Lochaber is a landscape sculptured by volcanic activity, ancient seas and glaciations events. The area is renowned for its scenic splendour consisting of towering mountains, rocky outcrops, rivers, lochs, moorland, glens, wetlands, ancient oak woodlands, rocky shores and sandy bays. It forms one of only six Geoparks in Europe, areas in which geology has made a significant contribution to the landscape, history, culture and fauna and flora of an area. It includes the complex Great Glen fault from Inverness to Fort William, which bisects the Highlands and provides one of the most scenic drives in Britain.
Lochaber Geopark Association has produced a series of car-based Geotrail leaflets designed to point out and explain the significant geological features of the area. The routes include stopping places and short walks.
Ardnamurchan Point, on the remote windswept Ardnamurchan peninsula, is the mostly westerly point in Britain, and, on a clear day, provides a good view of the inner and outer Hebrides. The point is marked by a granite lighthouse, erected in 1894. A visitor centre (formerly the Keepers Cottage) documents the history and working of the lighthouse. The Ardnamurchan Point is a particularly good site to see for Minke whales; other possible sightings include common dolphin, orca and Risso’s dolphin.
Take a trip on the Jacobite Steam Train running between Fort William to Mallaig. The journey is regarded as one of the Great Railway Journeys of the World, with stunning views of Loch Shiel and, on a clear day, the ‘Small Isles’ of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. The route crosses over the 21-arched viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter films, as well as affording views of the beaches at Morar, featured in the films, ‘Highlander’ and ‘Local Hero’. Mallaig is a bustling fishing port and ferry terminal, with shops, bars and restaurants, swimming pool and a heritage centre.
Take a cruise on Loch Shiel to chart the route taken by Bonnie Prince Charles who landed on the banks. He raised an army of clansman in 1745 at Glenfinnan in a final attempt to reinstate the exiled Stuarts to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland. The Glenfinnan Monument at the head of Loch Shiel marks the start of his campaign, from whence his followers journeyed as far south as Derby. The bloody battle at Culloden in the following year marked the eventual defeat of the campaign.
The Seven Men of Moidart, who accompanied Prince Charles from France, are commemorated by a row of venerable beech trees at Kinlochmoidart. Documentary evidence of the uprising have been compiled by The Moidart Local History Group.
Alternatively, take a wildlife cruise to the Small Isles, with a chance of seeing Minke whales, dolphins, porpoise and basking sharks, as well as range of seabirds, including puffins, shearwaters and sea eagles. For further details see Arisaig Marine and Western Isles Cruises.
A ferry can also be taken to the Isle of Skye from Mallaig. Alternatively, Skye can accessed via the road bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh.
The Isle of Mull, the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides, is accessible by ferry from Kilochan, on the Ardnamurchan peninsula and Lochaline in Morvern. There are plenty of good birding opportunities on Mull, including organised tours as well as local wildlife cruises.