One of my favourite off-grid parts of Scotland is the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast. It is remote, unspoilt with excellent scenery, which makes it one of the best scenic drives in Scotland.
The best way to visit the peninsula is by driving the Ardnamurchan Loop. You can see miles of rugged coastline, white-sand beaches, dramatic volcanic land, moorland, lochs and views northwards to Skye, Rum, Eigg and Muck. Here are a selection of the best views and most interesting stopping on a road trip to the Ardnamurchan peninsula.
The Ardnamurchan peninsula is the most westerly point of the Scottish Highlands. The region includes the Ardnamurchan peninsula, as well as the surrounding regions of Moidart, Sunart, Ardgour and Morvern. Peninsula has been dramatically shaped by volcanic and glacial activity. Ardnamurchan forms part of the Lochaber Geopark. Some of the rocks found in Morvern are 60 million years old.
How to get there
The best way is to start and finish at Fort William. But if you are coming from Glasgow cross the Ballachulish Bridge heading in the direction of Fort William. After five miles you come to the turning for the Corran Ferry, which takes you to the other side of Loch Linnhe, to the village of Ardgour. The Corran ferry runs until 21.30 every day and costs £8.50 single for a car including driver and passengers.
Things to see
1. Ardnamurchan point and Ardnamurchan Lighthouse
The most westerly point of mainland Britain is at Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse. Ardnamurchan lighthouse was opened in 1849. It was built from Isle of Mull granite in Egyptian style. The Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust now manages the lighthouse. You can visit the Kingdom of Light Museum, and climb up the lighthouse’s 152 steps and two ladders, and enjoy the views.
The lighthouse is open from April 1st until October 31st, and there is a Coffee Shop and Exhibition Centre which are open 10.00 – 17.00 during the season. Tours of the lighthouse take place every hour/ half hour from 11.00 to 16.00 and cost £7.50/adult. Booking is essential at peak times.
2. Bay MacNeil Beach
A beautiful beach at the end of The Ardnamurchan peninsula with views of The Small Isles (Eigg, Rum and Muck) and Ardnamurchan Point. Here you can find a white sandy beach with dunes behind, clear turquoise seas, and incredible views. The beach can be reached by taking a short walk from the road (as signposted) at Grigadale or from the circular walk from Portuairk.
3. Sanna Bay
Another stunning beach is at Sanna Bay. This large size bay with climbing dunes consists of four smaller sandy bays, separated by a rocky headland. Dune cliffs reach up to 3m in height. Sanna Bay is known for its white sandy beaches and clear turquoise seas. The bay also offers fabulous views of Ardnamurchan Point and The Small Isles. Sanna Bay is accessible by car, and there are car parking facilities at the edge of Sanna Bay. The bay is just a short walk over the dunes. Or you can choose a lovely coastal walk from Portuarik.
4. Visit castle Tioram
The ruined Castle Tioram is located on the rocky tidal island Eilean Tioram (the Dry Island) where the waters of Loch Moidart & the River Shiel meet. The castle is closed to visitors, but it is possible to visit the island at low tide and look at the castle exterior. Notices warn visitors of the potential danger of falling masonry. Castle Tioram was built in the early thirteenth century in the form of an enclosure fortification.
To get there leave A861 at the north end of the bridge over the River Shiel and drive along narrow and bumpy single track road for two miles. The road ends at a car park in the woods just behind the shore. From here it is a short walk along the beach and across the sandbar causeway between the island and the mainland.
5. Glenfinnan viaduct and the Jacobite Steam Train
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is the ultimate stop for photographers on a Scottish road trip. This 21-arched viaduct (a location made famous in the Harry Potter films) overlooks Loch Shiel and the Jacobite monument.
From Spring to Autumn, the Jacobite Steam Train crosses the viaduct Monday to Fridays at around 11.00 and 15.00. The best time to see the train is at 11.00, at 15.00 the engine is backwards. From the Glenfinnan Viaduct you have great views of the Loch Shiel.
6. Neptune’s Staircase, Caledonian Canal
Neptune’s Staircase is a series of 8 locks on the Caledonian Canal at Banavie, near Fort William. The locks were designed by the famous Scottish engineer Thomas Telford and made to handle a change in elevation of 19.5m (64 feet). It is the longest staircase lock in Scotland and takes around 90 minutes for a boat to travel up or down the locks. The Staircase took 19 years to build, starting in 1803 and ending in 1822. Neptune’s Staircase is on the popular Great Glen Way long distance trail which, like the Caledonian Canal, links Fort William and Inverness.
Ardnamurchan Loop is one of the most scenic drives in Scotland that will take you through some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes, and you can find plenty of fantastic attractions and villages to visit along the way. For more fantastic views I recommend climbing the Corbett Beinn Resipol or Ben Hiant on the Ardnamurchan peninsula.