We love the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in the Western Highlands, so when I found a new cabin to rent near Sanna Bay I booked us a week in October. The dates coincided with Ralf’s second birthday and allowed us to move on to Roy Bridge to celebrate our eldest daughter’s big birthday at the end of the month.
I’d bought a 7 year old Landrover Discovery in July using some of the proceeds from the sale of Absinthe. The car’s been with the garage for a few weeks to sort out some remedial work but I collected it back to use on our trip.
It’s been a hectic week which got worse on the day we were leaving to drive up. Not only did we have a blocked drain from the kitchen, but, having packed the car with all our stuff and Ralf’s cage on Saturday morning, the tailgate wouldn’t open. It’s a common fault on the Discovery and it meant climbing in the boot to get the dog cage and all our other gear out before we could set off. It also meant frayed tempers and a late departure time, which wasn’t a good start to our trip.
The first part of the drive up the M6 was fine, if unusually busy and we were soon crossing the border into Scotland. Ralf had refused to eat his breakfast in the morning (he may have been sulking because he didn’t get a birthday present) so Alison hand fed him through the bars of his case as we bypassed Glasgow.
We didn’t stop until we got to Loch Lomond where we had a toilet break (for humans and canines) and a quick picnic and coffee. By now it was raining quite heavily and it gradually got worse. We stopped at the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum for fuel, before heading over Rannoch Moor and towards Glencoe.
The Corran Ferry was busy but we squeezed on for the 10 minute trip across Loch Linnhe, then joined a convoy of cars following two VW Campervans (sigh) towards Strontian. It was almost dark as we turned off the road in Kilchoan to head to the Chalet at Achnaha and we were glad to arrive, albeit in driving rain and strong winds. We unloaded our stuff and, miraculously, the tailgate was working again.
After a good night’s sleep and breakfast (although Ralf wouldn’t eat his), we set off to walk to Sanna Bay. It’s only a 20 minute walk and the wind was at our backs as we headed along the singletrack road to Sanna, a tiny village on the headland above the Bay. After a look at the information board we walked across the Machair and the dunes to the glorious sandy beach. Ralf was off his lead and enjoying his day, as were his Mum and Dad.
The area we’d walked to get to Sanna is the crater of an extinct volcano with hills rising above it. We spotted a Peregrine and a Buzzard on the walk down.
When we started to walk back Ralf was behaving quite strangely. He kept stopping to sit down and needed coaxing to get him moving again. As I write this part of the Blog, he’s had a long sleep and eaten his tea but he’s still very quiet. We’re hoping it just the long drive up that’s affected him and that he’ll be alright tomorrow.
Monday was a much brighter day, so we headed off to the most westerly point on the British mainland to visit the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. Ralf was back to his normal self and ready to walk all day – phew! 🐕🦺
From the Lighthouse, we had a drive down to Ockle, but not before stopping off in Kilmory to walk down to an accessible beach. It was very wet as we walked down the track and the stream that went through the beach was in full spate.
We met Jodie, Simon, Aimee and Issy for lunch in Acharacle on Tuesday, on a day of really heavy rain, but not before Alison and Ralf had had their morning walk.
An all-day breakfast was just what was needed to keep the cold at bay and we chatted for quite a while around the table. I can thoroughly recommend the Tioram Cafe.
We picked up a few supplies from the shop in the village before driving back to the Chalet. We were rewarded by a close encounter with two young deer but disappointed by the lack of whisky for sale at the Distillery – to be honest that was probably for the best.
I spotted a buzzard through my scope in the morning and managed an average photo with my phone. They’re often known as Pole Hawks from their habit of perching on poles and posts and this one had obviously decided to comply with that stereotype.
We headed in the car to Glenborrodale, for a walk through the RSPB nature reserve. The woods were full of autumn colours and we stopped regularly to admire the view (the first part of the walk was very steep so that might have affected the number of times we took a rest).
After a quick lunch at the local cafe we drove to Camas nan Geall, a fantastic bay near Ardslignish. The customers in the cafe were all in-comers who’d moved to Ardnamurchan, including a South African couple and a guy from Somerset who was building his own house. He was an interesting chap with more opinions than (even) me – we had to leave when he started to pontificate on the apparent inefficiency of Boiling Taps and the stupidity of visiting Campervanners, both subjects on which I obviously have intimate knowledge.
Ralf was an extremely dirty dog when we got back, so had the indignity of a bath in the Belfast sink.
We’d decided that we’d take the Ferry to Mull from Kilchoan, so we were up early to get dog walks and breakfast out of the way first. It’s only a 15 minute drive to the Ferry terminal so we were third in the queue. There was a long line of foot passengers, including lots of children, many of whom were to be disappointed as they couldn’t all fit on. The ticket chap warned us that there were two ferries back, one at 1pm and the last at 4pm, and that he expected them to be oversubscribed for vehicles, so he recommended parking up in the queue well before departure times.
We had a walk through Tobermory then decided to park up to get the 1pm ferry back. That only gave us 2 hours on the island but we didn’t want to risk getting stuck there overnight – we bought some sausage rolls and coffees and headed up the Lighthouse path in the woods, to a picnic table with a view, where we spotted an otter in the sea.
The skies cleared when we got back to the mainland, so we drove past the Chalet and on to Sanna Bay. There were Highland Cows (Coos) on the beach which was a treat.
Friday was the day to pack up and leave and to head to Roy Bridge for the weekend. We drove through Acharacle and on to the Moidart peninsula where we spotted a ring of ripples in the Loch. We stopped and saw a young otter fishing right next to the road. Magical! It’s a lovely drive to Glenfinnan and we caught up with the steam train on the way to Fort William, but despite three attempts I still failed to get a photo.
As we passed the Caledonian Canal, the traffic came to halt – it turned out there’d been a serious road accident in the town and we were stuck. Fortunately, Jodie rang to give us an alternative route though the back roads and we got to our accommodation by 5pm.
Lindsay and Andy arrived later and they kindly cooked dinner for us. A great start to the weekend.
Simon had planned a family party for Jodie’s 40th and we were due at their house in Inverroy around 3pm. First though, we needed to go to Fort William for supplies and then back to walk Ralf in the woods nearby.
We drove over to Jodie’s and had a great night.
We chilled during the day, walked Ralf and collected the car from Inverroy (the walk home on Saturday night had been an interesting one and, for the first time ever we saw our watches click back from 1.59am to 1am in line with the clock’s changing). Ralf was completely worn out from playing with Rupert and Heidi all night and just wanted to sleep.
In the evening we all met up at the Ben Nevis Inn to finish off our celebrations for Jodie’s birthday, although the atmosphere was much quieter than Saturday’s party exploits, which was probably a good thing.
We had to be away early on Monday so we were up early to pack the car. The SatNav took us via Perth rather than through Glencoe, which made a pleasant change of scenery and allowed us to stop at Pitlochry to collect a couple of takeaway coffees. The drive this way avoids Loch Lomond, which is always a slow section, and the journey was largely uneventful until we got to Cumbria where the SatNav made us aware of an issue on the M6, with 45 minute delays. We used our local knowledge to go through Kendal and towards Sedbergh, bringing back memories of travelling home from the Static we used to have in the Western Dales.
We were home by 3pm after a great trip north. If you’ve never been to Scotland, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Things We’ve Learned
It’s a long drive to the end of Ardnamurchan
Clootie Dumpling is an unusual ingredient with your fried breakfast
Scotland is a magical country
I can still drink a lot but recovery is a struggle
You can’t see much of Mull in two hours
My eldest daughter has excellent taste in where to live