When most people think about Scotland and its natural beauty, the same locations tend to spring to mind — Loch Lomond, Glen Coe, Skye (and rightly so). But, have you ever heard of Ardnamurchan?
I thought not.
Embarrassingly, neither had I until just a few months ago when I found myself talking to a fellow walker out in the mountains. “It’s very unspoiled and undisturbed,” he told me. I doubted that. I spend a lot of time in the Scottish Highlands, and right now, it’s more popular than ever. You really need to get off the beaten track if you’re in search of some alone time.
This is exactly where Ardnamurchan comes into the equation.
After much deliberation and research, I finally decided to pack my bags and make the long journey to this small peninsula in the Lochaber area of the Highlands. It’s surrounded by the sea on three sides, and its remoteness is accentuated by the fact that the main access route is a winding single-track road for much of its length. Ardnamurchan is also home to the westernmost point of mainland Great Britain. Not even 20 minutes after I’d disembarked the ferry, I knew this trip was going to be special.
I love discovering unfamiliar places, driving new roads, and seeing new sights. It’s refreshing and exciting. And, while I was exploring Ardnamurchan, there was something unexpected around every corner.
Vast moorlands, rocky cliffs, and ancient woodland dominate much of the landscape, which not only supplies great opportunities for the keen adventurer but is also home to an abundance of wildlife. You’ll spot herds of deer running in the distance, and on the wildest of days, you’ll even hear the Atlantic Ocean relentlessly pounding the coastline. This is a place where you can spend time almost uninterrupted, and if you really want to, you can get completely lost and forget about the rest of the world.
I based myself in Ardslignish, overlooking Loch Sunart in the heart of the peninsula. Every morning I got out of bed, fed the birds, and planned the day ahead. While I might never have set foot in this wonderful place if not for that chance meeting in the mountains, I was grateful to be there — this was the hidden Scotland I’d been looking for. In between hiking and waiting out the bad weather, I spent many quiet hours at the Garbh Eilean wildlife hide on the lookout for otters, seals, and golden eagles. I also made my way out to the lighthouse on a number of occasions to look for dolphins and whales (which are frequently spotted nearby), but it wasn’t to be. My evenings were peaceful, and I set aside as much time as possible to relax by the fire and do some light reading.
One thing that quickly became apparent to me is just how wild Ardnamurchan truly is. Yes, it’s technically attached to the mainland, but it feels more like a small island. Although it’s accessible by road and ferry, it feels very much disconnected, and it’s quite literally the end of the road. What’s more, you’d better learn to survive without your phone while visiting because you’d need to climb a hill to even get a glimpse of a signal. As it’s home to around 2,000 people, there’s no need to worry about finding solitude here, so if you don’t enjoy isolation, this beautiful but unforgiving place may not be for you. On the contrary, if you thrive on feeling cut off and want to experience life on the edge, you will fall in love.
To put it simply: Ardnamurchan is pure, and it will steal your heart.