Where better to embrace the beauty of the great Scottish outdoors than Lochaber – the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK‘. The area stretches from Glen Spean, Fort William and Glen Nevis down to Glencoe and Loch Leven, and across to the scenic coastline from Mallaig to Ardnamurchan. With lochs, glens and mountains a-plenty (including the UK’s highest mountain and the magnificent Glencoe Range) plus a coastline dotted with the Small Isles (Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna), it is the perfect place to experience a range of outdoor pursuits… or just to bask in some truly spectacular scenery.
Why not base yourself in a cosy Fort William holiday cottage for an authentic experience of this gorgeous part of the West Highlands? Local self-catering owners have given us some great tips for getting off the beaten track and up close with Scotland’s wonderful wildlife, and we’ve also included some hidden gems recommended by the Outdoor Capital of the UK.
South of Fort William, Onich Shore is tucked into the edge of beautiful Loch Linnhe. With a permanent barbeque and lookout point, it is a lovely place to drink in views of the loch and across to the Isle of Mull. The shore and its woodland lie in a Site of Special Scientific Interest as well as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Spot otters, seabirds, seals, birds of prey and possibly a badger or two.
Wildlife Watching in Kentallen Bay
Slightly further south of Onich you’ll find the picturesque Kentallen Bay. Throughout the year it is possible to see seals, otters and basking sharks, as well as oyster catchers, heron, Arctic tern, and Eider ducks. Inland, keep an eye out for pinemartin, native woodland birds and roe deer.
The atmospheric ruins of Castle Tioram sits on the tidal island of Eilean Tioram and can be explored at low tide. The area around the castle is a good place to look out for Scotland’s Big 5 – otters, red squirrels, seals, deer and eagles. The castle is also the beginning point for a number of wonderful walks, including the Silver Walk which heads towards Ardmolich and a circular walk that passes the deserted village of Briaig.
If you have a head for heights, why not climb Adrnamurchan Lighthouse for a fantastic vantage point to spot seabirds and cetaceans. Make sure you also visit the exhibition centre to find out more about the history of the lighthouse and the geology of Ardnamurcan.
Outdoor Capital of the UK is a website with a wealth of information for visitors to the area on everything from mountain sports to events. They have a fantastic ‘top-5s’ section of their site, where they share their favourite beaches, historical walks and waterfalls, as well as their top 5 hidden gems around Lochaber.
These hidden gems include:
Cille Choirill, Roy Bridge
This hauntingly beautiful 15th century church and burial ground is a sacred site, surrounded by rolling hills. If you think it looks familiar, it was also featured in the BBC drama, ‘Monarch of the Glen’ as Glenbogle Church.
Session House by Kiel Church, Lochaline
Delve into the past at this 18th century former school. Located next to Kiel Church, the Session House contains a collection of carved stones from the 8th to 16th century. A 15th century cross also stands outside the front of the church.
Parallel Roads, Glen Roy
The fascinating Parallel Roads are horizontal lines slice into the hillsides in Glen Roy, Glen Gloy and sections of Glen Spean. Whether they were formed by nature or human activity, no one is entirely sure. (Of course if you prefer to go with Gaelic myths, it could have been the handiwork of giants).
To read the other hidden gems and ‘must-see’ lists, visit www.outdoorcapital.co.uk/essentials/top-5s.
Do you love this area of the Highlands? Do you have any tips to add? Please leave any comments or questions below.