Ardnamurchan’s Sailing Waters
The seas around Ardnamurchan are a magnificent small boat cruising area. With waters extending from the most enclosed sealoch to the open Atlantic within a few hours sail of each other, experienced owners of small sailing boats will find all sorts of challenges and opportunities for enjoyment.
Loch Sunart is one of the least spoilt of all the West Highland sealochs. Recently designated as a Special Area of Conservation, this loch is a haven for wildlife. From its junction with the north end of the Sound of Mull, opposite the famous port of Tobermory, on Mull, the loch snakes 22 miles inland to its head near Strontian. The north side of the loch is the most inhabited: the southern shore the most wild. A voyage up the loch passes both inhabited and uninhabited islands. Narrow and complex rocky channels lead through behind some islands to the secluded anchorages in Loch Drumbuie and Loch Teacuis. Further inland, the famous native Sunart Oak Woodlands clad the lower slopes of the hills, while offshore skerries and islets provide habitat for a huge range of native species.
The Sunart coastline has history of settlement dating back to the Iron age. Local guidebooks will introduce the visitor to destinations on both shores of the loch: places for a quiet picnic or a landing spot as a base for more serious exploration.
There are many places suitable for the launching of small sailing dingies and trailer based cruising boats between Strontian and Kilchoan. Some holiday cottages do provide private access to the shore. Otherwise there are several slipways along the loch. At one or two there may be a small charge, at others an honesty box…but enquiries are always free!
Visitor moorings have been laid at Salen and Kilchoan . Elsewhere small craft can lie to anchor. Again, local people will advise the best spots.
Inland it is possible to launch a small boat on Loch Shiel, from a landing spot near the hotel in Acharacle. Other fresh water lochs are restricted for fishing: managed by the local land owners.
The north coast of Ardnamurchan is much less hospitable for the owner of a small sailing boat. But on the right day, perhaps when the prevailing west and northerly winds fall calm, the sandy bays at Sanna, in the west, and Loch Kentra in the east could provide the more experienced sailor with new horizons.
South from Ardnamurchan the Sound of Mull has become a major route for cruising yachtsmen who voyage the western islands. For a small boat the Sound is a serious piece of water, but with the correct weather, overnight stops at Tobermory, further south at Salen on Mull, or in Loch Aline on the Morvern shore, could well be within a small cruiser’s range.
The Small Isles to the north of Ardnamurchan represent a much more serious challenge for any small cruiser. It is important to bear in mind that this is the North Atlantic. Tidal streams are strong. The clear air on a sunny day, and lack of man made features to give scale, make the distances seem shorter than they are. Weather conditions frequently change quite fast too. As a cruising area the waters surrounding Ardnamurchan remain a serious place, even in summer. Inshore, safely within the shelter of a sealoch, on a good day an experienced small boat owner should find a lot to enjoy.