374. Mallaig to Bracorina via Morar.

May 2021

Having finally navigated my around Loch Nevis it was time to continue, but this time I wasn’t going to continue south. My route around Loch Nevis had bought me out at the end of the public road at a tiny place called Bracorina. If I follow this road to the main road it brings me to Morar. If I continue south from there I’ll leave a section of coast un-walked, north from there to Mallaig. Therefore I wasn’t going to leave that gap and needed to link up to Mallaig. In fact I did this walk as a walk from Mallaig to Arisaig but I’ll write up the second part of the walk as a later post.

I had completed walking around Loch Nevis at the end of my last coast walk trip for 2020, which had been an exceptionally difficult year both for my coast walk and life in general. I had hoped that Covid restrictions would finally have ended in 2021. Sadly, that wasn’t the case and in fact I was lucky this trip went ahead at all. I booked it back in 2020 but with further lockdowns over the winter (a truly appalling policy, which we are now seeing the economic consequences of) hotels and accommodation had once again been forced to close. Fortunately for me in Scotland they were re-opening on the 26th April 2021, less than a week before this trip, which I booked back in 2020 which meant at least this trip could go ahead (though I had had to drive up for reasons I’ll explain later).

I had driven from home on Saturday 1st May and planned this to be my first full days walk on Sunday 2nd May.  Mallaig has the comparative luxury (at least for the Scottish Highlands) of a railway station. I had checked the train times a week or so ago, when planning this trip and found that trains were indeed running albeit it on a reduced timetable. Unfortunately when I checked yesterday they had all been removed. As it was a Sunday there were no buses running either.

I was puzzled by this but found on the ScotRail website that there was some sort of industrial action taking place on the trains every Sunday. During the various Covid lockdowns the amount of subsidy paid by the Government to rail companies to keep services running had increased by over £6 billion, with every single rail journey estimated to cost taxpayers £100 in subsidy. Services on the line to Mallaig had been cut in half, from 4 per day to just 2 per day as passenger numbers were only around 40% of what they were before Covid restrictions. Despite this there had been no redundancies. If you worked for an organisation in such a financial position I think most would be grateful to still have a job. However it seems the RMT union had other ideas and the dispute was because staff wanted to be paid more to work on Sundays and so were refusing to work on Sunday at all. The dispute lasted for many months and unfortunately, not living in Scotland I wasn’t aware of it. This meant I had to postpone this walk by a day and do a circular walk which did not require public transport on Sunday 2nd May. I had tried not to have to amend my plans and had found that the Jacobite steam train still ran on Sunday and also that it stopped at Arisaig on the way to Mallaig. I did ask them if they would take passengers for just this part of the journey. The good news was yes they would, subject to space being available on the train. The bad news was the fare charged for a single between Arisaig and Mallaig was exactly the same they would charge for a return between Fort William and Mallaig, nearly £50, despite travelling little more than 10% of the distance. I therefore declined this offer and postponed by a day.

So now I was doing the walk on a day the trains were running. However the previous usual level of service had been cut from 4 trains per day to just 2, due to a combination of reduced passenger numbers and staff shortages due to Covid. Normally when doing a walk if possible I prefer to get the public transport done at the start of the day so I can then complete the walk and be back at my car or where I’m staying at the end of the walk and therefore not be tied to finishing at a specific time (or potentially stranded if a bus/train doesn’t run). For this trip I was staying again at the West Highland Hotel in Mallaig so it would make sense to take the train to Arisaig and then walk back to my hotel. However the reduced train service meant trains only ran south from Mallaig at around 6am and 6pm. Unless I wanted to get up very early and take the train at 6am (I didn’t), that wasn’t going to work out. Instead therefore I was going to start my walk from Mallaig with the hope of reaching Arisaig in time for the 17:27 train back to Mallaig. I would therefore have to keep a close eye on the time during this walk as I didn’t want to arrive late and miss the train (it was the last one) or arrive hours early and have to wait around either. Frustrating, but at least it beat having to walk there and back or cycle one way.

Unfortunately I still had to fill in a form and book breakfast the night before, which I’d done, so I could set off on a full stomach after a lovely cooked breakfast.

From Mallaig I initially had two possible routes. The most coastal route was to follow the A830 trunk road which ran right along the coast (and the coastal side of the railway), with a 60mph speed limit. An alternative was to follow the B8008 which runs more or less parallel inland (and I suspect is the former route of the A830). Normally I might have chosen the later as safer but having driven the A830 there was actually a combined pavement and cycle path that runs alongside thee A830 as far as Morar so I planned to stick with the main road after all.

