Highlands

Ardnamurchan – a long and winding road

A weekend in Ardnamurchan

Last month we spend a couple of wonderful nights at The Stontian Hotel in the pretty Ardnamurchan village of Stontian.  The village’s Gaelic name, Sròn an t-Sìthein translates as nose of the fairy hill.  Legend has it that the mythical Sídhe lived under the hills surrounding the village. Some say they were forced to flee underground by Norse invaders. Tales of such shadowy, underground dwellers are prevalent in Celtic mythology.

The periodic element Strontium is named after the village, so if it ever comes up in a pub quiz you’re laughing.

It’d been a long time since I’d spend any quality time in Ardnamurchan.  My last proper visit was long before I became a Scottish travel blogger.  In fact it was so long ago that blogs weren’t even a thing!  In recent years I’d only ever whizzed through its fringes to catch the ferry from Lochaline over to Mull, so I was really looking forward to enjoying it at a more leisurely pace.

As it happens a leisurely pace is the only pace that Ardnamurchan allows.

The winding roads of Ardnamurchan

I had no recollection of just how narrow and winding the roads were.  Either that or I’d erased them from my memory completely, after the trauma of travelling on them before.  It takes the patience of a saint to get anywhere.  It’s a place where travelling at 30mph feels like rally driving.  The roads are single track and full of sharp twists, turns and blind summits.  It’s near impossible to see oncoming traffic until you’re virtually nose to nose.

Mr G who takes the speed limit literally and rages at anyone who dares to drop 5mph below it was like a caged bull. If he told me once, he told me a thousand times over the course of the weekend that he was not enjoying driving on the roads one little bit.

Fortunately the scenery knocked his socks off.  Mine too, I’d forgotten just how breathtakingly beautiful it was.  A spectacular, remote wilderness.  We picked a great time to visit too as the place was in full bloom with wispy, white bog cotton covering the moors.  Stunning, tall yellow irises and sea pinks by the waterside and pink rhododendrons in the woodland.

Our Ardnamurchan highlights (day 1)

On our first afternoon we decided to visit Sanna Beach so the Wee White Dug could cut loose.  It was an overcast afternoon but a warm and breeze free 24 degrees.

Camas Nan Geall

En route to Sanna the road winds precariously by Camas Nan Geall or the Bay of Strangers.  A dramatic, volcanic landscape that will stop you in your tracks to gaze in wonder at the view.  We stopped and despite the moody overcast skies it looked spectacular.

Before heading to Sanna Beach we popped into Kilchoan Crafts & Gallery for coffee and cake.  They very kindly let the Wee White Dug inside and brought him a nice fresh bowl of water.  Us humans enjoyed delicious chocolate brownies and a decent cup of coffee. The gallery sells some lovely locally made arts and crafts.  It’s well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Kilchoan.  If you ever do go, be sure to drop the c in Kilchoan so you sound like you’re in the know.

Sanna Bay

Sanna Beach even on a balmy, grey day is stunning.  It’s undoubtedly one of Scotland’s finest beaches.  Well worth a queasy tummy from the endlessly, winding road to reach it.

We enjoyed a long walk and a nice paddle in the sea.  In the couple of hours that we spent there we only saw a handful of other people – heaven.

During our walk at Sanna I found what has to be my favourite sign ever.

In these parts they really do frown upon ass whipping on the beach – so much so in fact that they even have by laws to prevent it!

The Strontian Hotel, Ardnamurchan

After an afternoon spent enjoying the sights of Ardnamurchan we headed to our hotel to check in.  We were warmly welcomed by the owner on arrival.  It turned out to be an excellent choice for our stay. In a beautiful location, we had a lovely room with a view of Loch Sunart.  The service was excellent.  The food good and the ambiance chilled.  We both loved it.  Casper gave it a big paws up for dog friendliness and said to let you all know that he was given a sausage to take-away for breakfast.  He said it was a good, quality sausage.

During our stay we ate our evening meals at the hotel’s Bothy Bar restaurant.  It was lovely eating, as we looked out over Loch Sunart.  Scotland at its best – that is until the dreaded Scottish, biting midgies showed up on our first night and the restaurant erupted into a sea of flailing arms.  If I’d had a pound for every time I heard someone utter the word midgie that night I’d have ended the weekend a rich woman. Only the half-dozen or so snoozing dogs (The Wee White Dug included) in the bar seemed unaffected by them.

Midgies have the ability to penetrate the impenetrable and find a way indoors despite every effort to keep them out.  I remember a couple of years ago, enjoying a romantic anniversary meal in a lovely hotel by Rannoch Station.  I sat picking midgies out of my glass between sips of champagne as if it was the most normal thing in the World to be doing.

Thankfully midgie season in Scotland is relatively short and being a true Scot in the know, I was armed with the perfect weapon in the anti midgie arsenal – Avon’s Skin so Soft. I’ve no idea why they hate it so much but they do.

