If you want to get off the beaten track and discover the remote regions of Morvern, Ardgour, Moidart, Sunart, and Ardnamurchan. Here is how to visit.
How to get to Ardnamurchan
Getting to Ardnamurchan is no easy task – but the long journey is part of the charm of visiting one of the UK’s most remote peninsulas. Whilst Ardnamurchan looks close as the crow flies from busy Fort William or Mallaig, a trip to the Ardnamurchan Peninsula will take you a lot longer than you think – you will be taking a ferry trip and will be mostly driving on very windy single track roads.
To get to Ardnamurchan you need to either:
- Catch the tiny ferry at Corran and take the short journey across the beautiful Loch Linnhe, the Corran ferry runs until 9.30 pm every day and costs £8.20 single for a car or small campervan,
- Drive the long and winding road from Mallaig or Glenfinnan. To get to Ardnamurchan take the Road to the Isles (A830) and turn south at Lochailort, or
- Catch a ferry to Ardnamurchan from Tobermory on Mull. Calmac has Summer & Winter timetables from Tobermory to Kilchoan.
Once on the peninsula, leaving Ardgour behind follow the single-track road west along Loch Sunart, Scotland’s longest sea loch, to Moidart and then on to Ardnamurchan through Glenborrowdale to literally the end of the road. Allow 2 hours to drive from Ardgour to the end of the peninsula.
Things to do on Ardnamurchan
Home to just 2000 people, the Ardnamurchan Peninsula covers just 50 square m and is beautifully unspoilt, wild and remote. Driving across Ardnamurchan’s volcanic caldera gives an incredible view of the small isles of Eigg and Rum and on a clear day, across to the Cullins on Skye. Here is what to do on your visit to Ardnamurchan.
Walk to Sanna Bay from Portuarik
Scotland has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world – however, I think Ardnamurchan might have a contender for the very best. At the very end of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula is Sanna Bay, an incredible sweep of white sand, turquoise seas and stunning views of the Small Isles Rùm, Eigg, and Muck. Whilst you can get to Sanna by car, my favourite way to visit is to walk from the hamlet of Portuairk along the coastal path.
Portuairk holds the claim to being the most westerly settlement on the British mainland and the crofting cottages hug the coastline and appear in the most spectacular locations. Walking from Portuairk means you arrive at Sanna high above the bay, where the view across the beach reveals sea so blue it needs no editing… The path leads down to the beach with its beautiful white sands.
Don’t be scared if you are joined by a very tame huge lion of a dog on the walk to Sanna. He will need no encouragement to join you on your walk. Say hello from us if you see him, and if you are his owner, we’d love to know his name!
Walk to Sanna from Portuarik
Visit Castle Tioram
At the village of Salen, take the road north to Loch Moidart to visit the beautiful Castle Tioram. Guarding the entrance to Loch Moidart where it joins the River Shiel on its way to Glenfinnan, the castle’s owners were once the MacDonalds of Clanranald, Lords of the Isles. Tioram Castle (pronounced “Cheerum”) is now in ruins and as it sits on Eilean Tioram (the Dry Island) a tidal island, only accessible at low tide – it was a formidable position to control.
To see the area in all its glory, walk from the castle along the Silver Circuit, an estate path which was built in the 19th century and named after a hoard of silver coins found during construction. With views of with Eigg, Muck and Coll in the distance, the walk will take 2-3 hours. The Loch Moidart tide times change throughout the year. You can find Tioram Castle at Diorlinn, 1 ½ miles north of Acharacle on the A861.
Walk the Silver Circuit
Drive to Ardnamurchan Point and Ardnamurchan Lighthouse
The most westerly point of mainland Britain, Ardnamurchan Point takes a lot of effort to reach – you need to tackle 30 miles of single track road – but oh it is worth it. The final stretch, with the UK’s most westerly traffic lights, is a dramatic piece of engineering guarded by the Ardnamurchan Points two collie dogs who welcome every visitor.
