402am Lochailort to Arisaig

[This walk was completed on the 21st May, 2019]

I catch the train to Lochailort station. Sadly, it’s not a steam train, just an ordinary diesel. Back on the A830, and I anticipate easy road walking as I head towards Arisaig.

01 Lochailort station, Ruth's coastal walk to Arisaig, Scotland

I pull on my high-vis vest, and walk past the Lochailort Inn, where I stopped for a cider yesterday, and then past the turnoff for Glenuig (where they wouldn’t serve me cider the day before).

02 Lochailort Inn, Ruth's coastal walk to Arisaig, Scotland

It’s only 10 miles to Arisaig from here. Although I will be taking a diversion off the road further up, so I will end up doing a little more than that.

03 ten miles to Arisaig, Ruth's coast walk around Scotland

I’d dreaded walking along here because of I anticipated heavy traffic, but at 10am on a Tuesday morning it doesn’t seem too bad.

The road passes across the top of Loch Ailort. Wow, that hill over there looks very high. Its head is lost in the clouds. Check my map. Must be An Stac which, at 814 metres, is not a hill. It’s a mountain.

04 Loch Ailort, Ruth's coastal walk to Arisaig, Scotland

When I was walking up that side of the loch yesterday, I couldn’t see the mountain looming above the road. Funny how you often only get a good view of where you’ve actually been when you’re no longer actually there!

The road swings away from the loch, and a sign tells me to beware of ice. No fear of that today. Although the air is still chilly, the sun is beginning to warm up nicely. The next sign tells me it’s only 8 miles to Arisaig. Hmm, I’ve either walked 2 miles very quickly, or these road signs are not very accurate!


05 eight miles to Arisaig, Ruth walking around the coast of Scotland

I spot a sweet little white church beside the road. It’s perched on a hummock of land and looks quite impressive. I cross the road, meaning to visit the church, but it turns out to be a private house now.

06 Our Lady of the Braes church, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

[Later I learn this used to be Our Lady of Braes, a Roman Catholic church. It closed because the nearby village it served (Polnish) virtually disappeared. The little church is famous for making an appearance in the 1983 film, Local Hero.]

This section of the A830 has been improved, says a nearby plaque. Jolly good, but I wish you’d constructed some pavements as part of the improvements.

07 road improvement plaque, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

Below the new road, I can see the course of the old road. And I think that house down there might have been a station house once. There’s a railway sign in the garden…

08 old station at Polnish, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

… and the railway line passes close by, and underneath the new road.

09 bridge over railway track at Polnish, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

The road climbs and then drops again. Half a mile further along, I come to a layby where a row of cars are parked. Strange, because there’s nothing around. What are they doing here?

10 parking spot for walk to Peanmeanach, Ruth hiking around Scotland

As I get nearer, I see there’s a walking signpost to Peanmeanach. That’s another abandoned settlement on the coast on the other side of the Ardnish peninsula.

Peanmeanach signpost

I still really miss the network of public paths we enjoy in England and Wales, but I’ve been very impressed by the efforts of the “Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society”. They’ve created some interesting walking routes, although the signage tends to be a bit hit and miss.

In fact, a couple of walkers are just setting off for Peanmeanach.  Nice day, we agree.

11 hikers in Ardnish, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

I’m tempted to follow them. Bet it’s a lovely walk. But 3.5 miles there and 3.5 miles back… oh, it’s just a bit too far for a diversion, because I’m determined to get to Arisaig today.

Back to plodding along the road. Hello, little hut. How sweet. The sign on the door says Polnish House. Really?! It’s not even big enough for a bed. Is it a joke?

12 Polnish House, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

A little later, I realise the hut simply belongs to Polnish House, and is probably where the postman and others leave their deliveries.

Above me is a strip of blackened hillside. I haven’t seen many wildfires this summer yet – wonder when this one happened? Green shoots of new bracken are already pushing their way through the charred surface.

13 fire damage, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

Up a hill, and the road swings round and down towards a viaduct. There’s another sea loch on the other side. Loch non Uamh.

14 railway viaduct at Polnish, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

I’m hoping a steam train might pass over the viaduct at this point, because it would make a great photo, but no such luck.

15 through the viaduct, Polnish, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

Loch non Uamh is beautiful. It has a wide, open mouth, and I can look right down the loch and across the Sound of Arisaig. The water is beautifully clear, and a gorgeous blue colour.

16 Loch non Uamh, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

The road follows the shore of the loch for a mile or so. There are more of those lovely little islands too – similar to the ones I saw in Loch Ailort yesterday – the ones that look as though they’re floating on the surface of the water.

17 view across the Sound of Arisaig, Ruth hiking around the coast of Scotland

I pass a slipway, where a couple of rafts are tied up. One is laden with lobster/crab pots.

18 fishing rafts, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

What a lovely road, what a great view, and how wonderful to be walking in glorious sunshine.

