Ardnamurchan Peninsula

Saturday 8th May

As we didn’t have to catch a flight at silly o’clock, we were able to spend the morning packing, leaving home round midday. After the initial motorway section of the journey bypassing Stirling we hit the smaller more scenic roads, the highlight of the drive being the Glen Coe section. Just for once driving through here the sun was shining.  Often it’s wet and windy here, you can see people walking the West Highland Way and we usually feel very sorry for them.  This time we we envious, sort of.

There’s a small ferry trip to get over to the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, just 10 minutes on the ferry, then it was a 40 minute drive mostly on single track roads before we found our holiday cottage at Garmoran Square. So all-up it was about a 4 hour drive.  As we’d booked a bit late we’ve ended up with the 3-bedroom cottage, but at the 2-bedroom price. It has nice views to the south across flat ground to Ben Resipol (no, we didn’t walk up it).

After a dinner of roast chicken we steeled down to watch a very silly movie (Transporter 2), occasionally looking out the windows to the view, now and then we saw some deer roaming about.

Sunday 9th May

We did a walk starting straight from the cottage, nice not to have to drive after the previous day. After a 10 minute walk along the road we turned off to an even smaller road heading toward “Castle Tioram”: (pron. Cheerum). First picture stop came almost immediately with a stop on an old stone bridge across the river, just as we arrived a heron took off from a pier 100-metres downstream. After a bit exploring and snapping there, we headed back down the road, as we walked 5 or 6 deer appeared by the side of the road about 100 metres in front of us, they quikly lept the fence and disappeared from view across the road before we had a chance to shoot them (shoot with the cameras, obviously).

We carried on along this minor road alongside forests with occasional houses and more traffic than we expected. To one side of us was a ridge a couple of 100 metres high covered in trees and bushes, on the other side mostly flat forested ground, but just for a change the forest wasn’t a pine forest, it had real trees. The sun was shining and it was about 13c – shirt sleeves for us, even though there was a cool breeze sometimes.

Eventually we arrived at the end of the walk at Chastle Tioram, ancient seat of the Clan Ranald, the castle sits at the mouth of a river and as it was low tide we were able to walk over the sand to explore around the outside of the substantial but crumbling castle. This would have been built back in the days when the locals relied mainly on boats for transport and waging war on each other.

Walking along the small section of beach we could see signs of razor clams everywhere, quite a few small dead crabs – looks like the tide goes out very quickly and leaves some of them stranded on the beach sometimes.  Anyway we found a nice spot to sit and have our picnic with a view of the castle and surrounding hills.  It got a bit chilly sitting in the breeze, we even had to put our jackets on as we munched on the left-over chicken.

Return journey was back the way we had come, saw a pheasant in a field on the way back to complete our wildlife sightings for the day, usually you only see them from the car as they make a crazed dash across the road in front of you.  Arriving back home there was time for an afternoon snooze before Morag roasted up some pork that we’d bought with us.

Monday 10th May

This time we drove to the start of our walk, stopping at the nearest town of Archaracle (pron. Aharakle, or Knackeracle as we christened it) to check out the local shop and local bakery, where we got some bread rolls to use with the left-over pork. Then it was a 20 minute drive to the car park at the start of our walk which would take us to Kentra’s Singing Sands beach.

To get to the beach we had to pass the signs warning of unexploded munitions from the use of this area as a testing range back in the days of WW2.  Once again the walk took us past forests, unlike yesterday this was mostly pine. Eventually we arrived at the beach, there were a few other people there, including some tents in a sheltered spot among trees just back from the beach. The sand was really fine and supposedly if you walk on it very quickly it makes a singing noise, not that we noticed.

We found a sheltered spot to have our picnic enjoying the view over to the islands of Rhum, Muck, Eigg and Skye.  Then it was back along the same path we’d come in on, back to a collection of a few windswept houses and a drive back to Archaracle to the shop then along past the cottage to a local smoking house where we picked up some hot-smoked salmon for tonight’s dinner.  Yes it was delicious.

Tuesday 11th May

The weather forecast was showing as showery and windy today so we decided to have a rest day, this called for a bacon and egg breakfast! Lunch was some excellent pies and sausage rolls from the bakery in Archaracle before a relaxing afternoon – reading, planning more walking, catching up on emails etc.

Wed 12th May

The forecast is for a crackin’ day so this was the day to head west to the lighthouse – the most westerly point on the UK mainland. The drive seemed to take forever, it was about 30 miles but because the single track road was so narrow and bendy you couldn’t do more than 30 mph. Eventually we arrived at the village of Portuairk where we parked by the side of the road and headed off on a walk that took us along beside the beach for about an hour until we arrived at a beach area just past another village.  Here we had our picnic lunch and did a bit of rock-pooling, lots of interesting rock pools with all sorts of flora in them, and a few bits of hard-to-spot fauna, crabs and the like.
After walking back to the car and heading home we took a detour to the lighthouse at the most westerley point.  Good views from the top (according to Morag) and a good exhibition at ground level). That was the end of the exploring so we headed home.  It was a lovely hilly drive with lots of small lochs with the most beautiful calm water, bit hard to see the scenery with eyes glued to the narrow road was the problem.  Not only local drivers to worry about, also sheep grazing by the side of the road and the occassional kamikaze lamb who realises the car is between them and mum!

Thursday 13th May

Another day where the forecast wasn’t great, spent the day relaxing round the cottage then had dinner in the evening at a local restaurant Ardshealach Lodge – the picture at the top of their website shows the view across to the cottages where we stayed. On the short (10 minute) drive back to the cottage, as we were approaching the last bend to get home, half-a-dozen wild deer scooted across the road about 100 meters in front of us.  We found out later that the week before we were there the residents had been woken at 3am by a stag deer standing in on the lawns at the cottages roaring his head off.

Friday 14th May

Drove north to Smirisary and walked from a car park over a hill, past the remote holiday cottages and down to the beach. Great views of westerly isles: Eigg, Rhum and Muck.  Alone on the beach had our picnic, examined a few rock-pools, then headed back over the hill back to the car.

Saturday 15th May

Drove back down to the Corran Ferry for the short trip.  Has seemed all week as if we were on an island because of the single track roads and the ferry trip over and back.

Photo album from our trip to Ardnamurchan

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