Kayak approaching Ardnamurchan Lighthouse

The end of the road

and the most westerly point on mainland UK

Since moving to Strontian in 2016, I have heard several definitions as to where 'Ardnamurchan' starts. As you come off the Corran Ferry there is a large brown tourist sign which says 'Welcome to Ardnamurchan' (Gaelic: FĂ ilte gu Aird nam Murchan) and just behind that another that says 'Welcome to Morvern' - yet you are neither on Ardnamurchan nor Morvern peninsulas. Apparently the boundary to Ardnamurchan is somewhere around Salen/Acharacle with Ardnamurchan westwards of this rough line. When you turn left in Salen, you can consider yourself escaping onto Ardnamurchan. You can almost feel the clocks slowing down as you round the corner...

If you are heading to Ardnamurchan from the Corran Ferry, then you'll not be heading through Acharacle, but if you want to stock up with food locally, there is a decent sized Keystore in Acharacle a couple of miles past Salen. While you are on Ardnamurchan so make use of the smaller Spar in Kilchoan and the Salen Jetty shop / cafe (see the water sports section below) to top up with food for your stay.

The best things to do on Ardnamurchan

There is no doubt that the main attractions on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, and one of the key reasons why people come to the area, have to be Sanna Bay and the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. They have been featured on the cover of national newspapers and magazines, blogged about all over the internet and photographed from almost every angle. They've appeared on Top Gear (BBC 2021) and Grand Tours of Scotland (BBC 2019), yet the area never seems to be get really busy unless the sun is out and it is the middle of the summer holidays.

Even then, 'busy' is relative...

Eating out in Ardnamurchan

Acharacle has the biggest cafe on the main road in the Tioram Cafe (named after the castle which is covered on the Moidart page) and there is also the Salen Jetty shop as well as the Puffin Cafe in the Kilchoan Community Centre on the road towards the ferry to Mull and does excellent fresh coffee. I personally prefer their old building for atmosphere, but the great coffee and company has not changed in the move. One worth stopping at during your stay or journey to Sanna Bay is the visitor centre in Glenborrodale - The Ardnamurchan Natural History Centre. Do check opening times as they vary throughout the year and they close over winter.

There is also a cafe at the Lighthouse itself, as well as a visitor centre. You'll deserve a cake if you make the walk up the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse itself! Back on the 'main road' there is also the Salen Hotel (Salen) and Loch Shiel Hotel (Acharacle) to head to for an evening meal out.

A new couple have taken over the running of Mingary Castle (one is a 3 AA rosette chef) and will be opening it to non-resident bookings for dinners in 2021. It's great to see them making use of some of my images from around their area on their website and to see some fresh ideas for the fantastic produce this region has available.

It might be more drinking than eating, but the Ardnamurchan distillery is worth stopping at on the road through Gelnborrodale to Sanna Bay. If you have a long vehicle (i.e. most mobile homes and upwards) and want to visit the Natural History Centre (above), then you are permitted to park here and walk across to the centre.

Walking adventures

One walking adventure that I've still to do is the 'Ring of Fire' between Kilchoan and Sanna Bay. It is about 13 km of rough ground with lots of up and down as you circumnavigate the exterior of a volcanic caldera, or sunken magma chamber. If you don't fancy this, as it sounds pretty hard going, then pause on your drive through to Sanna Bay as you pass through the caldera. You'll feel as though you are in a different world for a bit, and it is a micro-climate with some unique species of plants growing there.

The highest 'mountain' on Ardnamurchan may not be very high (525m), but Ben Hiant (pronounced 'hee-ant') is a beauty. From the summit you'll get 360 degree views along Loch Sunart, towards the Isle of Mull and over to Rum and Egg. There is an 'easy' way up from the main road, but I'd recommend the longer route from Camas nana Gael car park and down to the shorleine as this passes a neolithic burial chamber and other archaeological remains, goes through some amazing lava flow patterns before climbing back up to the summit from the southern flanks which are the most remote.

