Local area

 
Liddesdale in the snow

This is a sparsely populated part of the Scottish Highlands. The weather is generally mild and snow in early April or in October is a rarity at Loch level. But you might well see snow on the mountains around you during the low season extremes. In spring and summer you normally get a mix of overcast Scottish mist and days of warm sunshine. Rain goes with the territory but it doesn’t dampen the spirits for long.

Many visitors spend a good deal of time based at the cottage but seldom trapped in it by the weather. The grounds and waterside surrounding the house are perfect for children to play. Or you can explore the hillside and woods behind the house, or walk the one and a half miles to Laudale Estate on the loch-side road. You’ll see hairy wild boar behind their compound fence along this road and occasionally a van-load of bird-watchers will be studiously scanning the high cliffs above you for the nesting eagle pairs. If you have a light boat, there’s good mackerel fishing in the bay in front of the house. Don’t come with a massive boat because you won’t be able to launch it unless you come across from Strontian or Salen.


Strontian

Birds of prey

Strontian is at the head of the loch, about four miles away. This is your nearest village and at the Village Centre and post office store you can get most of the basics: food and drink, newspapers, fishing tackle and petrol or diesel (but try and fill up well before you cross over from the Corran ferry because the petrol here is pricey!). There’s a pub in Strontian or you might enjoy a slap up at the hotel restaurant.

Strontian is on a road built in the 1800s by Thomas Telford between Corran and Acharacle on the north side of Ardnamurchan. From the early 18th century Strontian developed as a mining village involved mostly in galena ore mining from a seam up in the hills to the north. Apart from a brief resurgence of mining for barite in the 1980s it is now a place where mineralogists seek out strontianite, calcite, harmatome, brewsterite and other fine crystal formations.

Loch Doilart

The old mine road from Strontian will take you eventually - about 25 minutes of slow and spectacular winding roads - across to Loch Doilart. You can hire a boat and do some fly fishing for the day on this very quiet and isolated fresh water loch - ask about this at Strontian post office. You’ll also find some excellent walks taking in tall woods and panoramas over the upper part of Loch Sheil.

Acharacle

The other road out of Strontian to the west takes you through Sunart where Beinn Resipol rises to 3,000 feet (826 metres) towards the Ardnamurchan peninsula along the northern side of Loch Sunart. After about three or four miles of single track road - with plenty of passing places which allow you to pass other cars or let cars pass you - you’ll see Liddesdale from the opposite side. Another three miles finds you at a pretty harbour village called Salen. You can continue all the way to Ardnamurchan Point, the most westerly part of Great Britain, by driving into Salen and continuing along the coast road. But your way to Acharacle is a short hop from here leading to the north.

Acharacle is spread along a low-lying area at the southerly end of the long Loch Sheil, which just fails to reach the sea. Glenfinnan Hotel offers boat trips on the loch during the season. Acharacle has a good fish and chip shop and bakery selling excellent pasties and bread; also a post office, small supermarket, newsagents and fishing tackle/gift shop. It serves a large area, including Sunart, Ardnamurchan and Moidart. There’s a magical road out of Archaracle through Moidart - passing an excellent fish smokery after two miles - towards Lochalort. After 20 minutes driving you hit a good road and come down to join the road between Fort William and Mallaig. At this juncture, turn to the left to discover the beach at Glenuig. It is a long drive from Liddesdale - about one and a half hours in total, but it’s a great summer outing.

Nearer to Acharacle you’ll find some excellent beaches and places to visit.

Scottish red deer

Castle Tioram

A little way over the bridge on the north side of Acharacle and a small right turning takes you to Castle Tioram. After a two-mile drive running along the river you’ll get to a wide bay at the head of which is a ruined castle reached by a causeway along the sand. Sadly the castle is in bad repair and you can no longer enter it because of fear of falling masonry. It dates from the 1200s and was once the main fortress of the MacDonalds of Clan Ranald.

Ardtoe and the Monster Midge

Alternatively, before the bridge on the north side of Acharacle, take a left and follow the road around towards Ardtoe. After about two miles, you’ll climb into the headland and come down by Kentra Cove, where there’s a jetty and several boats. Follow the road round for another half mile to Ardtoe. Look out for the largest midge in Scotland on the side of the road. There’s a small camping site here and an excellent beach divided into various coves. You are invited to park in a grassy area close to the main cove and there is an ’honesty letterbox’ charge of 50p for the day. If you’re adventurous, you’ll find other amazing beaches in this area but this one is great fun. On very busy high season days you’ll see upwards of 40 people here.

Ardnamurchan

Back to Salen and down the coast road to the west. It is about a 40 minute drive from Salen to Ardnamurchan Point. Be patient, the road is scenic but slow. You’ll pass Glenborrodale Castle looming up on your right in purplish stone. There are special walks around the castle area. Then on towards the Ardnamurchan Natural History Centre. This is a must-do-at-least-once place to go. It was built in the 1980s by an enterprising couple and it is a great way of immersing yourself in the natural environment of Ardnamurchan. At its centre is an interactive exhibition and an audio-visual presentation, great for children and adults, that engages you in the history, local wildlife and geology of the area.

The road continues through Mingary towards Kilchoan, sheltered under Beinn Hiant, Ardnamurchan’s largest mountain, before winding towards Ardnamurchan Point. The lighthouse, built like an Egyptian obelisk by Alan Stevenson in the early part of the 19th century, has a visitor’s centre, tea room, an entertaining museum and the most staggering views across the Minch towards the Isle of Coll and the Hebrides. People come here to watch the whales and have their hair parted in the wind.

If you’ve come this far and it’s a fine day, you must go to Sanna Bay too. There’s a turning to Sanna Bay about two miles before you reach the lighthouse - so you need to backtrack. The beach is of fine white shell sand and the sea is genuine turquoise. You park next to the sand dunes and it’s great for swimming, kite-flying, rock pools, seal-tickling and horsing about.

wild boar

Morvern

Up from the little road by the house is a ’bigger’ road that takes you to Lochaline about 18 miles away. Stop at Artornish Estate to see the amazing estate gardens before catching a ferry to Fishnish on the Isle of Mull. The car ferry takes 15 minutes to cross the Sound of Mull where you have Tobermory and Balamory to discover, or you can take an onward journey to the neighbouring Isle of Iona.

Then there’s the rest of Morvern with one or two reasonable beaches on the Loch Linnhe side and a massive area to walk, stalk and fish.

Fort William

This is the main town about 25 miles away - ’The Fort’ as it is known locally - where you can do a ’big shop’ at Morrisons supermarket and also get reasonably priced petrol, find decent butchers and a good street for other shopping. There’s a cinema, tourist centre and various attractions. Fort William is eight miles up Loch Linnhe after the five-minute ferry crossing at Corran. Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis are close neighbours of the town. There are direct rail links to Fort William from London, Crewe and other parts of England.

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