Kilchoan and West Ardnamurchan

The Ardnamurchan peninsula sticks out into the Atlantic to the west of Fort William in Highland Scotland. It is most easily accessed by turning off the A82 trunk road from Glasgow and boarding the Corran Ferry, which takes four minutes to cross Loch Linnhe but makes approaching Ardnamurchan seem like crossing to an island.  While there is some dispute as the the extent of 'Ardnamurchan', most take it as the area to the west of Acharacle and Salen, while 'West Ardnamurchan' begins where the B8007 crosses the burn at Laga Bay.

Even the name Kilchoan can be confusing.  We live in the crofting township of Ormsaigbeg which, with the crofting townships of Ormsaigmore and Kilchoan, make up the geographical village of Kilchoan.  Taken as a whole, Kilchoan is the largest settlement on West Ardnamurchan, boasting two churches, a primary school, a pub/hotel, a shop, a community centre which includes a medical facility and a tourist information desk, a Learning Centre, a fire station, a coastguard station and a telephone exchange.  By comparison, the other villages of West Ardnamurchan are small, the smallest having a resident population of one.

Some 250 people make up the permanent population of West Ardnamurchan, but this number increases hugely in summer as our visitors arrive.  A few have a holiday home which they occupy throughout the season.  More often, houses and caravans provide accommodation for weekly rentals.

As well as being a stunningly beautiful location which is renowned for its empty spaces, white sand beaches and abundant wildlife, this is a welcoming place for visitors.  A wide range of facilities are available, and these are described on the companion website to A Kilchoan Diary, West Ardnamurchan News & Information.  This site also includes details of, and links to accommodation providers on the peninsula.

The area is steeped in history, with evidence of settlement going back some 6,000 years.  West Ardnamurchan is, by past standards, severely depopulated, having suffered in the clearances that resulted in a large proportion of its people leaving, either to move south to the central belt or overseas, to Canada, the United States, Australia or New Zealand.  Neolithic structures and abandoned villages are some of the fascinating features of the countryside.

Those indigenous people who remained on the land have, for some two hundred years, won a hard living by following an agricultural system called crofting.  Posts in The Diary refer to this system and make some attempt to explain it, though this is difficult: as one local put it, "The definition of a croft is a small piece of land surrounded by legislation."

The wildlife in the area is exceptional.  Sea and golden eagles dominate the skies, red, roe, fallow and muntjac deer roam forest and moor, the rare pine marten and Scottish wildcat have a haven here, and the seas are home to minke whales, orcas, three types of dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea otters.

As West Ardnamurchan has few fences, it is possible to roam far and wide across its wilderness of mountains and moorland.  Miles of rugged coastline hide wonderful, white-sand beaches, the most famous of which are at Sanna, at the western end of the peninsula.  But there are many small, secret beaches to be found, like the one in the picture which has views northwards to Skye, Rum, Eigg and Muck, where a day can be spent without seeing another human.

The most westerly point of mainland Britain is at Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse.  There is a Visitors Centre, exhibition, cafe and shop, and tours up the lighthouse tower with views across the Minches to the Outer Hebrides.  This is a good place for spotting ocean life.

A Kilchoan Diary sets out to describe this beautiful corner of Highland Scotland.  We hope you enjoy the site.