Ardnamurchan is a region renowned for its remoteness, ruggedness and dramatic landscapes. The region includes the Ardnamurchan peninsula, as well as the surrounding regions of Moidart, Sunart, Ardgour and Morvern. The region forms part of the National Scenic Area of Morar, Moidart and Ardnamurchan and affords fine views of the Small Isles.
Ardnamurchan, Moidart, Sunart, Ardgour and Morvern have been dramatically shaped by volcanic and glacial activity. This ranges from the remains of volcanic ring complexes on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, to the 'trap topography of the hillsides around Lochaline in Morvern to the complex fjordic sea loch of Loch Sumart created by glaciated erosion. The region is dissected by Loch Shiel and Loch Sunart and bounded by Loch Linnhe on the east and Loch Eil and Loch Elit on the north. The Ardnamurchan peninsula has some of the most stunning beaches and dune systems (including Sanna Bay, Bay MacNeil and Cul na Croise) and exposed rocky shorelines in Lochaber and beyond.
The Natural History
The Ardnamurchan areas supports a diverse range of wildlife habitats with eight Special Areas of Conservation being recognised including Ardgour Pinewoods, Ardnamurchan Burns, Beinn Iadain & Beinn na h'Uamha, Claish Moss & Kentra Moss, Loch Moidart & Loch Shiel Woods, Morvern Woods, River Moidart and Sunart.
Loch Shiel, a large, sheltered, oligotrophic freshwater loch, is a Special Protection Area, being the breeding site for the Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica). It is also a good place to see white-tailed eagles. Parts of Moidart and Ardgour are designated as a Special Protection Area for their golden eagle populations.
The Ariundle Oakwood National Nature Reserve, near Strontian, is one of the finest examples of coastal ancient oak woodland renowned for its venerable oaks and the luxuriance of its bryophyte and lichen communities.
Loch Sunart is an SSSI and a Special Area of Conservation, based on its intertidal reef feature, otter populations, the nationally scarce seagrasses (Zostera marina and Zostera noltii) and for an internationally rare variant of egg wrack, Ascophyllum nodosum ecad mackaii. It also lies within the Loch Sunart Marine Protection Area. Loch Sunart Marine Protection Area supports a range of bedrock reef habitats and associated communities, including flame shell beds (gapping fire shell Limaria hians), northern feather star (Leptometra celtica) and serpulid (organ pipe worm, Serpula vermicularis) aggregations.
Ardnamurchan, Moidart and Morvern afford some excellent opportunities for wildlife watching; terrestrial, freshwater and marine. The hills support red deer, golden eagle and a range of upland birds. The Atlantic oak woodlands and Caledonian pine forests are home to red squirrel, pine marten and wild cat. The surrounding waters support a rich cetacean fauna, including dolphins, harbour porpoise, Minke whales and basking sharks.
The region offers some of the best and most varied walking in Lochaber encompassing woodland, upland and coastal walks. There are also some great cycle routes throughout the region, including both road and forest tracks. Other activities in the area include fishing (river, loch and sea), target shooting and deer stalking.
The West coast of Scotland also offers some of the best sea kayaking in Europe, combining spectacular scenery, stunning beaches, remote islands, ruined castles and memorable wildlife encounters. Loch Sunart and Loch Moidart offer excellent sea kayaking opportunities, either enjoyed as single excursions or taken in as part of Scottish Sea Kayaking Trail.
The seas around the peninsula also provide for some great sailing ranging from sheltered sealochs to the open challenging waters around the Small Isles, to the north of Ardnamurchan.
The Sound of Mull offers some excellent diving opportunities, including wreck sites, shallow, drift, scenic and shore dives. There are a range of wildlife and island cruises on offer from sheltered freshwater lochs, to sea lochs and the open seas. In late Spring and early Summer do not miss out on an unforgettable trip to the Treshnish Isles. The Treshnish Isles are a small archipelago of volcanic islands and skerries just west of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. The Treshnish Isles have been designated as a SSSI, a Special Protection Area and a marine Special Area of Conservation based on the importance of the breeding colonies of puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots and shag].
There are some great places to visit in the region, including castles, gardens and historical monuments.
The lovely 19th century hill garden at Ardtornish Estate stretches over 25 acres and is a testament to an ‘enthusiasm for the exotic’ of a bygone era. The gardens are a mixture of formal and informal plantings and a celebration of botanical colour, shape and texture from Europe, Asia, America and Australasia.
Glenborrodale Gardens at Glenborrodale Castle on the Ardnamurchan peninsula showcase a diverse range of ornamental species and are renowned for their fine collection of rhododendrons.
Ardnamurchan Point on the Ardnamurchan peninsula is the most westerly point on the British mainland and is a good place for "sea-gazing" and wildlife watching. The Egyptian style lighthouse was built in 1845 and houses an exhibition centre. You can also climb to the top of the lighthouse for some sea and island fabulous views.
Castle Tioram, the ruined fortress of the Clanranald, is located strategically on the rocky tidal island of Eilean Tioram in Loch Moidart. It bears testament to eventful history and changing fortunes of the Clanranalds, Lords of the Isles.
The 13th century Ardtornish Castle is sited on a headland jutting into the Sound of Mull approximately 2km south-east of Lochaline. The castle, now ruined, was the stronghold for the Lords of the Isles in 14th and 15th centuries. The castle and its inhabitants are the subject of long and eventful history, involving ambition, greed, intrigue, political alliance and treason. Mingary Castle on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula was the former stronghold of the MacIans of Ardnamurchan. The medieval castle has recently be restored as a hospitality venue.
The Seven Men of Moidart is a row of trees on shores of Loch Moidart by Kinlochmoidart with a commemorative plaque and interpretation board. The trees were planted to commemorate the loyalty and bravery of seven men who landed with Bonnie Prince Charles at Loch nan Uamh on July 25th 1745.
The Carved Stones of Kiel are a collection of medieval carved gravestone slabs originally located in the graveyard of Kiel. These impressive stones, decorated with Celtic artwork, are now housed in the Old Session House, by Kiel Church. Kiel was an important religious centre in the Middle Ages.
The region affords good ferry access to the Mull via Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula or from Lochaline in Morven. A great place to be!