19 view over islands in Loch non Uamh, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

I spot a signpost to “The Prince’s Cairn”. Must be something to do with Bonnie Prince Charlie. Of course, I take a short detour off the road to have a look.

20 The Prince's Cairn sign, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

I follow a shady path, and climb the steps to the top of a rocky promontory, where the cairn sits as a great lump. Not the most beautiful structure in the world, and with the sun directly behind it, it’s hard to get a decent photograph of the thing.

21 The Prince's Cairn by the sea, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

The plaques says, “This cairn marks the traditional spot from which Prince Charles Edward Stuart embarked for France, 20th September 1746.”

I didn’t do history at school, and I’ve had to read up on Bonnie Prince Charles. So I know the would-be-king was fleeing from pursuing government forces after his disastrous defeat at Culloden. As a result of the uprising, the Highlanders were punished and their way of life dismantled. It seems strange (to me) to make so much fuss over this rather vain, selfish and foolish man. But the Scots seem very proud of him.

This rocky, but sheltered shore, makes a good spot from which to ferry a fugitive away.

I walk back along the road, passing the layby where visitors to the Prince’s Cairn can park. I notice that most of the people parking don’t, in fact, visit the cairn, which is only 200 yards or so away. They just take photographs of it from the distance.

22 parking spot for the Prince's Cairn, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

One last curve in the road…

23 bend in road, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

… and it swings away from the shore again, to run up the river valley created by the lovely Beasdale Burn. This section of the road looks new, and even has a footpath/cycle way running alongside it. Although, sadly, the protected pavement is soon coming to an end.

24 no footway sign, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

The trouble with the new road is that it looks built for speed, but includes many tricky bends and blind summits. Bits of bumper, lying in the ditch alongside the tarmac, mark spots where motorists have come to grief.

25 bumper in the ditch, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

Can’t say I enjoy walking along this section. Traffic has hotted up, and I’m constantly having to jump onto the verge as yet another car roars by.

The bridge ahead (where the railway track once more passes back over the road) forces vehicles to slow down. The arch is too narrow for anything other than single file traffic.

26 under the railway bridge, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

On the next swinging bend, I’m overtaken by a funeral cortege.

27 funeral procession, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

A few hundred yards later, over the top of a blind summit, and I see Beasdale Station ahead. This is another of those small Scottish stations serving a scattered community that seems to be set in the middle of nowhere.

28 Beasdale station, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

Beyond the station, the road curves down towards yet another railway bridge. This one is also too narrow for two cars to pass, and a set of traffic signals are in place. They seem to change automatically when a car approaches. Unusually, there’s even a special pedestrian button, so I can change the traffic lights too, if I want to.

29 traffic light bridge, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

Now I’m approaching a place called Borrodale. Here’s a row of pretty cottages and a water pumping station, and the pavement appears once more. Yay! Ahead, just off to the left hand side of the road, I can see Borrowdale house.

30 pavement starts again, Borrodale House, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

I can hear men talking in the trees beside the road. Look around to see where the voices are coming from, and am shocked to see two men seemingly climbing the cliff. Another man, at the top, is shouting down instructions.

31 men in trees, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

A nearby white van is printed with the words ” Environmental Forestry Services” and, in smaller letters, “Specialising in all aspects of tree work”. Crikey. Are they abseiling tree surgeons? Looks very dangerous!

There’s a minor road leading off to the left, and I leave the main A830 to follow this, heading for Borrodale House. From here, I should be able to follow at track right through to Arisaig.

A handy wall provides a convenient place to perch my camera for a self-portrait.

32 road to Borrodale House, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

There are a couple of deer enjoying the lawn at Borrodale House. One is standing guarding a child’s football net, like a goalie.

33 deer on the lawn, Borrodale House, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

My little road swings past the house, and then, and then… comes to a dead end.

34 dead-end at Borrodale House, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

I check my map again. Well, the map suggests I can get through, but this road definitely does not continue any further. And the ground on the other side of the bollards is very rough and overgrown.

Oh dear. I will just have to turn back and follow the main road for a while longer.

I plod up the A830, which rises up a steep hill at this point. I’m hot and not in a very happy mood, when I spot a sign to Druimindarroch. Oh, good, I think this is the road I need.

35 Arisaig House turn, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

I walk past a row of little white cottages. The main route curves sharply to the left, which is the dead-end road to Druimindarroch…

36 pretty cottages, Druimindarroch, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

… but the route I want carries straight on. Although – oh, dear – the way seems barred by a large iron gate. My heart sinks, until I notice a little pedestrian gate to the left of the big one.

37 imposing gateway, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

This takes me onto a delightful track, winding through trees. But I’m not very pleased when I spot a cow pat. Looks fairly fresh too. Definitely made today.

38 fresh cowpat, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

I continue along the track, hesitantly, but see no other sign of cows. Maybe they passed through here earlier on the way to a field somewhere? I relax and really enjoy this section of the walk. It’s good to be off the tarmac, and this is a beautiful track.

39 delightful woodland walk, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

Check my watch. It’s 1:30pm and time for lunch. I find a log in the sun (sunlight being a good protection against midges) and cover myself in Smidge as an additional precaution. Perfect picnic spot, and I can’t resist taking another self portrait.

40 lunch time, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

What a change from a couple of days ago – when it was raining, cold and miserable. I’ve shed my jacket, and now I can shed my high-vis vest. Won’t be needing this for the rest of the walk.

[To be continued…]

You can read more about the Prince’s Cairn on Undiscovered Scotland and more about the controversial Bonnie Prince Charlie on Must See Scotland.

Route this morning:


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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12 Responses to 402am Lochailort to Arisaig

  1. Eunice says:

    I’m really pleased to read that you’ve finally got to Arisaig, I’m dying to know what you thought of it – I loved it when I was there a few years ago. If you’ve stuck to your rules about keeping close to the coast then you will have passed the site I stayed at – Invercaimbe on the B808 which runs past Traigh golf course. It’s a beautiful area round there and one I intend to go back to when time allows.

    • I visited Arisaig many years ago as a teenager, but couldn’t remember much about it, apart from the fact we camped in a sheep field. It is a beautiful area. Writing up the next sections now… 😀

  2. Barry Arnold says:

    This area featured in a Ch 5 prog. last night which included a piece about the instability of the hillside which had caused a derailment recently. This might be the reason for the road improvements. Google maps has the road closed until September!

    • Oh, that’s interesting, Barry. Shame I missed the program. That road is the only way to get to Arisaig and Mallaig, so would be a big problem if shut for any significant length of time.

      • jcombe says:

        Last spring when I was staying in Ullapool I was very alarmed to overhear an American tourist say that one of the A-roads was closed so they “had to drive on the railroad tracks”! On further investigation I found this was legitimate, but this was on the railway line to Kyle of Lochalsh rather than Mallaig. I initially had visions that they’d just driven along the tracks without permission! You can read about it here (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-45586750) but apparently they put rubber matting over the rail tracks and allowed people to drive along it between the trains (which still ran). Not sure if anything similar happened at Mallaig.

  3. Mike Norman says:

    I was curious about that “station house” building you saw seemingly in the middle of absolutely nowhere. I don’t think there was ever a station nearby but I believe it goes by the name of “Polnish Railway Cottage”. A pure guess but I suspect in days (long) gone by (when stuff was more done by manpower than machinery) a railway employee would have lived there tasked with helping to keep the line open (especially in the depths of winter). A rather isolated existence!

  4. deevmom says:

    “Funny how you often only get a good view of where you’ve actually been when you’re no longer actually there!” This sounds like a life philosophy to me. I like it.

  5. jcombe says:

    That looks a lovely walk despite all the road walking. That photo of the deer in the goal post is brilliant!

  6. Karen White says:

    The viaduct makes a fabulous photo even without a steam train! I also love the deer in the goal posts.

  7. jcombe says:

    I did this walk today. It was a bit 4 seasons in one day with some sleet, light snow and hail at various points, but mostly dry and sunny. I think I followed the same route but in reverse because the service on the rail line has now been reduced to just 2 trains per day and the only one usefully timed for a walk is west-bound (17:09 at Lochailort) so I walked from Arisaig to Lochailort. However first from Arisaig I followed the dead-end road along the north short of Loch nan Ceal (the road sign shows this as going to Rhu but no such place exists on the map (As we both know this often seems to be the case in the highlands!). At the end of the road I planned to follow the track marked on the map and make my way a bit east along the shore and then head over the trackless ground back to the road and then return to Arisaig.

    At the end of the track however I was delighted to find a well signed path down to the beach at Port nam Murrach. This is a real hidden gem, astonishingly beautiful (I just uploaded a photo of it I took today https://www.flickr.com/photos/joncombe/51159526107/in/dateposted-ff/).

    I managed to follow the shore east to another gorgeous sandy beach and then cut back inland back to the road (by the text on the map Ru Arasaig Forest). Then I followed the same route as you also encountering cattle with calves but I walked past without them giving me any bother. Then I continued on the road. I originally planned to end at Beasdale Station but yesterday the guard on the train was hiding away (I checked in both carriages) and never came round to take my fare. My plan for tomorrow did involve catching the train between Beasdale and Lochailor but I thought trying to travel between two adjacent request stops is risky because if I can’t find the guard or he/she is hiding away again I can’t tell the guard I want to get off there. So with some speedy walking I made it to Lochailort in time for the last train back. Of course the train did stop at Beasdale as someone wanted to get on there (to my surprise).

    Tomorrow I plan to take the path to Peanmeanach Beach (and back of course) as it looks to be fairly well walked as I had to miss it out today, I didn’t have enough time or energy.

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