Our Ardnamurchan highlights – (day 2)
Sail from kilchoan to Tobermory

Next morning we enjoyed an early breakfast.  We’d decided to take the 10:15am CalMac ferry from Kilchoan across to my beloved Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.  It was my birthday and what better place to spend it than in my favourite place on Earth.  Mr G had checked the estimated drive time online before we left. 1 hour 6 minutes to cover 29.6 miles.  When he made it in 54 minutes he almost did a victory lap of the ferry car park.

It’d been 20 years since I last took this route to Mull.  Last time the ferry was tiny and it was followed across by a dolphin.  I watched it over the side of the boat as it raced along beside us.  It was magical and something I’ll never forget.  This time the ferry was bigger and we weren’t lucky enough to see a dolphin but the gorgeous views more than made up for it.

We spotted local celebrity Tobermory Cat on arrival then spend a happy couple of hours pottering around Tobermory, rounding off our flying visit with lunch at The Pier Cafe.  Home made soup and cheese sandwiches.  A perfect birthday lunch, with perfect company in a perfect place.

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse

Back on the mainland our next stop was Ardnamurchan Lighthouse at Ardnamurchan Point, the most westerly point of the UK mainland.  It’s worth visiting if only to see what must be Scotland’s most remote yet necessary set of traffic lights.

Fancy driving that stretch of road without them?  We were greeted by a lovely Border Collie who gave us a tour of the rocky landscape, as sure-footed as a mountain goat.  If you look closely you may be able to spot him in the photo above.

The lighthouse is situated in a spectacular spot with stunning views across to the Isle of Eigg,  with its distinctive profile.


Castle Tioram

Our final stop of the day took us back along the never-ending, winding road to the ruined, medieval Castle Tioram – pronounced cheerum but known to the locals and signposted as Castle Dorlinn.

The castle sits on a tidal island where Loch Moidart and the River Shiel meet.  It can be reached by a causeway at low tide.  As luck would have it the tide was out when we arrived.   It’s an impressive fortress if not a little foreboding.  Sadly it’s in a poor state of repair so we had to content ourselves with snapping the exterior.

Later back at the hotel, showered and ready for dinner we slathered on a generous application of Skin so Soft and headed down to dinner feeling invincible.  Haggis stuffed chicken in a creamy whisky sauce washed down with midgie free champagne – a perfect end to a wonderful birthday and another great Scottish adventure.

Until next time ………..

40 thoughts on “Ardnamurchan – a long and winding road”

  1. Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad – Orkney, Scotland – A Scottish island girl in search of the world's adventures. Join me around the world on my blog and on Facebook (@anorcadianabroad), Twitter (@orcadianabroad) & Instagram (@anorcadianabroad)!
    Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad says:

    I am looking through some of your older posts for inspiration for our trip through Scotland in a couple of weeks… your photos here are absolutely incredible! To be honest, apart from anything else (like you know, the sheer beauty), I kind of want to hunt out that beach just for that sign, haha!

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Ha ha that sign made my day. Sanna Bay is spectacular. There’s loads to see and do in Ardnamurchan. Lovely part of the country.

  2. modestly – United Kingdom – Reflective, and domestic, a wannabe poet and philosopher drowning in the complexities of life. More Marge Simpson than Elizabeth Barret, but what the hell.Tripping through life with the aid of dead writers, and some live ones, minor medication, and a wonderful, loving, maddening set of teenage boys, and a husband I adore. Update - the boys are no longer teenagers and I still adore the man. https://platform.linkedin.com/badges/js/profile.js
    modestly says:

    I am in love with your dog. My first dog was a Westie – and in love with Scotland naturally . Exploring up there on a monthly basis and delighting in the discoveries.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thank you – he’s a wonderful little travelling companion. He’s got many more Scottish adventures planned this year so stay tuned. 😊

      1. modestly – United Kingdom – Reflective, and domestic, a wannabe poet and philosopher drowning in the complexities of life. More Marge Simpson than Elizabeth Barret, but what the hell.Tripping through life with the aid of dead writers, and some live ones, minor medication, and a wonderful, loving, maddening set of teenage boys, and a husband I adore. Update - the boys are no longer teenagers and I still adore the man. https://platform.linkedin.com/badges/js/profile.js
        Deborah Anne Corr says:

        I am inspired to try and convince my husband to look at getting a Westie – we lost our lovely old Patterdale a couple of months ago, and we’re not quite ready – but I so miss him. I need a dog in my life.

      2. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
        Samantha Grant says:

        I’m sorry to hear that. I know what you mean about needing a dog in your life. They bring so much joy into your life.

  3. Wonderful photos which brought back memories of our previous trips to this beautiful part of Scotland. Can’t wait for our next trip there in a week’s time. Love the dog!

