Ardnamurchan – November 2019

Ardnamurchan is the most westerly point of mainland Great Britain and is noted for its unspoilt beauty and remoteness. That remoteness is helped through access for much of it’s length being along a single track road. In fact it’s about 44 miles from Ardgour near Fort William to Kilchoan at the westerly point.

I’ve visited the peninsula on many occasions over the years and have a fond memory of driving my late Mum there in a open topped sports car many many decades back. The landscape and wildlife are fabulous with amazing views to the south-west over the Sound of Mull and north to the Hebridean islands.

On Sunday 3rd November all the right boxes were ticked to offski for a few nights on the motorbike with camping gear. It was a damp start from home, the route north was via Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor through Glen Coe to catch the ferry across the Corran Narrows. The further west I travelled the fairer the weather.

I’d wild camped before on the peninsula and knew of a spot by Loch Sunart and another further west (exact location remains my secret). It was however my plan to head for a west facing beachhead that I’d found on satellite images. Being west facing I would maximise the limited daylight at this time of year and gain some protection from the strong north-easterly Scandinavian winds.

Near Glenbeg looking east along Loch Sunart to hills of Morvern
Looking south-west towards Ardmore Point, Isle of Mull
Looking north-west towards islands of Rum, Muck and Eigg with the Cuillin mountains of Skye in far distance

It was a fabulous ride to the western end of the peninsula, once again the sun was out in Scotland, the roads devoid of tourists and the air devoid of midges and other bugs. It’s always a great time of year for camping as the tick population is at a low and temperatures can still be well above freezing. It hit 12C that afternoon.

My beachhead camping plan failed on arrival as there were the usual no access signs unless on foot along with ‘no overnight parking’. I understand that given how fragile this environment is. So it was plan B, return to the north facing roadside spot I’d found a few years back and where I’d take the full blast of the north-easterly winds! That was ok as the views were fabulous, it was at the end of a road too, I troubled no one and there was nobody about to trouble me.

My place!
Camping with a view

The tent was soon erected and it was time for early dinner as it’d be dark by 17:30. When it’s dark here it really is pitch black! Salmon fillets were fried, potatoes, carrots and broccoli boiled and it was a scrumptious meal after such a long journey, especially given the dining room vista.

My dining room!

Firewood was soon gathered from deadwood lying about nearby, I never cut from living trees, it’s wrong, gives wild camping a bad name and is far too moist to burn anyway. I’ve a great axe and even better Laplander saw which makes an easy job of prepping the firewood, I always seem to draw blood doing such tasks and it was no different on this occasion! The wood was graded into four piles and the collapsible fire pit readied, ‘leave no trace’ is my wild camping motto so I found a cracking flat stone on which to place the fire pit and avoid scorching the ground.

Dead wood suitably chopped and graded
Under the stars, listening to the crashing waves with warmth from the campfire, watching the lighthouse guide the seafarers!

I had a good sleep (well as much as you can in a tent in winter) and was not awake until well after sunrise. That was to the sight of Red Deer roaming across the barren plain between the tent and the shore. The video clip below shows a stag running with three hinds, there were many such encounters over my two days there. He had fabulous antlers and must have been proud holding his three female companions. It was a good Scottish breakfast, three fried eggs, 8-sausages (two scoffed by time of pic) and baked beans. It’s difficult controlling temperature in such blustery conditions hence charcoal strips on the sausages, better well done than undercooked though!

Breakfast – burst the eggs and burnt the sausages!
Red Deer stag with three hinds

The north-easterly wind was relentless and bringing about a significant wind-chill effect, I was taking the brunt of it at this location. I was also at the foot of a hill and soon realised the sun wouldn’t peek over the summit at this time of year! It was time for a bimble out from camp to Kilchoan where toilets and a cafe were to be found and to harvest further photographs.

What a fab tearoom at Kilchoan
Mingary Castle
Late afternoon sunset over Rum, Muck and Eigg

It was a cold Monday night and I was up 06:30 to catch sunrise and break up camp. The charcoal from the firepit was scattered to the wind and every drop of evidence of my presence (and of a few others before me) collected bagged and transported out of the area. I was on the road by 08:30, it was a stunning sunny morning and I was leaving this wonderful place to those locals going about their business. The school children were on the road, the farmers checking their livestock, the forestry and fish industry workers travelling in their pick-up trucks. I nodded and waved to them all with great admiration and respect, this is a harsh environment in winter and I was an intrusion.

Sunrise over mountains of Moidart
Goodbye

It was a slow ride east along the single track road to Strontian where another fine cafe provide warmth and sustenance before I caught the ferry at Corran. I was soon on the trunk road south through Glen Coe and found the opportunity to grab some photographs of that stunning landscape.

Buachaille Etive Mor at the head of Glen Etive
Glen Coe

.

Glen Etive
Glen Coe

I was home by 14:00, and managed to wash the road salt from the bike and treat it with Scottoiler FS365 anti-corrosion spray. It had been a fantastic mini-adventure to one of Scotland’s many remote locations. I often refer to north-west Scotland as my playground as within half a day I can be lost in the most magical scenery and wildlife. It never ceases to refresh the soul!

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