Ancient Celtic traditions say that over the western sea, beyond the edge of any map, lies the afterlife. Sitting at Ardnamurchan campsite it’s certainly easy to believe, as you watch the sun torch the ocean between the scattered Hebrides, that you’re as close as you can get to Heaven on Earth.
The site clings to the coast just a few miles from the tip of a rocky finger of land that’s as far west as Britain goes.You approach it (slowly) via a ferry and a sinuous single-track road that hems in the crumpled and craggy landscape and makes getting here an escapade in itself. The site is situated to the west of the beautiful village of Kilchoan, on a small south-facing croft that has stunning views down the Sound of Mull to Morven and Mull. This far-flung location makes it the most westerly campsite on the British mainland.
The site may seem rough-and-ready at first glance, a slice of wild hillside only just tamed, but as you settle in you’ll appreciate just how much has been done to make the site welcoming. Every pitch has been cut from the slope and levelled, to provide sea views as well as a perfectly flat spot to pitch. They range from neat nooks with hook-ups near the washblock to wilder spots closer to the shore. If you camp right at the bottom of the slope you will be lulled to sleep by the wash of wave on rock. The foreshore is rough, rocky and just right for a scramble. You can catch creatures in the rockpools, throw stones at the waves or simply watch the ferries weaving their way along the sound to islands that seem off the edge of the world. The facilities are humble and homely, with surprisingly powerful showers. Flowers add a burst of colour to the whitewashed walls, and there can’t be many washblocks that have their own whale skeleton to fascinate campers on the way to the loo.
So, what else does the Ardnamurchan Peninsula have to tempt campers? Well, some of the loveliest beaches on the planet can be found around the campsite’s edges, as well as a remarkable remnant of a volcano (unlike any other in Britain) nearby. A fairly unique experience, it may just pique your interest in all things geological. Just a few miles away are the glorious sands of Sanna, lapped by turquoise waters. The drive there takes you through a jagged, almost extra-terrestrial landscape of steep cliffs and snaggle-toothed ridges. If you’d visited 55 million years ago you’d have witnessed the epic volcanic spectacle. Fastforward through a few Ice-Age scourings and today you see a rocky ring more than three miles across.
Further on around the coast, another age of history was brought back to life at Swordle Bay in 2011, when archaeologists unearthed a rare treasure – a Viking burial boat, virtually intact, although you can’t see much more now than the mound of stones that marks the spot. You can, however, watch an occasional summer recreation of the boat’s burial – an impressive sight. Back at the site, it’s not hard to understand why people have been coming here for thousands of years.
Basic and quaintly ramshackle, with toilets, showers, laundry and dishwashing facilities. 20 pitches and 4 campervan hook-ups, 2 loos and 2 free, powerful showers. You can also hire 1 of 2 caravans and a bothy. Washing-up area with fridge. Internet access. No campfires.
Tents, campervans, groups, dogs – yes. Large motorhomes, caravans – no.
Stroll on the sandy beach at Sanna, reached by passing through an extraordinary volcanic landscape. Visit the lighthouse at Ardnamurchan Point, the most westerly part of the British mainland, and climb the tower (01972 510210). Nearby Ben Hiant is a terrific wee mountain with superb views. You can also pop over to Tobermory on Mull by ferry from Kilchoan (0800 066 5000).
Food & Drink
There’s a fine and fun coffee shop in an old stable at the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. Bar meals and finer evening dining are on offer at the Kilchoan House Hotel (01972 510200), 1½ miles away. Guests are also encouraged to bring their own instruments along to create impromptu music in the public bar. So if you’re a budding KT Tunstall or Jack Johnson pack that guitar alongside your tent. There’s also good food available at the Sonachan Hotel (01972510211), on the way to the lighthouse.
April – Sept.
It is possible to get here by public transport (but one heck of an effort). Take a train to Oban, ferry to Mull, then bus to Tobermory, from where the ferry to Kilchoan sails. Then it’s a further 3 mile-trek to the campsite. City Link buses (08705 505050) and trains (Scotrail 01397 703791) run to Fort William, from where Shiel Buses run a daily service to Kilchoan Post office (01967 431272), which is less than a mile from the campsite.
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