Beginning of September I spent 3 days in one of the remotest areas of Scotland’s mainland. People that live in the area of Ardnamurchan, Morvern and Ardgour need to go over 45 miles (depending where they live even further) to Fort William if they need to do bigger shopping or need to do other necessities. Usually you take the ferry from Corran near North Ballachulish to Ardgour and then go further. You can also go all around through Fort William and along Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil and down on the opposite side of Fort William along the Loch. This route gives you amazing views across Loch Linnhe with Ben Nevis and Ben Nevis range. You can also go further along the A830 towards Mallaig and drive down at Lochoilart. On this route you pass through Glenfinnan with the famous Glenfinnan viaduct (aka Harry Potter bridge) which is always worth a stop (if you get a parking place😋 ).
I drove up to Tyndrum Friday after work so that I didn’t need to drive all the way on Saturday morning. I stayed in a glamping hut close to the West Highland Way. I assume a lot of people use these or camp on the grounds there, who are walking the WHW. I had made the mistake and not read properly what you had to bring when I booked it – and considering you had to bring beddings or a sleeping bag, towels, cutlery etc I found it very expensive if I am being honest. I stayed in amazing rooms in B&B’s with en-suite bathroom for a cheaper price. So – not recommended if you have better alternatives. I was mostly afraid of it being loud outside from all the people on the grounds but luckily it was really quiet and I had a good night sleep. I left at 7 am in the morning after washing me and my hair in ice cold water from the sink in the little bathroom in the hut because I did not want to use the shower room 😄. Then, when I was drying my hair, my hair dryer pitched and was dead… So there I was with half wet hair that was still cold from the cold water I washed it with… 👍🙌
Never mind. Packed all my stuff in the car ready to go. Got a notification that I’ve got low tyre pressure. Exactly what you want to see when you are about to go to the remote – not! Luckily, in Tyndrum is a fuel station and a air gauge thingy. Tried to fill up air in all tyres but when I left Tyndrum it was still saying it was not right. So I made the decision to go up to a garage in Fort William, driving there slowly and carefully through Glencoe. This was now the first time I did not stop anywhere in the Glen on the way. Also because it was PACKED 🤯! It was only 8.30 am and every car park was full. Mostly with campers.
I arrived safely at a garage in Fort William and the guy checked the pressure again and reset the notification. It seemed fine so I went off to my actual destination in Strontian. I took the way along Loch Eil and then down along Loch Linnhe. And I am very happy I did. I had amazing views and it was not at all as busy as along the main routes.
I was only able to check into my B&B from 4 pm so obviously still had plenty of time at hand to explore the surroundings. First I stopped at the little village of Strontian to have a sandwich for lunch. Then I drove further on to Salen. A friend had told me about a German lady that has a B&B there and who sells German bread. So I just knocked at Ella’s door 😁. I had a lovely chat with her, bought 2 breads (which btw were amazing when I tasted them back home) and a piece of German apple cake for on the way – probably also one of the best I ever ate. If you ever plan a trip to Ardnamurchan and enjoy some German bakery – check out Salen House B&B 🙂 (you can also find her on Instagram: salen_house_bnb).
Ella had recommended me to go to Castle Tioram which I did afterwards. It lies quite hidden and I was pretty surprised how busy it was. But I assume a lot of people that go to the area of Arisaig do a trip down there. It was very beautiful nevertheless. It was low tide, so you could walk up to the castle. It sits very beautifully on this little island, surrounded by sand and blooming heather at the time with the Isle of Muck and Eilean Shona in the background.
Shortly after 4 pm I then arrived at my B&B – the Otterburn. Obviously everything was a bit different with all the corona measures for safety reasons but I can definitely say it was one of the best B&Bs I stayed in. And I stayed in a lot over the past 4 years all around Scotland.
Laura, the host was amazing. Her husband runs a canoeing business but I would have needed to book that in advance and as I wanted the 3 full days to explore, I did not do it this time but surely be back for it! Since this 1st day was quite eventful, I was just being lazy for the rest of the day and only went to the local pub at the Strontian hotel for some take away food (because of Corona). I had a chicken kebab with chips which you would not expect to be SO GOOD in the middle of nowhere. But it was! And the chips where some of the best I ever had! Afterwards I spent some time at Loch Sunart to watch the sunset. But midges were pestering me soon…
My first full day exploring Ardnamurchan
There are 2 main attractions to visit at Ardnamurchan – the Ardnamurchan lighthouse and Sanna Bay.
You better like driving single track roads for 30 miles, otherwise it will be very tiring for you to get to those two locations.
My first stop on the way was at a wildlife hide-away along Loch Sunart but unfortunately I did not see any seals. I assume the tide was not low enough. Laura had told me they sunbath on the stones when the tide is out. However, I was granted with amazing reflections on the water. Before turning into the road to the lighthouse I stopped at Kilchoan. You can take the ferry from there over to Mull and actually see Mull from here. It was so peaceful and quiet. I could have just sat there as well just watching the water.