At the point is Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, designed by Alan Stevenson (of the Stevenson lighthouse family fame) which opened in 1849. Built from Isle of Mull granite, quarried on the island of Erraid, the lighthouse is now managed by the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust. You can visit the trust exhibition, and climb up the lighthouse’s 152 steps and two ladders, or for those without a head for heights, take in the views all the way to the Isle of Coll from the red foghorn below the lighthouse.
The lighthouse is open from April 1st until October 31st and there is Coffee Shop and Exhibition Centre which are open 10 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. during the season. Tours of the lighthouse take place every hour/ half hour, 11 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. Booking is essential at peak times.
Visit the Ardnamurchan Distillery
Opening in 2014, the Ardnamurchan Distillery is the most westerly of Scotland’s distilleries. Tours of the distillery are on offer every day and include a dram – however, Ardnamurchan has yet to produce a bottling. Ardnamurchan Distilleries’ whisky is currently maturing in American and European oak, ex-sherry casks and American oak ex-bourbon casks – with the first bottling expected in around 2021. Don’t panic – owners Adelphi also produces their own rare bottling selection so you might find something rather interesting on offer as part of your tasting tour! The Ardnamurchan Distillery is at Glenbeg, Acharacle.
Climb Ardnamurchan’s Highest Hills
Ardnamurchan’s highest mountain Ben Hiant might be just 528m high but with views across the whole peninsula, it is well worth your time. If you aren’t feeling that energic, you also get a great view of Ben Hiant from Camas Nan Geall beach – explored by foot or just admire the view across to Ben Hiant from the viewpoint. For history buffs, Camas Nan Geall has a neolithic carn and a bronze age standing stone which you can explore on a Camas Nan Geall walk.
If you fancy more of a challenge, then Sunart’s highest hill is the Corbett, Ben Resipol, standing 845m above the peninsula. The hike will take you around 6 hours but the views down Loch Sunart to Glenborrowdale to the islands is simply stunning.
View the Small Isles – Eigg, Rum and Skye
Right across the peninsula the road twists and turns across a volcanic caldera – Ardnamurchan forms part of the Lochaber Geopark – some of the rocks found in Morvern are 60 million years old! Across on the small isles of Eigg and Rum the rocks are even more dramatic. On a clear day, the dramatic An Sgurr and the Rum Cuillin are clearly visible.
See the Jacobite Express and Loch Shiel
Harry Potter fans might usually visit Loch Shiel to fulfil their fantasies of travelling to Hogwarts on the Jacobite Steam Train and crossing the Black Lake, but in my opinion, the loch itself is just as dramatic as the Viaduct. Climb up the Glenfinnan Monument to the fallen who fought in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie for a 360-degree view of the loch and learn about the loch’s connection to the ill-fated Jacobite rebellion by visiting the National Trust for Scotland centre. Behind the viaduct, the Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail gives great views of the loch.
From Spring to Autumn, the Jacobite Steam Train crosses the viaduct Monday to Fridays at around 11 am and 3 pm. The best time to see the train is at 11 am, at 3 pm the engine is backwards! Entry to the monument is £3.50 or £9 for a family. Free for National Trust for Scotland members.
Where to stay on Ardnamurchan
I love the Glenuig Inn on Moidart – the tiny village of Glenuig has rocky inlets, ever-changing light and far more sheep than people, and the Glenuig Inn, perched right on the edge of the bay serving up great food and comfortable rooms. Book directly with The Glenuig Inn. If you are in a motorhome you can also take advantage of the free overnight parking in the pub car park.
If you prefer a hotel then the Kilchoan Hotel is owned by the Ardnamurchan Estate, the hotel is great for grabbing a good lunch and is handy for the ferry to Mull. Book online*
Looking for a self-catering cottage? Want to stay remote? Check out the amazing Rudh Dubh, a crofting cottage perched above Sanna Bay. If you prefer to camp, there are campsites at Kilchoan – Ardnamurchan Campsite, Sunart – Resipole Farm Holiday Park and Sunart Camping.
More places to stay at Fort William*
I left a little piece of my heart behind in Ardnamurchan, and I am sure you will too… We will be back, I promise!
Love from, Scotland x