Visitor guide to Mallaig in the Scottish Highlands. Includes info on the Knoydart Peninsula, Inverie and what to see and do around Mallaig.
The end of the road is Mallaig, a busy fishing port and main departure point for the ferry to Skye. It's not a particularly appealing place, but it's always busy with people waiting for the ferry or the train to Fort William. Mallaig is a small place, huddled round its harbour, and the train and bus stations and CalMac ferry office are all within a few yards of each other. Also close by are banks with ATMs and the post office. Phone code: +44 (0)1687
The Knoydart Peninsula, the most remote and unspoilt region in Britain and one of Europe's last great wildernesses, literally lies between Heaven and Hell, for it is bordered to the north by Loch Hourn ('Loch of Hell') and to the south by Loch Nevis ('Loch of Heaven'). It can only be reached on foot or by boat and consequently attracts walkers, who can wander for days around a network of trails without seeing another soul. Not many places can get more isolated or charming than the forgotten Knoydart peninsula, accessible only by boat or a rugged 16-mile hike.The unexplored Knoydart Peninsula is home to a rich wild life as well as some of the UK’s best walking trails.
The peninsula's only settlement of any size is tiny Inverie, with just 60 inhabitants. It's the only village in Scotland which can't be reached by road, but still has a post office, a shop, a few places to stay and Britain's most remote pub, the Old Forge located along the waterfront at Inverie.
Local Sights & Activities for MallaigSightseeing
If you have some time to kill you could visit Mallaig Marine World, an aquarium with indigenous marine creatures as well as displays on the history of the local fishing industry. Info - Jun-Sep Mon-Sat 0900-2100, Sun 1000-1800; Oct-May Mon-Sat 1200-1730. £2.75, children £1.35. Tel. 462292. Beside the train station is the Mallaig Heritage Centre, with interesting descriptions of the local Clearances, the railway line and the fishing industry. Info - Apr, May, Jun and Oct Mon-Sat 1100-1600, Jul-Sep Mon-Sat 0930-1630, Nov-Mar Wed, Thu, Fri and Sat 1200-1700. £1.80, children £1. Tel: 01687-462085.
For something a bit more energetic, there are a couple of good walks around the village. An easy one, which should take around 45 minutes, goes to the little village of Mallaig Bheag (Mallaigviag), further east along the coast. Just before the car park at the eastern end of the harbour you'll see a sign, on the right as you head east, which points you towards the old road to Mallaig Bheag. Follow the path up behind the houses and continue into a small glen behind the hill that overlooks the port. The path then rises gradually till you're rewarded with great views of Loch Nevis. It continues through Mallaig Bheag then joins up with the main road back to Mallaig. Follow this till the end of the row of houses on your right, turn right and then left and back down to Mallaig bay and the start of the walk.
Mallaig Hotels & Accommodation
Marine Hotel, Tel. 462217, Marinehotel@btinternet is next to the train station and much nicer inside than it appears. Their restaurant also serves the best food in town (mid-range). Follow the road round the harbour to East Bay, where you'll find the excellent-value E-F Western Isles Guesthouse, Tel./Fax. 462320, open Jan-Nov, which serves dinner to guests. Nearby is E Glencairn, Tel. 462412, open Apr-Sep. There are lots of other B&Bs to choose from. The cheapest place to stay is F Sheena's Backapackers Lodge, Tel. 462764, a friendly, easy-going independent hostel, with dorm beds, double rooms and kitchen facilities.
The only guesthouse is C Pier House, Tel. 462347, which offers good, old-fashioned hospitality and wonderful local seafood (mid-range prices). A cheaper option is F Torrie Shieling, Tel. 462669. It's a bit more expensive than most other hostels, but is very comfortable, and popular with hikers. They also have their own transport for trips around the peninsula and will collect guests from Mallaig by arrangement. The only alternative is the much cheaper, but less appealing F Knoydart Hostel, Tel. 462242, near Inverie House. Another place to eat is The Old Forge, Tel. 462267, the most remote pub on mainland Britain. You can enjoy some tasty local seafood and a pint of real ale in front of an open fire. There's even the occasional impromptu ceilidh.
Three or four miles up the peninsula's only road is the highly recommended B Doune Stone Lodge, Tel. 462667, standing in splendid isolation. The minimum stay is 3 nights as guests are picked up from Mallaig by boat.
The Cabin Seafood Restaurant serves cheap to mid-range main courses and a great value 'teatime special'. The Cornerstone Café also does cheap meals and snacks, but cheapest of the lot is the cafetería in the Fisherman's Mission at the pier.
Travel Directions to Mallaig
Shiel Buses, Tel. 01967-431272, run 2 buses daily Mon-Sat from Mallaig to Fort William (11/2 hrs, £4.50) from Jul-Sep, and on Mon, Thu and Fri the rest of the year.
CalMac, Tel. 462403, ferries run throughout the year to Armadale on Skye to Lochboisdale and Castlebay, and to the Small Isles. Bruce Watt Sea Cruises, Tel. 462320, have trips to the remote village of Inverie, on the Knoydart Peninsula (see below), and Tarbet on Loch Nevis (see above). They sail on Mon, Wed and Fri throughout the year, departing at 1015 (to Inverie only) and 1415, and returning at 1155 and 1745. They also sail on Sat during Jun-Aug to Inverie, departing at 1030 and returning at 1215.
The best way to arrive in Mallaig is by train. There are several services daily (1 on Sun) to and from Fort William, with connections to Glasgow. There's also a steam train which runs in the summer months.
The Tourist Information Centre is by the harbour, Tel. 462170. Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 0900-2000, Sun 1000-1700; Nov-Mar Mon, Tue, Fri 1100-1500.
Ins & outs
A 2-day hiking route starts from Kinloch Hourn, reached by bus from Invergarry. The trail winds its way around the coast to Barrisdale and on to Inverie. Another route into Knoydart starts from the west end of Loch Arkaig and runs through Glen Dessarry. Both are tough hikes and only for fit, experienced and well-equipped hill walkers.
An easier way in is by boat. Bruce Watt Sea Cruises sail from Mallaig to Inverie. There's also a ferry service from Arnisdale, on the north shore of Loch Hourn, to Barrisdale. To arrange a crossing, contact Len Morrison, Croftfoot, Arnisdale, Tel. 01599-522352. It's a small open boat which takes 5 passengers, and all sailings are subject to weather.
As mentioned above, the only way in is by boat or on foot