Scotland 2017 - Day 5
Tobermory, Ardnamurchan to Fort William
We had arrived in Tobermory at dusk on Friday night after the long drive from Nottingham to Oban and the ferry across to Mull. We arrived in Oban in good time for the 3.40pm ferry to Craignure on Mull. We had not booked as we were not sure of our arrival time and were told at the booking office the ferry was full. But the man lining up the cars wandered over and claimed he could "squeeze them on" and he did. We were the last car to be loaded. We then drove to Tobermory in fading light, not helped by the heavy clouds. We found the Tobermory Hotel, settled in and had an enjoyable meal in their restaurant.
This being Scotland it rained most of the night and into the morning but the sky lightened and the rain stopped after breakfast. We planned to take the 0940 ferry from Tobermory across the Sound of Mull to Kilchoan (on the mainland) and then drive out to the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. From there it would be narrow country roads east towards Fort William, taking the small Corran ferry across Loch Linnhe.
Tobermory is a picturesque seaside village on the east coast of the Isle of Mull. It is famous for its whisky distillery and for the brightly coloured buildings on the harbourfront. We stayed in the Tobermory Hotel, one of those brightly coloured buildings. It is a quaint hotel, formed from several old fishermen's cottages but we found it welcoming and a pleasant place to stay. Their restaurant and bar were well-patronised. The food was nicely cooked and well presented. While waiting for our ferry we walked around the town and stopped for coffee at the local bakery, where we also picked up some food for our lunch later in the day. The small ferry arrived, the four cars and two foot passengers embarked and we were off to Kilchoan.
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse is just another coastal lighthouse in Scotland, designed and built, as most were, by one of the Stevenson family. But Ardnamurchan has one attribute that only one other Scottish lighthouse can claim, it is at one of the cardinal extremities of mainland Britain. The northern-most point is regarded as John of Groats (JOG) but that point is actually Dunnet Head a few miles to the west. The eastern point is at Ness Point near Lowestoft and the southern point is Lizard Point in Cornwall (NOT Lands End as many people believe). And as we had already visited Dunnet Head, Ness Point and The Lizard on previous trips, then of course we would have to complete the "set of four" by visiting Ardnamurchan.
From the ferry at Kilchoan the road heads west and north, winding through rugged hills and peaty bogs before ending at the lighthouse. There is a visitor's Centre and lighthouse tours available, but on the day of our visit both were closed. So we made a cup of tea from the thermos we had thoughtfully brought with us and ate the pizza and pie from the Tobermory Bakery. The rain cleared and we gazed west, past the Isle of Coll towards Barra and the Outer Hedrides. Then we turned around and followed the twisting narrow road all the way east to Algol and the Corran Ferry. This proved to be a challenging drive. The road is very narrow and it was difficult to see oncoming vehicles far enough in advance to stop at a passing bay. Frequent face to face meetings with a car brought out the best and worst in Audi and Mercedes drivers and in many cases proved how incompetent they were at going backwards.
Ardnamurchan to Fort William
The road from Ardnamurchan east through Kilchoan, Strontian (yes the location where the element Strontium was discovered) and then along the edge of Loch Linnhe is a drving challenge. It is narrow and twists and turns. Most rural Scottish roads are only one track, with irregular passing bays. It is a constant challenge to keep a lookout for oncoming vehicles and then estimate which passing bay you (or they) can dive into without wasting too much time waiting for the other vehicle. We found most other drivers very courteous, but conservative to the extreme, so they would often stop at a bay long before they needed to. And of course there were a few drivers (usually in a flash Audi or Mercedes) who owned the road and expected other drivers to stop for them. We did see the occasional stand-off where these drivers were forced to back up to the passing bay just a few metres behind them. We also discovered why they were reluctant to back up - they couldn't back in a straight line (!).
But we made it all the way to the Corran Ferry, drove on board and in a few minutes were across Loch Linhe and driving into Fort William
Last updated: 13/11/2017