Top things to do in Ardgour
As you cross Loch Linnhe on the Corran Ferry, Ardgour is your landing spot - but is often overlooked as visitors head on to their accommodation in Morvern or Sunart.
Ardgour (Àird Ghobhar - 'Height of the goats') is generically the area from the Glensanda silica quarry around the corner of the peninsula to the south all the way along the western shores of Loch Linnhe and souther shores of Loch Eil almost as far as Glenfinnan.
I'm sure Kingairloch and Kilmalieu and all the villages to the north would want to rightly promote their own identities, it is easy to use the name 'Ardgour' to mean the larger area they all are located in. Until 1829, Ardgour was part of the largest parish in Scotland - Kilmallie Parish. In 1894, Ardgour became a parish in its own right.
While there is a road around Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil via Fort William, the Corran Ferry is by far the easiest way of getting to Ardnamurchan especially if you are coming from the south.
The Corran Narrows are a short, but quite fast flowing and deep, section of Loch Linnhe which flows from Fort William into the Sound of Mull and on past the Isles of Lismore and Jura.
The ferry service is not run by CalMac Ferry so the priding is a little different. Cars are charged at £8.20 each way (2018) irrespective of how many passengers there are in the vehicle. Foot passengers and bicycles (and kayaks and canoes) are carried free of charge.
The three minute crossing offers great views from the upper deck (do wait with your vehicle to pay the fee first) down Loch Linnhe and out to sea. Take your camera and binoculars and see what wildlife you may encounter.
The ferry runs every half-hour from either side unless they are busy, in which case they will probably be 'shuttling' back and forth to get visitors on their way as quick as possible - perhaps every 20 minutes.
An easy way to remember the ferry times is the local saying, "On the hour from Ardgour". The ferry will depart the Ardgour side on the hour and half-hour (unless shuttling) from 09:00 through to 21:00.
The most important thing to note is that the last ferry from Lochaber / Fort William side is at 21:30... Miss that and you'll have about an hours drive through Fort William to get to where you should have been in three minutes!
Rather than dashing off to your accommodation, stop in 'The Corran' on the Fort William side (know as Lochaber) before crossing. They do a range of meals in great setting (the restaurant was finished in 2017) at respectable prices. It is not unknown for people living on the Ardgour side to park near the ferry and cross as a foot passenger and eat at The Corran. From your table you'll be able to keep an eye on the ferry crossings and judge your departure to perfection. Especially handy if it is raining!
If you'd rather drive across the ferry first, there is the Inn at Ardgour on the opposite side that does good pub meals overlooking Loch Linnhe. Their car park is almost directly opposite the ferry slip. Do watch out for vehicles as you will be crossing the 'main' road on the peninsulas.
Both of the above restaurants also do accommodation, but for both dining and staying, you'd be advised to book in advance especially during peak season as they get busy. Do also check opening hours for the restaurants as these can change during the year.
On the Lochaber / Fort William side is the Corran Bunkhouse. Definitely a cut above your average 'bunkhouse' and a handy place to stay if you are exploring Glencoe, Fort William, etc. However, you will need to book in advance as it is very popular. The recent lounge extension (2018) is light and airy and a great place to relax after cooking your dinner.
There is are various self-catering and B&B establishments in Clovulin (on the Ardgour side), just around the corner from the ferry, as well as a small shop and Post Office.
On the Ardgour Estate there is a wonderful five star self-catering cottage for two people know as Cuil Moss which was judged runner up in the Scottish Outdoor and Leisure Awards 'Best Self-catering' 2017. Staying here gets you access to the Stargazer Tower which won 'Eco-shed of the year 2017' and is a great place for stargazing, wildlife watching or simply hiding away.
Somehow I expect that you'll need to book this at least a year in advance if you wanted to stay there...
As I'm including Kingairloch is included in this region, it is definitely worth mentioning the Kingairloch Estate as you'll probably not have heard of it. They are nestled away from the 'main' road and off the tourist track (so to speak) and can offer self-catering accommodation as well as bed and breakfast. They also have the beautiful Boathouse Restaurant overlooking the loch where you stand a good chance of seeing otters. Well worth a visit - hear the new chef (2018) is doing very well (she came canoeing with her family and myself the day before she started working at Kingairloch).
As you get off the ferry, turn right and park in the small parking area just past the Ardgour Inn and walk back to the pier before the ferry slip. There are three small wooden nest boxes on the southern side where you can often see the Black guillemots launching themselves comically into the water. You may also see diving birds or even Common dolphins in that area, so it is worth stopping rather than getting caught up in the surge of traffic off the ferry heading towards Strontian.
Kayaking or Canoeing
Quite a few canoeists or kayakers stay at the Corran Bunkhouse as it makes many of the local rivers easily accessible. With the Etive (V), Spean (IV/V), Roy (II - IV), Nevis (V) as well as the Falls of Lora all within an hours drive, it is no wonder you often see short, fat kayaks on top of cars outside the bunkhouse
However, you also see quiet a few long pointy sea kayaks there as well as it is a great starting point for exploring the west coast south of Fort William. From here you can head down to Mull, Lismore, Jura, Islay, etc. or 'turn right' up the Sound of Mull and on to Arisaig, Skye and beyond. With such diversity and beauty around here, it is no wonder that sea kayaking on the West Coast of Scotland is becoming a major attraction.
Generally we don't see many canoes on the open waters, but that is not to say they can't go there. I've led canoe journeys down many of the tidal and freshwater lochs here and out to sea or around remote headlands. Plus a canoe can carry much more equipment than a sea kayak!
Loch Linnhe provides shelter in certain wind direction making water based trips and activities much more enjoyable. There have been days when Loch Sunart outside our home is very rough yet Loch Linnhe clam and almost flat. While the upper stretches towards Fort William may lack a little of the 'wilderness' feeling (especially on the eastern shores), it is possible to explore the unique geology of the area from a canoe and feel the water change as you pass for deep to relatively shallow waters.
You just need to watch out for the occasional large cruise ship passing by or the fast flows of water through the Corran Narrows...
Cycling in Ardgour has a few routes worthy of consideration - the most obvious being the road route from the ferry northwards alongside Loch Linnhe before heading west along Loch Eil before doubling back (onto the main road - the Road to the Isles) towards Fort William and southwards back to the ferry where you can cross free of charge with your bike.
This can be extended into a mega cycling route by turning left when get to the main road and heading towards Mallaig. Turn off left at Loch Ailort and follow this road though Moidart, Sunart and back to the ferry again. A long day out for many cyclists, but under 100 miles...
There are some off-road routes to explore, but these are serious mountain routes with mud, rivers, large boulders and few footpaths that would require competence in off-road cycling as well mountain navigation. The weather does change rapidly here, so be prepared for anything to happen.
If you are touring the area and heading to Strontian, it is worth adding a few miles and a couple of hills taking the detour to Kilmaliue and Kingairloch keeping your eye out for mountain goats and otters on the beaches or seals in the water. You'll come down 'Liddesdale', sometimes regarded as one of the top 100 cycling hill climbs in Scotland. I'm afraid I don't agree as it is not especially steep (just a bit long), but do feel the one above Strontian over to Polloch deserves to be in the top ten...
If you were heading from Ardgour toward Loch Aline and on to Mull, this would be the most scenic route to choose as you'll stand a good chance of seeing the mountain goats or otters on the beach or seals in the water.