Annotated view from Ben Hiant across Loch Sunart
From near the summit of Ben Hiant, it is easy to see the islands of Carna and Oronsay and into Loch Teacuis.
View from Ben Hiant towards western islands
On a clear day you will be rewarded with views across to Rum, Eigg and Muck. If you look carefully, you will be able to make our Coll and Tiree as well as Skye.
Water sports around Ardnamurchan

There is a jetty in Salen that you can launch small craft from with permission. For larger vessel, there may be a lunching/landing fee. Please note there is no parking at the jetty whilst you are on the water - this is strictly for locals and people making use of the 'must visit' Salen Jetty Shop run by Anita and Paul since 2019. Wonderful coffee and cakes and ample stock of the essentials for your holiday the area and easily accessible from the water if you are kayaking or canoeing on Loch Sunart. If you need somewhere to park while you are away, head back towards the main road (the A861 Strontian to Acharacle road) and turn right towards Strontian. You'll see a large parking area on your right just after the wooden house where it seems to be acceptable to park for a few days if your adventures are to last that long.

If you have the experience to head to the open sea, then kayaking around Ardnamurchan Point (which you can read about in one of my blog posts) is the place to go. It is the most westerly point on mainland UK (about 300m south of the lighthouse), has rugged and remote coastlines as well as some of the best beaches in the area at Sanna Bay.

Kayaker approcahing Ardnmurchan Point
Rounding the corner as seeing Ardnamurchan Lighthouse is sure to bring a smile to your face as this is a very remote and rugged location to be kayaking in. The most westerly point on mainland UK is the nearest headland and not the one the lighthouse sits on.
Kayaker in the rain near Kilchoan Pier
Heading the other way from Kilchoan, you'll be heading towards Mingary Castle and Ben Hian and up into Loch Sunart. I won't guarantee a rainbow, but you'll have a fairly high chance of rain!
Cycling on Ardnamurchan

Ardnamurchan is a one road peninsula from Salen to Kilchoan, so perhaps there is a limit to what can be done here. However, it is a belter of a ride with different scenery around each corner. It is never especially steep, but it does have long uphill sections. Do watch out for sheep near the roads as you descend these hills - they are not as well accustomed to vehicles and bikes as the ones on Ardgour are. There was a serious collision between a cyclist and sheep in 2018 on this road, so please keep your wits about you.

While there may only be one modern road, there are several old roads, possibly drover's routes, along the north coast of Ardnamurchan. If you can find the one from Acharacle or Kentra Bay through to Kilmory and back along proper roads, you are in for an adventurous day on your bike. Be warned, there are a couple of high deer gates to surmount on route. There is also a track from either Glenborrodale or Laga back to Acharacle, but I have no information at this time on the suitability of this for bikes. To me, this sounds like an adventure just waiting to be had...

The Gateway to Mull

From Kilchoan you can get the ferry across to Tobermory on Mull. This is a CalMac ferry and they keep their timetable up to date on their website. You can also book tickets in advance which I would recommend if you are heading across in your car.

If you are staying on the peninsulas but would like to visit Tobermory, I suggest leaving your car near the ferry terminal and heading over as a foot passenger. There is easily enough to do in Tobermory for a day from the chocolate shop and cafe, Pier Restaurant and fish and chip takeaway, distillery, and the sea life centre. You can also catch a tour out to Fingal's Cave and Staff from here with Staffa Tours (but they also pick up in Kilchoan).

Brightly coloured buildings of Tobermory
The brightly coloured buildings of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull are accessible by CalMac ferry from Kilchoan. Tobermory is known as 'Ballamory' of the CBBC programme with the same name.
Wildlife watching

On any of the above adventures you have a pretty good chance to see wildlife. Eagles (both types) can be seen from Ben Hiant. Dolphins, whales, seals and killer whales can often be seen from Ardnamurchan Point. Red deer are frequently seen as you drive through the Ardnamurchan Estate and there is so much more to see if you have the time to sit and wait.

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