The Road to the Isles
The Road to the Isles, the A830 west of Fort William through Corpach, leads to the Glenfinnan Monument at the head of Loch Shiel. En-route you pass the Treasures of the Earth exhibition in Corpach where uncut gemstones, crystals and exotic minerals are on display. There is an amethyst geode weighing over 200 pounds and the exhibition also incorporates Dinosaur World, which has a display of dinosaur fossils. There is also, of course, a gift shop.
The best view of the Glenfinnan Monument and loch is gained by climbing the small hill behind the National Trust for Scotland's Visitor Centre. The monument was erected in 1815 to commemorate Bonnie Prince Charlie's raising of the standard on 19th August 1745. Behind the hill is the Glenfinnan Viaduct carrying the West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig.
There is a small station at Glenfinnan where the train stops. This is also a railway enthusiast's museum where the building and restoration of the West Highland Line is displayed in photographs along with ancient tickets and other railway paraphernalia.
Beyond the wild glens of Moidart where Jacobite legends abound, the road opens to the Sound of Arisaig with spectacular vistas over to the islands of Eigg and Muck with the Cuillins of Skye in the distance. Loch nan Uamh is a wide sea-loch just past the settlement of Arnipol where, on 25th July l745, the French ship Du Teillay landed Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his seven companions to commence the Jacobite uprising.
The small settlement of Arisaig is a refuge for sailors at the head of Loch Nan Call and boat trips leave early to explore the smaller islands and wildlife haunts. The Old Library Lodge and Restaurant in Arisaig (Tel 01687 450651) is Egon Ronay recommended and includes good vegetarian meals. There is a new 9-hole golf course here also.
A few miles further on is the Sands of Morar, set on a beautiful estuary with expansive bands of gleaming white sand evident at low tide. The Falls of Morar pour into the estuary from the shortest river in the UK coming down from Loch Morar which is over 1,000ft (305m) deep and one of Europe's deepest hollows. There is a superb walk along the northern shore and the best view of Loch Morar is experienced by climbing Carn a' Ghobhair (1,794ft/547m). From here you can also see the entire length of Loch Nevis to the north and the range of mountains at its head.
At the end of the Road to the Isles, Mallaig is a rather disappointing conclusion to such a lovely drive. It is a hard-working supply town to the Outer Isles and a major fishing port, one of the top white fish and prawn ports on the west coast of Britain. The Queen sends a tender from the HMS Britannia to Mallaig on her yearly Scottish holiday for a supply of Mallaig kippers which are indeed succulent.
The steam trains or other services from Fort William
terminate here and the ferry service departs for Armadale on Skye. There is plenty
of accommodation but generally it is a rather bleak place. There is, however, an
excellent exhibition near the harbour called Mallaig Marine World. There are conger
eels, lobsters, and a 'Maternity Unit' where younger specimens are reared. There
are also sea cruises available, weather permitting, to Eigg, Loch Nevis and Skye.
Thursday, December 26th, 2019
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