A Twenty-Year Long Love Affair

All images on this page courtesy of Alison Porwol

Alison tells us of how her twenty-year long love affair with the West Highland Peninsulas began and why she comes back many times a year, year after year……

I’ve been visiting the Ardnamurchan area for some time now, in fact, it must be just over twenty years ago since I fell in love with this westernmost corner of the Scottish Highlands.

It all began when I worked as a summer student for a fish feed company and was lucky enough to be occasionally sent up from Edinburgh to the fish farm on Loch Ailort. It was certainly no hardship because the farm itself was in a stunning location on Loch Ailort with fantastic views down the loch and also over to the little white church of Our Lady of the Braes, which was just visible between the distant hills. Add to this, the sound of the Jacobite steam train going past as we had our coffee break and you can understand why I started to fall in love with the West Highland Peninsulas.

One day I found myself with a rare day off, so on the advice of one of the farm staff, I decided to drive to Castle Tioram. An idyllic narrow single-track road wound its way alongside the River Shiel and at the bottom of this road I was greeted with a scene that will forever be etched in my mind. On a little tidal island stood the ruins of a most romantic and unique Scottish castle. Wow, this was Castle Tioram. My tummy gave a little flip, that feeling that you get when you know you’re onto something really special. This is when I truly fell in love with the area.

Since that wonderful moment, I’ve returned pretty much year after year, exploring the lochs, hills and woodlands of the Peninsulas (as well as the cafés and tearooms - a good walk deserves good coffee and cake!). But what is it that makes the area so special? Well for me, I think it is the rich diversity of scenery and wildlife. Just one example would be the walk to Singing Sands. You start the walk by making your way around part of Kentra Bay (where the occasional otter is sometimes seen), then into woodland which eventually opens out onto a beautiful white sandy beach. In the right conditions you can make the sands sing, well more of a squeak if you ask me, but it’s pretty special when it happens.

I really love the woodlands here too, particularly the ancient oakwoods around Ariundle, they have a magical almost fairy-tale feel about them. The moss-covered rocks and gnarly old trees awaken my imagination and I can almost picture fairies and goblins living in the woods - a great escape from reality!

However, one thing that’s not a fairy-tale is the abundance of wildlife; pine martens, white-tailed sea eagles, deer, badgers and otters can frequently be seen in many places across the Peninsulas, as well as the secretive Scottish wildcat (although unfortunately I’ve never been lucky enough to see one, yet!).

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve visited the Peninsulas, but no matter how many times I visit, whenever I get to the Corran Ferry I always get that excited tummy flip feeling, just like I did when I first saw Castle Tioram all those years ago. With its mixture of scenery and wildlife, it’s a very special place that I just can’t get enough of.

Many thanks to Alison Porwol for sharing her love of the Peninsulas with us and thanks also for her lovely photos.

If you’d like to share what you love about the area on our website, please feel free to get in touch by email at web@westhighlandpeninsulas.com.

Posted on 27th January 2020, by Alison Porwol.

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