On the west coast of Scotland, across the Kyle Rhea strait from the Isle of Skye is Glenelg. Most famous for its tiny turntable ferry which takes you over the sea to Skye, Glenelg is isolated, remote, quiet and beautiful. Twinned with Glenelg on Mars (yes really) the peninsula is accessed across the dramatic 1,112ft Mam Ratagan pass and 10 miles of single track road. Here is how to visit Glenelg.
Crossing the Mam Ratagan Pass
Leaving behind the traffic booming by on the road to the Isle of Skye, the route to Glenelg starts at Shiel Bridge. It is a dramatic start.
Mimicking the fjords of New Zealand’s south island, the view over Loch Duich to the Five Sisters of Kintail is one of Scotland’s best. There are two viewpoints on Mam Ratagan from which to admire the view.
From the top of the pass, the drive down to the main settlement on the peninsula, Kirktown of Glenelg (the Glens of Eilg or Na Glinn Eilg in Gaelic) is somewhat easier, but no less beautiful, hugging the hillside as it descends.
Things to do in Glenelg
Boats, brochs, beaches, and an otter called Mijbil…
The Glenelg Ferry to Skye
The main attraction on the peninsula is the Glenelg Skye ferry which takes passengers across the stratit to Kylerhea on Skye. The MV Glenachulish ferry is the last hand-operated turntable ferry in the world and is often packed with Eilgeachs making the 10 mile journey to the supermarket in Broadford on Skye, rather than 50 mile drive to Kyle!
The journey takes 55 minutes and crosses the often choppy strait a few times a day. You might be lucky enough to spot a sea eagle, the strait is famous for its breeding pair. Crossing over the sea to Skye on the Glenelg ferry costs £15.00 per car with up to 4 passengers. The ferry runs seven days a week, 10am to 6pm, and to 7pm in June, July and August.
Sandaig and Camusfeàrna
One of the most beautiful spots on the peninsula, Sandaig Bay has a secret identity. Scottish naturalist, and author Gavin Maxwell lived at Sandaig Bay with his otter Mijbil which he brought back from Iraq and raised.
His book Ring of Bright Water, about his life with otters including Edal, Teko, Mossy and Monday at ‘Camusfeàrna’ sold more than 1 million copies, and was made into a film in 1969. The house no longer stands and there is a memorial to Edal, one of his otters.
Follow this walk at Sandaig to discover the ring of bright water and Sandaig.
Part of a British Government initiative, barracks were built at Fort William, Fort Augustus, Inverness Castle and Ruthven to suppress the local population who took part in the Jacobite risings of 1715.
Following a rebellion which took place at Eilean Donan Castle (ultimately defeated in the Battle of Glenshiel) a further barracks was built at Bernera to control the crossing to Skye in 1719. Following the Battle of Culloden and the end of the Jacobite rebellion the barrack fell into disuse and was abandoned in 1797.
Gleann Beag brochs
No one knows what Brochs were really used for in Scotland, just that there are lots of them. Built in the Iron age, the best guess is that they were family strongholds, although that doesn’t account for just how close many of them are together. They are most likely defensive forts guarding strategic locations.
The three brochs on Glenelg – 2000 year old Dun Telve and Dun Troddan are to be found just 500 m apart on the banks of the Abhainn a’Ghlaine Bhig river, in Gleann Beag – and are two of the best preserved brochs in Scotland. A third, Dun Grugaig, is a semi-broch and mostly derelict.
Don’t miss the Dun Inn Microbrewery and Tap on your way to the Brochs – closed? you might get a pint in the Glenelg Inn.
Where to eat – The Glenelg Inn
The only pub on the Glenelg Peninsula, the Glenelg Inn serves up great local food (try the hot smoked salmon and crowdie) along with a cosy atmosphere, restaurant and often live music. There is a beer garden over- looking the Kyle Rhea strait and real ales from the local microbrewery can be found on the taps. The Glenelg Inn also offers rooms.
Other places to stay nearby whilst exploring the Glenelg Peninsula include The Cluanie Inn in Glen Shiel.
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Love, from Scotland x
I’m Kate – a travel writer and photographer living in Scotland. Love, From Scotland is the Scotland travel guide that shows you where to stay and how to get outside in Scotland.