This was our second visit to Loch Sunart. Unfortunately this visit was on the motorbike on a murky, wet day so the loch did not appear overly beautiful!!We only travelled the stretch from Salen to Glenborrodale.The road is all single track, with passing places and disappointingly trees hide much of any views of the loch from the road. There are a few proper parking and picnic places along the way where you do get the odd view of the loch.One of the Highlands oldest oaks, the Atlantic, survives only in pockets along Loch Sunart, where once it had covered much of the Scotland's coastline.Other than the forests, bracken, scrub, moorland and bogland dominate.
The loch is the longest sea loch in the Highlands, some 20 miles in length and once upon a time it's only access was by boat. A few communities are strung out along the loch with Strontian being the major one.Access to this wild area, the Ardnamurchan, is via the Corran Berry, a two minute crossing from Corran to Ardgour.
Much of the loch is given over to salmon farming, providing some employment in these remote parts.
Wildlife and fishing cruises leave from the jetty at Laga but have to be pre-booked.
We had to take a (very poor) photo of the island of Carna in Loch Sunart. This was where Nick's aunt and uncle had lived, years ago, being the island's housekeeper and gamekeeper. Nick has so many happy memories of holidays on the island. Now, the two houses are holiday lets.
Castle Tioram (Cheeram, meaning dry)) sits on the tiny rocky isle of Tioram at the entrance to Loch Moidart. It is only accessible at low water when it can be reached by walking across the sands.A minor road at Shiel Bridge follows the river Shiel some of the way before it ends at the estuary, looking out to the castle. The whole area is one of tidal rivers and estuaries, sandflats and saltmarshes.There is a carpark,so plenty of room if you are early enough!
The position of the castle is where the River Shiel meets Loch Moidart. At low tide, the estuary is a vast expanse of sand and mudflats with a ridge forming a causeway to the castle. On the other side, Loch Moidart remains wet even at low tide, with a channel retaining water.
The castle is now a dangerous crumbling ruin, destroyed way back in 1715 when Clan Chief Allan of Clanranald ordered it to be burnt to prevent it falling into enemy hands. I think it is now owned by a Scottish businessman who hopes to restore the castle but it remains in a perilous state and signs warn of falling rocks and it's general state of disrepair.
The area is popular with kayakers as well as walkers although it must be a long trak with a kayak over the sands at low water!
The A861 travels a part of the northern shore, where you can stop and look at the cairn to commemorate the seven men of Moidart, which is, or was, seven Beech trees.They were planted in memory of the seven men who landed Bonnie Prince Charlie on Loch Moidart in 1745. Today, six trees are in evidence, storms having taken their toll. New trees have been planted to replace damaged ones.
This is a freshwater loch which used to be a sea loch many years ago. It is the fourth longest loch in Scotland at 17 miles and is up to 120 metres deep in places. It is situated 40 miles west of Fort William and has no roads along it's length. Because of this, it is a wilderness area and all manner of animals and birds can be spotted, including golden eagles.
At the south westerly end, where we visited it, the loch is shallow and wide, with pastureland and greenery reaching down to it's shores. Here is a jetty and numerous boats on the shore, presumably privately owned. Boat trips now run in season, starting from Glenfinnan in the north. (See website.) Fishing is a popular pastime here but permits have to be obtained and I believe it is not a cheap affair!! We spoke to a man who arrived by boat and had not had a bite all morning!At the north easterly end, the loch is very different, being deep and enclosed by mountains.
Loch Shiel was the location for Hogwarts Lake on the Harry Potter series.
We are not great dog-lovers but I have to say, Molly the campsite dog was an ideal dog!! She wasn't all yappy and slobbery and she was so amusing!! She had an obsession with balls and would steal any she came across. Her head would go down and she'd head the ball at high speed round the campsite, looking for someoneto play football with. Philip had found a footballing mate!! Molly was so clever with the ball, i don't know how she picked the knack up but I have never seen another dog do this.
One evening we went for a walk to the main beach, passing a few static caravans. Molly spotted a football and in she went, head down and away she came with the ball. We ended up having to take the ball back when |Molly was distracted!
Another evening, she came down to the beach with us and started digging madly in the sand. As soon as she reached water in her excavation, she leapt off the ground on all fours and went crazy, barking at the water. We actually thought she had been stung until we realised what her game was. The two photos are of her excavating madly.
Everybody had fishing gear at the campsite. Many hours were spent waiting for a bite. Unfortunately, we only heard of one person (apart from us from the boat) who caught anything worthwhile from the shore.
For us, we were lucky having the boat. One day we caught eleven mackerel in quick succession, other times we would just catch the odd one. I also caught a pollock which made a nice change from mackerel!
When we had a surfeit of fish,we gave our mackerel to eager fellow campers so in the end, we all enjoyed freshly caught mackerel. I even marinated some raw in vinegar and water which produced a mild, raw pickled fish. Excellent. When I marinated it in all vinegar, it actually cooked itself.
I love spotting seals and this holiday didn't disappoint me. One or two visited close inshore so we could see them from the beach but our best moments were out in the boat. We turned into Kentra Bay, round the headland and chugged up the loch a little. On our right, I spotted a seal balanced on a rock and then realised there were many more basking on another rocky island. We chugged past them and then switched our engine off, knowing the current would send us back out of the loch, straight past the seals. This it did and as we got closer, the more timid would flop into the water to swim away from us, until there was just one brave soul left. He stared mournfully at us with his huge eyes. What a wonderful sight.
Well, I thought the other two beaches were stupendous, the next one along is even more so!! More sand but still plenty of rocky outcrops and at high tide, the beach divides into two. The further away part was often more sheltered and we would sit and have our evening drinks here, just watching the sea.
Although we launched our boat from the other beach, we decided this beach was a better bet for beaching it when not in use. It was quite safe, the beach is not on a footpath and is only accessible from the campsite.
The views out to Eigg, Rum and Skye are stunning, especially if you catch a sunset, which we were lucky to experience on our last evening.
Again, the children had a whale of a time in the water here and we enjoyed our time in the evenings, sipping our pre-dinner drinks.
The most perfect little cove at high water,as the tide recedes it leaves plenty of sand. There are rocks to climb on and there is easy access to the water for small boats.
The day we arrived, the beach was strewn with jellyfish that had been washed up, some of them were enormous. Strangely, after that, their appearances were much less frequent.
The children in the statics above the beach had a whale of a time on this beach, rigged out in wetsuits there was no concern over how cold the water was!
One man had a tiny inflateable dinghy and spent hours rowing out to a bouy, tying himself to it and fishing. He was out in all weather and certainly made the most of his little boat.
On our last night, I noticed all the residents in the static vans had a bonfire party on the beach. Certainly everyone seemed to know each other and it seems to be a case of those who know of these statics, return time after time.
There is a steep little path down from the site to the beach.
When you finally arrive here, you can't help but say "wow!"The sandy beach here is split into various parts by rocky outcrops. At low water, the tide recedes way out into the bay. At high water, there is not a lot of sand left.
At the back of the beach is the marine conservation place. There is a walkway along the top of the beach, across to the cliffs on the other side. I saw plenty of people walking over here but it looked a bit of a scramble to me.
There are a couple of houses, an enormous, ancient caravan and a funny little garage. There is also a privately owned carpark with an honesty box to put your 50p fee in.