The road to Ardnamurchan lighthouse is a proper single track road. I was just glad that it was very quiet with cars. There were quite a few visitors at the lighthouse though. It is the most westerly point of Britain’s mainland. You can see the isles of Rúm and Eigg and a little bit of Skye in the far, too. It is quite a tall lighthouse (36 metres high) which properly would look pretty amazing in a sunset. On the way there I was also lucky to meet some highland coos 😉.
Afterwards I made my way to Sanna Bay which is even worse to drive to 😄. However, I actually enjoyed the drive there more than the beach itself. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful beach – but I am not so much a beach person (unless I specifically go there for beachcombing). I prefer rugged landscapes, hills, flora and crazy rocks and skies. The area you drive through is called “Land of Rings” because Ardnamurchan centre is most notable for its place in developing ideas on how magma is emplaced in the upper continental crust. Pioneering geologists in the early 20th century mapped out a pattern of ring intrusions that they interpreted as having acted to allow the surrounding rocks to move, as magma chambers filled and emptied during the life of the volcano.
It was amazing with all the heather in full bloom. I don’t know if I did not pay attention to it last year but I did not notice it that much back then.
I arrived at Sanna Bay at lunch time. I had my little lunch bag, which Laura had packed for me at the beach just watched the little waves coming in. Then did a walk along the shore before heading back to the car.
I stopped a lot on the way back to Strontian so it took me until late afternoon. Rested again until dinner and went to the Strontian hotel again. But I did not want to eat there but going to Loch Shiel. Yes – you can actually go to Loch Shiel other than at Glenfinnan 😉. But it was a total fail! 😂 I had no idea how long I had to walk from the car park in the middle of nowhere to the shores. I started walking and felt really weird being completely alone in the wild – 8 miles from civilisation. I got so nervous after 15 minutes of walking that I just sat down on some timber and had my now cold fish and chips right beside the path in the middle of the woods 😂. I almost had a heart attack when suddenly a guy appeared on the path! I had not expected anyone else there.
I went straight back to the car after I finished eating and went back to the B&B but again – probably stopped at least 10 times on the way for pictures.
2nd full day – Morvern
On my 2nd day I went on exploring the region of Morvern. I did not expect it to get any more remote but I was wrong… I drove down the road along Loch Linnhe which is proper narrow and wild. You only have a couple of houses here and there – otherwise it is just hills, and the shores of Loch Linnhe next to you for the first part of the journey. I was hoping to see eagles but it was pretty cloudy, so I guess I just could not see any with my bare eyes.
After Loch a’Choire where you find an old village with a few accommodation the road leads you through a Glen. At the junction coming out I went down South to Lochaline from where you can also take a ferry to Mull. The place is a bit bigger than Kilchoan and used more for travelling between Mull and the Western mainland. I only sat down at the harbour there for my lunch but then made my way back towards Strontian. But I stopped at Ardtornish Estate along the way with a view on Kinlochaline Castle.
Ardtornish is listed by Historic Environment Scotland as being outstanding for its architectural, scenic, and nature conservation importance. Ardtornish house and a number of cottages comprise a visitor enterprise, able to accommodate over 100 guests. The gardens are open to the public. Ardtornish offers deer stalking, river and loch fishing. Part of the estate is managed in collaboration with the Scottish Wildlife Trust as the Rahoy Hills wildlife reserve.
I wandered around the estate and then drove back to Strontian. Even if you do not do a lot of walking – driving the narrow roads can be very tiring.
As it was still early in the day, I made a 2nd attempt to get to the shores of Loch Shiel. And oh my God – I am so thankful I did! It was just amazing! The sky had cleared and I had the most amazing sunshine while being completely alone on the pier in the middle of Loch Shiel – surrounded by hills and forest. It was really hard to leave the place.
The next day I had to leave this awesome place. But I cannot wait to return. The area is beautiful and luckily not as over-crowded (yet). I drove back via Lochoilart and wanted to stop at Glenfinnan but it was impossible. I arrived there shortly before the train would come over the bridge – so not a chance to find a parking place. And I am not someone who just parks anywhere. So I crossed the Jacobite while driving towards Fort William.
I stopped at Corpach because I finally had clear views on Ben Nevis for a change. Every time before I went there it was raining 🙄😄. I also drove up to a view point above the town from where you can see Ben Nevis and the last bit of the West Highland Way. But uurgh! It smelled so badly of urine at the parking!
Driving through Glencoe I went for the walk around Glencoelochan but it started to become very cloudy.
I stopped a few times through Glencoe now for pictures but then it started raining and I just drove home in one go then.
It took quite some time though as it was super busy with slow trucks and campers in front of me and I was almost loosing my sh*t. 🙈🙊 I actually then went along Loch Earn towards Comrie and drove down through Perthshire and through Perth then. I always forget about how lovely this area is and should actually spent more time there on weekends since it is not even far from me…
I was not sure if I wanted to post as detailed about that trip but I know the people in Ardnamurchan need the tourists to live. I just hope people travel there responsibly and it does not turn into another Skye or Glencoe.🙏