The Moorings Hotel on the banks of The Caledonian Canal by Neptune's Staircase
A fantastic walk to the beautiful white sandy beaches of Sanna bay on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, with the option of extending the walk to the hills beyond the dunes. The walk affords amazing views of Ardnamurchan Point and the Small Isles, as well as providing the opportunity to explore species rich machair grassland, which is a riot of colour through late Spring and Summer.
Look out for raptors, larks and pipits on route and a variety of cetaceans and seabirds, as well as basking shark, in the open seas around Ardnamrchan Point. A great place for botanising, beachcombing and marvelling at the beauty of Sanna Bay.
1. Take the B8007 to Portuairk at the westerly tip of Ardnamurchan and then the small road to Achosnich. Park at Portuairk at the bottom of the hill by a track on the right (north) leading to some houses. Walk along the track, turning left onto a path at the end of the track skirting by the last house before descending to a bay.
2. Follow the wooden signpost to Sanna crossing the stream in the inlet and continue up the hill on the other side marked by a sign, skirting the coastline. The route passes through heath Calluna- Erica assemblages, with encroaching birch.
3. Pass through the metal gate before descending around the side of a small cottage, Rudh Dubh, to another inlet. At this point there are fantastic views of the coastline, with white sand beaches, rocky shorelines, and turquoise blue seas dotted with small islands.
4. Cross the small stream at the bottom and veer right slightly skirting a large rocky outcrop. Keep left where the path diverges and head up hill along a rocky gully/path through heath. Look back on occasion to admire the fabulous coastal views. The ascent can be rather boggy in places. At the top, there are great views of Portuairk and the lovely white sandy beaches of Sanna Bay with stunning view of the Small Isles. The path descends to the edge of the beach. Look out for specialist dune flora on this wonderful stretch of machair, which is a riot of colour in late Spring and Summer.
5. Continue along the path, crossing a few streams on route, before passing into a metal gate at Sanna Bheag into a designated conservation area for the machair flora and fauna. Listen out for the exuberant song of skylarks.
6. Turn left and cross a stile in the corner of the field and then onto a magnificent beach with its igneous outcrops of gabbro from volcanic centre 2. The beach is strewn with a diversity of shells and bounded by low hills. The surrounding hills are part of the ring complex of mainly eucrite associated with volcanic centre 3. There are extensive kelp beds visible at low tide.
7. Cross the beach and pick up the path heading through the dunes. The path skirts around another beautiful bay. This bay supports a profusion of brown seaweeds (stratified along the shore) and is dotted with small rock pools.
These beaches provide a great spot for relaxing, beachcombing, botanising or just enjoying a picnic or coffee break.
8. You can return by the same route or take a circular route back by heading towards a lone house with a blue door in the distance by the river. The latter option also offers the opportunity to take a tour of the coastal cliffs following a circular route way marked by stone cairns.
9. If taking the cairn route, head on the path towards a solitary house with a blue door and palm trees in the garden. Cross the wooden footbridge over the river by the house and follow the path around the back of the house. Head towards the leftmost (westerly) cairn on a small hill in the distance across rough pasture and then continue clockwise round the circuit of cairns. The path to and between the cairns crosses rough pasture and heath and can be rather indistinct in places as well as very boggy. There is also some climbing over small rocky outcrops. The route affords good views of Ardnamurchan Point, the lighthouse and the Small Isles.
10. After the first cairn follow a faint path skirting round the coast. Take time to admire the wonderful views of the lighthouse, Sanna Bay and Portuairk. Look out for raptors. There is also a diversity of lichens on the rocks. The second cairn provides good views of Eigg, Rum and Skye. Look out for cetaceans in the open sea. Continue round the circuit. There are good views of Sanna, both new buildings and the old derelict croft houses and byres on your return to the house by the river. Cross back to Sanna Bay over the bridge.
Returning by the circular route
11. From the house, head across the dunes to the hills and village, keeping the nearby houses on the left. Take the track and head towards the car park. Turn right at the car park continuing along a gravelled track. Eventually you will come to a stone, flat-roofed house, Sanna Bheag house.
12. Turn right in front of the house, following the grassy track/path. When the path diverges, take the left path signposted to Portuairk and follow your outbound route back. Remember to take a right turn at the bottom of the hills heading back towards the small croft cottage Rudh Dubh and then back to the starting point.
starting grid ref: