From the white sands of Sanna Bay to the calm waters of Loch Sunart, the West Highland Peninsulas are a remote, but also incredibly rewarding region on the Scottish west coast. It’s worth going off the beaten path! Whether you have a day or a week, this guide to Ardnamurchan, Morvern, Moidart and Sunart will help you plan the perfect trip.
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There is no shortage of beautiful places to visit on the Scottish west coast and the West Highland Peninsulas are no exception. Sometimes called simply Ardnamurchan, after the best-known of the peninsulas, the region is actually made up of five peninsulas.
From Moidart and Ardgour in the north, Sunart and Ardnamurchan in the centre to Morvern in the south, these peninsulas are packed with abundant wildlife, beautiful landscapes, welcoming villages and thriving local businesses waiting to show you a good time.
Long considered a well-kept secret and full of hidden gems, these peninsulas are gaining in popularity. But their remote location away from main roads means they are still off the beaten path.
I visited the peninsulas one early summer, based myself in Strontian (Sunart) and explored Ardnamurchan, Moidart and Morvern from there. This guide is based on my own experiences as well as the suggestions made by my hosts Karl from Otter Adventures and Laura from Otterburn B&B. You can read more about their businesses below.
This travel guide for Ardnamurchan & co contains:
- Where to stay on the West Highland Peninsulas
- Things to do in Ardnamurchan, Moidart, Morvern and Sunart
- Where to find vegan food in the area
and lots of practical advice to plan your trip to the West Highland Peninsulas.
Listen to ‘At Peace’ – an episode about Ardnamurchan and Morvern on my Scotland podcast!
West Highland Peninsulas FAQ
Where are the West Highland Peninsulas?
The West Highland Peninsulas are located on the Scottish west coast between the Isle of Mull and the famous Road to the Isles, which connects Fort William with the ferry port of Mallaig. East of the peninsulas lie the deep waters of Loch Linnhe and to the west are the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna).
The five West Highland Peninsulas going from north to south are:
- Moidart: in the north-west of the region, stretching from the west side of Loch Shiel to the coast.
- Ardgour: in the north-east of the region, expanding on the other side of Loch Shiel towards Loch Linnhe.
- Sunart: the area around Loch Sunart, east of Salen.
- Ardnamurchan: the long peninsula expanding west of Salen. This is the most famous of the West Highland Peninsulas and often “Ardnamurchan” is used to describe the entire region.
- Morvern: the biggest and southernmost of the peninsulas, expanding between Loch Sunart, Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull.
How much time do you need?
I suggest you book at least 2-3 nights in the West Highland Peninsulas. Ideally, you would give yourself more time though. You could easily spend a week exploring the region more in-depth. I stayed in Strontian for 2 nights only and barely scratched the surface.
Explore the hidden gems on the west coast, incl. Ardnamurchan, with my Hidden West Coast itinerary!
How to get to the West Highland Peninsulas?
Coming from the south (Glasgow or Edinburgh)
The easiest way to get to Ardnamurchan & co coming from the south is via the Corran ferry. This short ferry crossing from Onich near Glencoe to Ardgour crosses the Corran Narrows, a narrow, deep and fast-flowing part of Loch Linnhe.
The ferry is operated by the Highland council and since the crossing is rather short, it goes back and forth as required throughout the day.
Coming from the north (Mallaig or Fort William)
If you are arriving to the West Highland Peninsulas from the north, for example from Skye via Mallaig or Fort William, you might consider taking the scenic road from Lochailort down the Moidart coast.
There is also a road from the western end of Loch Eil around the eastern coast of Ardgour (Loch Linnhe), but that road would really be more about the journey than the destination.
Coming from the Isle of Mull
There are two short car ferries that connect the Isle of Mull with the West Highland Peninsulas. Both operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. The quickest connection is the ferry from Fishnish near Craignure to Lochaline on Morvern.
The other boat crosses from Tobermory to Kilchoan, but unless you’re staying on the eastern tip of the Ardnamurchan peninsula (or want to see that area right as you arrive), this might be an impractical ferry to take. The road from Kilchoan to other parts of the peninsulas is very narrow, winding and takes forever to drive.
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Getting around the West Highland Peninsulas
The West Highland Peninsulas are beautiful, but remote. Unless you’re a very fit cyclist, a car is a must.
There are a few local buses that connect Fort William to parts of Moidart, Sunart, Morvern and Ardnamurchan (see Shiel Buses: services 502, 506 and 507). However, stops are limited and many places of interest like castles, lighthouses, beaches and historic sites are not accessible by bus.
Where to Stay in Ardnamurchan
Otterburn Bed & Breakfast
I stayed at Otterburn Bed & Breakfast in Strontian, a wonderful B&B with stunning views of Loch Sunart. The accommodation has two well-appointed rooms with enormous and comfortable beds, modern bathrooms and all the amenities you could ask for. I stayed at the Otter room, which faces Loch Sunart – perfect to watch the sunset or spot a local otter at low tide.
In Strontian, you have access to everything you need – a handful of restaurants, a petrol station and a small shop. From here, Morvern, Sunart and Moidart are at your doorstep. Ardnamurchan is a little further away, but unless you stay on the far side of it, it always is. There is only one road to Ardnamurchan and it’s a winding single-track.
Host Laura does her utmost to make your stay a special one. Her hearty breakfast is the best way to start the day and includes a selection of continental options, traditional cooked breakfast and daily specials, like pancakes or local fish. Being vegan was no problem as Laura made sure she had plenty of oat milk and margarine for me. She even made me pancakes!
Otterburn also offers evening meals at the accommodation – Laura spoilt me with delicious pasta and an apple crumble covered with custard. Note that dinner has to be pre-booked.
Rates at Otterburn Bed & Breakfast start from £65 per night.
Resipole Farm Holiday Park
If you’re camping or travelling in a campervan, try Resipole Farm Holiday Park, a large campsite and caravan park near Salen. It’s right by the waterfront of Loch Sunart. I drove past here a few times and thought it would make for an excellent place to camp.
At Resipole there are also some glamping pods and self-catering cottages sleeping 2-6 people.
Things to do on the West Highland Peninsulas
Things to do on Moidart
Moidart is in the northwest of the peninsulas. The main road through the area is the A861 leading from Lochailort on the Road to the Isles to Salen. The best way to explore Moidart is to follow this road, but take advantage of the wee side roads leading to hidden beaches, beautiful walks and tiny villages.
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This coastal community is tiny, but well-known. The village is surrounded by white sandy beaches like Samalaman Bay. The local village hall hosts regular trad music nights. A highlight in the area is the walk to Smirisary Beach and its part-restored village.
Seatrekking combines swimming, snorkelling and walking and is a fun activity to explore a stretch of coastline. Seatrek Scotland are based in Fort William but offer this activity on the coast of Moidart. I met my guide Lyndsay near Glenuig and we spent several hours in the water.
Seatrekking is a fun and unique way to see Scotland’s coast, learn about the sea and see wildlife underwater.
Glen Farslan Reservoir
The 3-mile walk up Glen Moidart to get to Glen Farslan Reservoir is a straightforward, but a very scenic journey. The trail follows a gravel track and offers great views of the hills and a beautiful waterfall.
This ruined castle sits on a small tidal island in Loch Moidart. Tucked away in this narrow sealoch, it guards the estuary of the River Shiel which gives access to Loch Shiel. You can walk across to the castle at low tide and explore the island, but the interior of the castle cannot be entered. It’s worth exploring the paths on either side of the castle island – the views of the water and ancient pine trees is breathtaking.
The large bay of Kentra is a tidal salt marsh that is separated from the sea by a narrow channel. The bay itself and the coast beyond it are lined by stunning white beaches with sand dunes, such as Gortenfern and the Singing Sands. Nearby Ardtoe Beach is another beautiful beach that is perfect for overnight parking for campervans. There is a small carp park with an honesty box.
Things to do on Sunart
Sunart is the smallest region in the West Highland Peninsulas, framed by Loch Sunart, Loch Shiel and the mountains of southern Ardgour. But because of its central location, it’s a great place to base yourself.
Ariundle National Nature Reserve
Rich oakwoods once covered most of the western edge of Britain, but today the Ariundle Oakwood is one of the last remaining fragments of this eco-system. There are a few trails through the woodland and also by the river that explore this “rainforest of Scotland”.
Sea Kayaking with Otter Adventures
Karl of Otter Adventures knows the waters of the West Highland Peninsulas like the back of his hand. Apart from challenging multi-day expeditions, he also offers taster sessions on Loch Sunart, which are perfect to get out and about, spot wildlife and learn about the local history. Karl will tailor these experiences to your ability and depending on the weather you might explore bays near Strontian, Salen or further afield.
Karl took me out for a 2-hour sea kayak session near Salen. We paddled along the coast, explored the village from the waterside and stopped in a beautiful bay for coffee and cake. It was such a special experience to spend time on the water and get away from the road for a while!
Things to do on Ardnamurchan
Ardnamurchan is the most popular of the West Highland Peninsulas. It’s a long drive along a single-track road, but there is a lot to see and do along the way.
Glenborrodale Nature Reserve
The Glenborrodale Nature Reserve is a beautiful spot along the coast that is home to a plethora of species – over 100 different birds, over 70 mosses (including rare ones) and 90 lichens, but also pine martens, butterflies and otters.
A nature trail leads around the reserve and if you’re careful you might spot some of the animals who live here.
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This lighthouse marks the westernmost point on mainland Scotland. It stands 55 metres above the sea and is 35 metres tall – quite the sight! There are several footpaths to viewpoints and a visitor centre with information about the lighthouse.
Visitors can also climb the tower of the lighthouse on a guided tour to get even better views of the coast.
Ben Hiant is the highest hill on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, only 528m, but a fantastic viewpoint to see the coastline, peninsulas and the islands beyond.
The hike takes around 2-3 hours (3 miles). You can find a trail description here.
This beach is often considered one of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches and when you get here, you’ll quickly see why!
The sands of Sanna Bay stretch across multiple bays, framed by rocks, filled with soft white sand and millions of tiny seashells. It’s a stunning place to visit and go for a wander or a dip.
Even though the Ardnamurchan Distillery was only opened in 2014, its owners looks back on a long history of whisky-making.
The story begins at Loch Katrine Adelphi Distillery in Glasgow which, at one point, was one of the largest distilleries in Scotland. After a terrible accident in 1906 though, the distillery eventually ceased to produce whisky. (Today, the site is home to Glasgow Central Mosque.)
The owners then established the Adelphi name as an independent bottler – buying spirit from distilleries and maturing and bottling it as they pleased. Eventually, the Adelphi owners buy a site on Ardnamurchan and begin constructing the Ardnamurchan Distillery.
The distillery has a shop and does tours and tastings.
Things to do on Morvern
Morvern is the largest of the West Highland Peninsulas and vast areas of it are covered by remote hills and forests, uninhabited apart from a few settlements (mostly) lining the coast. If you continue from the peninsulas to the Isle of Mull, the ferry from Lochaline on Morvern is the quickest conenction.
Rahoy Hills Reserve
The Rahoy Hills lie in the centre of the Morvern peninsula. They are a remote range of hills, their oakwoods a Special Area of Conservation, their sloped home to golden eagles, red deer and many other species.
This route through the reserve takes in a variety of habitats and landscapes to get a good sense for the place.
Aoineadh Mor Historic Township
The Highlands are littered with the ruins of villages that were abandoned during the Highland clearances. Many were forgotten, as nature claimed them back, overgrowing the stones and rubble. But some were carefully dug up and are preserved for the future.
The historic township of Aoineadh Mor is one of them. The people were evicted from the village to make space for profitable sheep farming. You can wander around the village and see the remains of the houses that once stood here.
What makes Aoineadh Mor so special, is a bench with a sound installation. Here you can listen to the story of Mary Cameron, one of the women who had to leave her home and watch it being destroyed. The words are her account she gave to a minister in Glasgow and you can listen to the Gaelic original, as well as the English translation. It’s a chilling story, fit for the landscape.
Named after the ancient Gaelic Goddess Neachneohain – the Queen of Spirits – Nc’Nean is possibly the most unusual whisky distillery in Scotland. They make experimental spirits that cross the boundaries between gin and whisky.
They started with a barley spirit (what you’d also use for whisky) and distilled with typical gin botanicals. They also age that spirit in different casks to add flavours. And finally, they launched their first proper whisky, matured for at least 4 years.
The distillery can be toured on weekdays only.
Drive the road via Glengalmadale
If you arrive at or leave the West Highland Peninsulas via the Corran ferry, it’s worth driving a detour on the Glengalmadale road.
The coastal section of that route is particularly breathtaking as the road twists and turns, edged between the sea and the mountains. It can feel a little claustrophobic at times, but the views are a perfect reward!
Watch out for the feral goats along the coastal route!
Where to eat – Vegan food on the West Highland Peninsulas
The West Highland Peninsulas are remote and as such found it a little harder to find vegan options. Considering that the next big supermarket is in Fort William, make sure that you bring your favourite snacks along.
Here are the places where I ate:
- Otterburn B&B: If you’re staying at Otterburn B&B, Laura will be happy to prepare an evening meal for you – vegan or not!
- Bothy Bar & Restaurant at The Strontian Hotel: They have a few vegan-friendly options on the menu and are very accommodating. I had a lovely burger that I could barely finish.
- Puffin Coffee in Kilchoan: They didn’t have vegan-friendly food, but I stopped for a coffee after my picnic lunch at Sanna Bay.
I find that usually, hotels and restaurants will be able to accommodate vegans, but they might need a day or two notice in order to get the supplies. Call ahead and have a chat!
Ardnamurchan had been on my wish list of places to visit for so long, and I’m glad I finally got a taste of the region. As you can see there is a lot to do and see – you could easily spend a week exploring Ardnamurchan and the other West Highland Peninsulas.
I hope I have inspired you and this travel guide helps you plan your own trip to the remote Scottish west coast.
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