Monday 27 July 2015
Ardelve to Mallaig
Silversands Campsite, Arisaig
It rained all night and was still raining in the morning, with no sign of a let up. I packed away and went across the road to Manuela’s Wee Bakery, a random shop in this tiny village that’s not even a through route to anywhere. What a great place; run by a German couple who have built a bread oven and make great bread. I bought 2 (German style) chocolate croissants for breakfast and a multi seed heavy load. Good job I’m not walking as I don’t think I could manage the extra weight!
I stopped to admire Eilean Donan Castle, which is handily placed where 3 lochs (Alsh, Long and Duich) meet. I didn’t pay to go in as something told me it wouldn’t be worth the price. It is spectacular looking on a small island, surrounded by mountains.
It was built in 1214 by the Mackenzies, destroyed in the Jacobite Rebellion, and rebuilt in the early 1900s. By 9.30 the car park was full and there were 4 coaches. Time to leave.
Today’s drive was long but through the heart of the mountains taking in Glenshiel and part of the Great Glen along the way, as well as a few lochs.
The theme today was the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 and it was a tour of various monuments, starting with the Macrae War Memorial on a small hillock looking down Strath Croe.
I drove past the 5 sisters of Kintail and craned my neck to see the tops through the windscreen and the cloud.
Just before Fort William is Spean Bridge and by the roadside, with great views, is the Commando Memorial. Not just a memorial, there is an area of remembrance and an area for the scattering of ashes. A proper band of brothers.
I wasn’t overly impressed by Fort William; I expected a bit more from the outdoor pursuit capital of Scotland. I spent an hour or so in the West Highland Museum mainly learning about the Jacobite Rebellion, the last attempt to put the Stuarts back on the British throne. Bonny Prince Charlie’s army was finally defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 (the battle that let to the building of Fort George near Inverness).
My final memorial for today was the Glenfinnan Monument prominently posed at the end of Loch Shiel. It was erected in 1815 to mark the place where Bonny Prince Charlie supposedly raised his Royal Standard to begin the Jacobite uprising in 1745.
From the viewpoint one can also get a good view, in the other direction, of the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This magnificent structure carries the railway line from Fort William to Mallaig and was apparently featured in the Harry Potter films.
I was there at just the right time to watch the twice daily steam train pass over it. Lots of people had clearly made a point of coming to see the train go over the viaduct; I assume several were Harry Potter fans.
It was late afternoon when I arrived at Arisaig and stopped at the information centre. I learnt that Arisaig was the centre for SOE training during WW2. Seemingly its location, being difficult to get to across the ‘rough bounds’, made it ideal for secret training. Plus there were enough large houses that could be requisitioned.
The Arisaig coastline is stunning. Completely different to all the other places I’ve seen, with lots of rocks offshore that look like tiny islands. At low tide they are mostly all accessible across the sand. And what a colour the sand is! The whitest sand I’ve seen in the UK, nowhere else have I seen the same colour sand. Shetland came closest. The views were too many and too varied to do it justice with a photo. It is opposite the Small Isles of the Inner Hebrides: Eigg, Rum and Muck. Yet again I was wowed.
There are about 6 campsites here, right on the coast, and I only found one with space for my small tent. Fortunately it was just fine as I would rather have facilities than wild camp, although I saw several tents pitched along the coast in all sorts of places.
Arisaig was gearing up for its Highland Games on Wednesday so on the spur of the moment I thought I’d stay here to watch them and take a trip to the Small Isles tomorrow. It will be nice to stay here a couple of nights.
I drove to Mallaig early evening to take a look at this final town on the Morar peninsula. Ferries operate from here to the Small Isles, Knoydart and Skye. I had a nice dinner in The Clachain pub and took advantage of the very slow wifi.