StrontianScottish Highlands. It's the most westerly and remote part of mainland Britain, accessed only by a long, winding single-track lane. For visitor purposes the name generally applies to the entire triangle of land west of Loch Linnhe, north of the Sound of Mull, and south of the A830, taking in Moidart, Sunart, Ardgour and Morvern as well Ardnamurchan which geographically is just the western tip.
Strontian is the tiny village at the centre of this triangle which gave its name to the element strontium. In 1790 geologists discovered a new mineral in the lead mines here, which they called "strontianite", and within it identified strontium from its distinctive crimson-red flame. It became commercially important in the 19th century in the extraction of sugar from beet, and in the 20th century for the coating of TV cathode-ray tubes; nowadays a major use is for red firework flares. It's chemically similar to calcium and is therefore taken up by bones and other body tissues. The natural isotope is mostly strontium-88, which is non-toxic, radio-stable and not a health concern. It's strontium-90, a radioactive product of nuclear fallout such as the Chernobyl explosion, that causes bone cancer, leukaemia and other serious conditions. You're not at heightened risk of these through visiting Strontian.
The nearest railway stations are in Fort William and Oban, and you need a car to get in and around this remote place. The usual approach is by A82 through Glencoe and over Ballachulish Bridge to the little ferry at , then follow the lane south to Strontian, Lochaline and Kilchoan. The ferry, which saves a long detour around Loch Eil, is run by Highland Council. It runs M-Sa 06:30-21:30 every 20 min, Sundays from 08:30 every 30 min, £8.20 per car for the five-minute crossing. No booking, just turn up and queue.
Another route from Fort William is to take A830 west past Glenfinnan, branching south at Loch Ailort. This road leads to Moidart, Acharacle, Salen and Kilchoan. See under Mallaig and Fort William for buses and trains along the Glenfinnan stretch.
There are two Calmac ferry routes from the Island of Mull: between Fishnish (by Duart Castle) and Lochaline, and between Tobermory and Kilchoan. A ferry also runs across the outlet of Loch Sunart between Drimmin and Kilchoan.
You need a car. Ardnamurchan's few buses are timed for school run and shopping trips and similar errands to Fort William, with one bus there in the morning and one bus returning mid-afternoon.
Shiel Bus 506 runs Mon-Sat between Kilchoan and Fort William, via Salen, Acharacle, Strontian and the Corran ferry, taking 2 hours 30 mins. The eastbound bus leaves Kilchoan around 08:00, connecting with the ferry from Tobermory. The westbound bus leaves Fort William at 13:50.
Shiel Bus 502 runs Mon-Sat between Acharacle and Fort William via Moidart, Loch Ailort and Glenfinnan, taking 90 min. It's basically a school bus for Lochaber High School, with the eastbound bus leaving Acharacle around 07:00 and the westbound bus leaving Fort William at 15:30; it doesn't connect with the 506.
Shiel Bus 507 is mostly just a school bus from Drimmin via Lochaline to Strontian. On Thursdays only, it runs from Lochaline at 09:30 via Argour and the Corran ferry to Fort William, taking 80 mins, and setting off back at 14:50.
address: PH36 4JBOak forests once cloaked the Atlantic coast from Norway to Portugal; Ariundle is a rare survival in Scotland, designated as a National Nature Reserve. Both sessile and pedunculate oaks (plus hybrids) thrive here; their presence is partly artificial, as they were cultivated for charcoal during the lead-mining era (hence their multiple stems, from coppicing). There are two trails through the woods, which can be combined into a 3-mile loop; watch out for otters, pipistrelle bats, wildcats, pine martens and badgers. The woods are also notable for mosses, liverworts and lichens. Trails starting from the Oakwood go up to the old lead mines and the summit of Sgùrr Dhòmhnuill, a Corbett of 888 m or 2913 ft.
Castle Tioramaddress: Dorlin PH36 4JZA ruin on a tidal island on the shore of Loch Moidart, dating perhaps to 13th C. The ruin is unsafe to enter but you can stroll around the exterior at low tide.
address: PH36 4JBIt's not quite the most westerly point on the British mainland, as Corrachadh Mòr half a mile south just edges it, but it's still a spectacular view over the roiling Atlantic. The tour includes ascent of the tower.
address: PH36 4JGIt produces single malt whisky, but as it was only started in 2013, the whisky is still maturing and is not yet on sale.
Glenborrodale Castle & GardensThe gardens are closed and the castle is for sale at £3.75 million (as of 2019).
- Scuba diving: preferably in a dry-suit, though you can get away with a chunky wet-suit in summer or early autumn. Lochaline has a dive centre, with the signature dive being along the wall near the slipway. The Sound of Mull is littered with wrecks, many of historical interest. The dive centre has a bunk-house and occasionally runs archaeological dives on protected sites where diving is normally restricted, such as the Swan, a Cromwellian warship lost in a storm in 1653; prior booking is essential.
Stock up before you come, there's limited supplies of anything here.
Your best option is the hotel restaurants.
- Cafe Sunart in Strontian serves snacks M-Sa 09:30-16:30, Su 10:00-15:00.
The hotels mostly have public bars.
There are campsites at Strontian, Resipole, Laga and Kilchoan - and, inevitably, yurts at Portuairk near the lighthouse.
Small B&Bs, guesthouses and self-catering cottages are clustered around Strontian, Moidart, Lochaline and Kilchoan.
phone: +44 1967 402029address: Acharacle PH36 4HZFriendly small hotel with a public bar and restaurant. Dog-friendly.
- Kilcamb Lodge is a small luxury hotel near Strontian village centre, dog friendly, B&B double from £220.
Mingarry Parkphone: +44 1967 431202address: Acharacle PH36 4JXStylish rooms and restaurant.
Kingairloch Estatephone: +44 1967 411232address: Ardgour PH33 7AEElegant rooms for B&B or self-catering. Boatman's Bistro open Wed-Sun.
phone: +44 1967 431661address: Acharacle PH36 4JNHotel with 3 rooms, cottage, public bar and restaurant.
Kilchoan House Hotelphone: +44 1972 510200address: Kilchoan PH36 4LHSmall family-run hotel.
Mingary Castlephone: +44 1972 510715address: Kilchoan PH36 4LHLuxurious retro-Georgian hotel within 13th-century shell.
Passable mobile & Wi-Fi coverage in the main settlements. Some dead spots along the roads between, and near zero out on the moors.
- The island of Mull is just south across the Sound, by ferry from Lochaline or Kilchoan.
- Go north to Arisaig or Mallaig for boat trips round (or longer stays on) the Small Isles.
- Ferries from Mallaig ply to Armadale on Skye, or drive the longer way around by the bridge. The scenery is spectacular but it'll feel very crowded and touristy after Ardnamurchan.