Steve’s Sojourns “ Spotting the Eagles in Ardnamurchan.”
Without doubt Ardnamurchan is an amazing place and one of the hidden delights of Scotland. Far too many people go to nearby Mull, there’s actually a ferry connecting the two, and ignore this staggeringly beautiful part of the country. Fresh seafood, excellent walking and birdwatching plus some of the best holiday accommodation around makes this a place you will remember for a very long time.
Birdwatchers have tended to ignore this staggeringly beautiful part of the country with the result that is seriously underwatched. In summer it hardly gets dark and you can go birding from 7 in the morning until 10 at night. We visited for five days in late November not the best time you might argue for birding but we saw a tremendous amount and are definitely returning after the migration when the warblers and other birds have returned.
The main species people come to see here are Sea Eagle, Golden Eagle, Hen harrier, Peregrine and the possibility of Corncrake around the Kilchoan area. We saw three Sea Eagles in ten minutes at the car park beneath Ben Hiant whilst Golden eagles have also been spotted here. Seals, eagles, dolphins, whales, otters, wildcats and magnificent red deer can all be seen here.
The walking here is superb. We climbed Ben Hiant and got staggering views overlooking Mull, Skye and the other islands of the Inner Hebrides. On clear day you can look eastwards to see Ben Nevis. Walking is on all standards here from easy to challenging but all of them are made memorable by the incredible scenery of the lochs and mountains. Books are available on the net showing all these walks but many are listed on the community’s website.
There is also a tremendous range of accommodation on the peninsula from top calls hotels to self catering cottages and B&BS. However this wouldn’t be Ardnamurchan if there wasn’t something extra special in the wind. Some self catering cottages are ecologically special having been built of recycled materials with a grass roof so they blend in with the scenery whilst you can even stay on your own private 600 acre island with your own small boat to explore the nooks and crannies of Loch Sunart.
Just up from Archaralce is the road leading to Castle Tioran. It runs beside the River Shiel and we managed to get Red Breasted Merganser, Goosesander, Dabchick and Golden Eye as we drove slowly along. Archnamurdan is most famous for its large extent of ancient oak forest which once stretched from Portugal to the Arctic. It runs along the southern coast of the peninsula and the road hugs along beside it and the sea so you can get both bites of the cherry. Driving along we got juvenile Hen Harrier and family of five Jays sitting beside the road.
Still remote but easily accessible Ardnamurchan measures just 25 by 40 miles and it contains all of Scotland`s scenic variations. Mountains, moors, huge white sandy beaches; forests of ancient oaks and woodland reserves. That simply is the beauty of the area that with this large selection of habitats from mountains to the coast and even such specialities as Kentra Moss SSSI a fine example of a blanket bog which is noted for its sightings of Buzzard and Shorteared Owl. Sanna beach is often quoted as possibly the finest in the world, when you see it you’ll understand why, and attracts many waders. The drive across the ancient volcanic crater to get there is fabulous in its self
Whatever you do you have to go to the lighthouse which stands on the UK mainland’s most westerly point. Be careful here though as roads are nearly all single track on the peninsula and there are passing places almost every hundred yards. It is the law that you should pull over into one of these passing places if a local is behind you as they know the roads and travel a bit faster than us visitors. It nice though when you’re sitting in the pub at night and a total stranger comes up to you and says “ Thanks for pulling over and letting me pass this morning.” It just adds to the charm of the place.