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thank you -,it’s a lovely place. Hope you have a great trip.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      How wonderful – I’d love to take the Wee White Dug on an overseas trip.

  4. Greetings from sunny Germany! My father & all the ancestors on his side were from Strontian & there are still one or two connections in the region. I have visited the area only a handful of times in the last few decades. Your lovely article & photos have made me want to go back again soon, however. Thank you for sharing!
    Ian T.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thank you for reading Ian. I’m glad my blog brought back some happy memories for you. I hope you manage to visit again soon. 😊

  5. My childhood memories relived. I lived in Glenbeg for several years. Walked from there to the shop in Strontiam many a time. Very long walk. I enjoyed reading this.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thank you, so glad you enjoyed reading it. It’s such a wonderful part of Scotland.

  6. We are heading up to Ardnamurchan in June so its lovely reading this and hearing about some of the things we could be doing with 3 dogs in tow! Definitely want to get the ferry to Tobermory! But also fancy getting some photos of the lighthouse, what an incredible setting!

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      You’ll have a wonderful time, it’s a magical place and perfect for dogs. Enjoy 😊

  7. My head is spinning with the ideas this super story has sparked off in my mind. Wonderfully written and accompanied by beautiful, evocative images of some of Scotlands undeniably world class scenery. Thank you so much.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Sam says:

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed reading the post. 😊

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Sam says:

      Thank you – so glad you enjoy. 😊

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Sam says:

      Thank you – I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by.

  8. authorstephanieparkermckean – Fortrose, Scotland – While I am blessed to now live in Scotland with my wonderful husband, Alan, I'm a Texas girl and proud of Texas. I'm a writer--from birth--I think. Sunpenny Publishing has just released Bridge to Nowhere, the first in a Miz Mike series--and yes--Miz Mike is from Texas! Three Prongs where the misfits fit. Sounds a bit like Bandera, Texas!
    authorstephanieparkermckean says:

    Stunning, simply stunning! The words, photos and experiences. What a marvelous adventure! Thank you for sharing it with your readers.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Sam says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read it and for your kind comments. Very much appreciated.

  9. Dawn-Marie – Scotland – Hello! I'm Dawn-Marie and I live in Ayrshire, South West Scotland. Think of a rugged coastline with a mix of sandy and rocky beaches, castles, stunning sunsets, rolling hills, woodlands walks and a few magical islands across the water to explore. I still haven't explored all of Ayrshire and Arran. I started my blog in November 2015 as a personal challenge and to teach myself to write and learn new digital skills. I soon realised that the only way to learn is to do it yourself. I also feel that my blog will eventually become my digital legacy. My children can look back and hopefully enjoy reading about my challenges. I love them both very much. I love to go on long walks, hike and cycle. I've not been as active the past few years though and my blog has been quieter. I try to post photos on my Instagram and share videos on my YouTube channel and more recently TikTok. I hope to get back outdoors this year (2022) to find my inner calm again. Getting outside in the fresh air with my eyes gazing across our beautiful landscape just makes me feel so much better. I hope you enjoy reading my stories and feel inspired to challenge yourself to try something new. It's so important to be happy in life. Do what makes you feel alive! 💙
    ~ Dawn-Marie ~ says:

    Wonderful story Sam about your trip to Ardnamurchan and such beautiful photos. I really want to go back now! It’s a wild and beautiful landscape and I love the slower pace of living.

    The title for your post sums it up … I remember those winding roads, the rollercoaster effect didn’t agree with my daughter when we last visited… I always fancied staying in one of the houses in the lighthouse. It would be spooky but atmospheric!

    Happy belated birthday, what a wonderful way to celebrate it!

    xxx

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Sam says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. It really is an amazing place. I won’t be leaving so long between visits next time, despite the roads. The lighthouse would be amazing to stay at. X

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Sam says:

      Thanks Simon – really enjoyable despite the twisting! 😊

  10. mariezhuikov – I am a science writer by day, novelist, blogger, and poet by night. You can learn more about my writing on my website: http://www.marieZwrites.com.
    mariezhuikov says:

    I love the “asses” sign! I found this one in my recent Scotland travels: “No bombing of vessels from piers.”

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Sam says:

      Ha ha that’s brilliant

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Sam says:

      You guys will love it there Tom – next trip. 😊

  11. The Heritage Photographer – I am interested in history and in photographer. I am the author of "Exploring History in the Scottish Borders" and "Mary Queen of Scots - a Brief History" which are available from Amazon and Apple's iBooks. This blog provides me with an opportunity to explore my photography and history interests.
    The Heritage Photographer says:

    Informative, fun and uplifting post as usual!

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Sam says:

      Thank you 😊

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Sam says:

      Thank you – it’s beautiful isn’t it. I love the ruggedness of the west.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Sam says:

      Thank you so much my very kind Italian Friend. 😘

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