Thursday 30 July 2015
Arisaig to Lochaline
Lochaline Dive Centre Hostel
Today was predicted to be the nicest day of the week and I had a long drive ahead of me, hopefully with some good views.
First stop was the Prince’s Cairn at the head of Loch Nan Uamh. This was where Bonny Prince Charlie landed in Scotland, and from where he made his escape on a French ship. Clan Ranald had supported him and there is reputedly still some buried gold in the area, treasure rescued from the battle between the English and French ships (the French were sided with the Scottish Stuarts).
I took a slight detour to see Castle Tioram on the edge of Loch Moidart. This was once the main residence of the Clan Ranald Macdonalds. It is perched on a rock that can be reached across the sandy beach at low tide, facing the North and Aouth channels of Loch Moidart as they envelope Eilean Shona.
I drove through the village of Acharacle, which seemed to be right in the heart of holiday home country. There looked to be some good fishing rivers around here and Possibly some hunting as I saw a few deer antlers hung up on houses. I stopped at the tea room; one of the nicest tea rooms I’d been in. Like others in these small places it was a community-run facility and attached to the only shop-come-post office in the village. It does seem like the most enterprising villages set up tea rooms and the like (sometimes in their village halls) to take advantage of the passing tourist trade. It’s a great idea and provides me with much needed(?) coffee and cake.
The Point of Ardnamurchan is the most Westerly point of the UK mainland (27 miles further West than Land’s End) and today was a great day to visit. It is a long drive across the Ardnamurchan peninsula, which was once a volcano. Aerial photos show clear circles in the landscape and it is possible to see cone sheets caused by volcanic activity around Ben Hiant. Apparently these are world famous. They do look quite impressive.
Whilst waiting at some traffic lights just before the lighthouse (only set of traffic lights I’ve seen on these single track roads) I was able to watch some Red Deer munching the grass. They were not bothered by me in the slightest.
I arrived at the Point just as the clouds parted and the sky became blue. Perfect timing for a trip to the top of the lighthouse to admire the amazing view.
The old lighthouse keeper (he was on the keeper list before the lighthouse was automated in 1988) showed me around and loaned me his expensive binoculars. I could see the Small Isles, the tips of the Cuillins on Skye and out as far as Barra and South Uist of the Outer Hebrides.
There were several yachts in the sea as this seems to be a good place for sailing. I could also see a couple of Ardnamurchan beaches, including Sanna. Similar to Arisaig, the sand was white and there were lots of small rocks just off shore that become islands at high tide, but these beaches were bigger and more difficult to get to so would be less crowded.
Apparently there were lots of basking sharks right here by the rocks last year, but none so far this year.
The beach at Sanna Bay had looked so nice that I drove around to Portuairk to admire the white sand and the lovely colour of the sea. I keep seeing so many kayaks around here – this seems to be a great coastline for sea kayaking.
The drive back along the side of Loch Sunart was beautiful.
I stopped briefly at Strontian (the town after which the element Strontium is named!) to get some fuel and then headed South across Morvern to the Sound of Mull. The clouds were closing in and I was glad I’d booked into a hostel for the night as the forecast was for very heavy rain. Lochaline Dive Centre was a very relaxed place – I didn’t even see the owners. I was too late for the shop, where I could have got food and tokens for the launderette. Instead it was toast and handwashing for me. Still, I had a bed for the night and was out of the rain.