A Glenuig Honeymoon: Scottish West Coast Beaches, Islands and Otters
Rich Lawes, January 11, 2011
The Glenuig Inn is situated alongside a small sea inlet, 23 miles south of Mallaig on a wild and beautiful stretch of Scotland’s western coastline. Contained within the Sound of Arisaig Marine Special Area of Conservation (PDF), the area is very popular with sea kayakers who come to explore the myriad of small islands and sandy beaches that speckle the clear waters.
In this part of the British Isles, the gulf stream strikes the coastline throughout the year, creating a uniquely mild climate in the area. For those less keen on sea-borne activities, there is much to enjoy on land with views of the distant islands of Rum and Eigg visible from trails on the rocky hills that rise steeply from the sea.
Those choosing to explore these hills can claim Munro and Corbett summits for the best vantage points and sunsets this area is famous for.
My trip to Glenuig was of personal importance to me as it formed the itinerary of my honeymoon with my new wife. As an outdoor instructor at Adventure Aberdeen, I was frequently reminded of Glenuig Inn by our resident sea kayaking expert who had used the Inn as a base for several sea-kayaking expeditions with clients. He considered it the perfect Scottish location for a couple to escape kids and the usual dubious luxuries of car-camping. Bags packed, my wife and I headed over to the West Coast at the beginning of the summer to certify his recommendation.
As we turned south off the main Fort William to Mallaig road at Lochaillort, the small road that clung to the coastline was lined with rhododendron and marsh orchids in full bloom. With such colourful surroundings, it’s not hard to justify Scotland, and especially the West Coast, as being best in May and June. Whilst not the keenest gardener at home, even I was impressed by the variety and vivacity of the flowers, not to mention the brownie points I received from my wife for a flower picked on the approach to our destination.
Glenuig Inn has undergone a serious and quite stunning rebuild with the aesthetic highlight being the beautiful use of wood in the dining and bar areas, and the functionally robust de-humidifying drying room. In total there are six en-suite rooms, each with a double and bunk, as well as a 9-bed bunkhouse for groups. Impressively, the entire operation runs on renewable energy sources with hot water for central heating comes from a biomass boiler, and electricity generated by local hydo schemes.
The bunkhouse is the budget option at £30 per night, while a full menu is available throughout the day. A slight criticism is that the new, airy environs could be considered a bit sterile and certainly are not furnishings of a traditional Scottish inn. For us that presented no problem on this trip as the food and drink was excellent, though if I’d been on a more active holiday I might have been asking for bigger portions. A special mention should be made of the organic ales which were excellent and enjoyed after our explorations.
Trip to Rum
For one outing we chose to travel to Rum on one of the regular Caledonian Macbrayne ferries that link the island with the Maillaig, a voyage over a glassy calm sea (apparently an unusual condition!). I was stunned by the Rum Cuillins which form a mini mountain range across the island and I resolved to return to try and run around the beautifully defined ridge and coast of the island. The island has a strong community trust which has applied for a successful upgrade to the pier and is attempting to renovate the fading grandeur of Kinloch Castle which still contains unrestored period furniture and fittings. The castle now functions as a hostel – certainly a neat option for backpackers looking for something regal.
Across the island there are exquisite community campsites around the coastline that have improvised showers and wooden shelters for cooking. The community hall serves tea and coffee as well as housing a shop out of a tiny, well-stocked cupboard!
At the end of our stay as we departed Glenuig by travelling south along the coast, passing smokehouses, traditional crofts and the imposing Toiram Castle. With some time on our hands we also walked along the large sandy beach at Kentra Bay that resulted in a close encounter with a sea otter family playing amongst the rock pools. To round off the trip we offered a lift to a Belgian backpacker who shared our enthusiasm for this exceptional area of Scotland’s west coast, and the unusually good weather that comes with it.
Getting there responsibly
Getting to Glenuig Inn using public transport is easily achieved via the nearby rail stations at Lochaillort and Mallaig that can be linked with local taxis, buses or ‘train and bike’ trips. The Glenuig Inn encourages sustainable travel as part of its aspiration to gain a Scotttish Tourism Gold Green award and offers good travel advice.