Having stopped for provisions for lunch in Mallaig it was time to set off. I headed to the roundabout by the station and turned left onto the A830 (it ends at Mallaig). The road undulates but is fairly straight and I have nice views over to the coast on my right, but disappointingly the pavement is on the other side of the road from the coast, so I have to cross over every time I want a better view.

The coast at Mallaig

It’s a stunning view though. Just off shore are a group of islands known collectively as the Small Isles and they are part of the Inner Hebrides. A ferry, the MV Lochnevis, leaves from Mallaig to the various islands each day (though it goes to a different set of islands each day). The one in the photo below is I believe Eigg.

The Isle of Eigg from Mallaig

The Isle of Eigg from Mallaig

The A830 near Mallaig

Half a mile or south of Mallaig and I pass an emergency Heliport on my right. I presume this is used if anyone needs to be airlifted from one of these islands, but I don’t know for sure.

The coast south of Mallaig

Trafic is not too heavy with gaps of several minutes between vehicles so the walk is more pleasant than I expected. I suppose as the road ends at Mallaig and Mallaig is not that big a place so there is only more traffic when a ferry is due. The coast to my right is fairly low rocky headlands and shallow water, as I can see the rocks and sand of the sea bed underneath the water.

The coast south of Mallaig

The coast south of Mallaig

Sadly about a mile out of Mallaig the road turns a little inland. As this stretch is only about a mile before the road rejoins the coast and there is no path or track marked on the map closer to the shore I decide to stick to the road. This does have it’s compensation as I soon pass the pretty Lochan Doilead on my left.

Lochan Doilead

Just past this I am descending down to Morar.

The A830 at Morar

The A830 bypasses Morar so the signs point left for those wanting to visit Morar. Here I have a dilemma. The B8008 runs on the landward side of the A830 through Morar and the road I want to take to Bracorina branches off the B8008. The pavement also goes this way so the A830 ahead has no pavement. However if I follow the B8008 I won’t be following the route closest to the shore.

In the end I decide I will continue on the A830. Then when I reach the southern turn for Morar (rather than the north turn I am at now) I will turn onto the B8008 doubling back before taking the dead-end road to Bracorina. It adds a bit of distance but it keeps me on the most coastal route and that’s good. The downside is the lack of pavement but fortunately the road is still quite wide and there isn’t that much traffic.

The A830 near Morar

My choice is soon rewarded with a fine view of Morar Bay to my right, as the road has now rejoined the coast. The tide is quite low and the water looks shallow with some nice looking sandy beaches at the south end of the bay.

Morar Bay

Morar Bay

Morar Bay

Soon I reach the bridge over Loch Morar, which narrows to a stream here before flowing out into the sea. The view is spectacular in both directions with the sandy beaches beside Morar Bay on my right and the wooded banks of Loch Morar on my left.

Morar Bay

Morar Bay

River Morar

I can also see the fast flowing water out of the loch which passes under a pretty looking railway bridge at great speed.

River Morar

River Morar

Now over this I soon join the other end of the B8008 (which actually seems to be several small disconnected B-roads all assigned the same number) into Morar and follow this road. I’m soon crossing Loch Morar for the second time on another bridge only 100 metres or so inland from the bridge I have just crossed.

River Morar

River Morar

I’m soon crossing the fast-flowing water that flows out of Loch Morar into the sea, it is both an impressive sight and sound. Immediately above the road is the railway viaduct that carries the railway over the water. It is made of concrete like all the viaducts on this line and one of the (perhaps the?) first to use concrete.

River Morar

Just after passing under the railway I can fork off the B8008 onto the more minor dead-end road out to Bracorina, where I emerged at the far end on my walk around Loch Nevis.

The water now is calmer and passes alongside the tiny River Morar that connects Loch Morar with the sea at Morar Bay. There are numerous boats moored up beside this short river and soon it opens up into the much wider and large Loch Morar (which is actually over 18km long).

River Morar

The loch is surrounded by hills and mountains and at the far side some still have a dusting of snow on the tops. It is spectacular.

Loch Morar

I soon pass a rather grand church on my left. I don’t know if this is the main church for Morar as it is rather remote from the rest of the village (although still marked as a church on the map I suspect it has since been converted into a home).

Church near Morar

Signs warn “No motorised boats to be launched without a permit” and “No fishing without a permit”. Fortunately walking doesn’t seem to require a permit!

The road runs right along the shore of the loch with a few small pebble beaches to the right and later some sandy ones.

Loch Morar

Loch Morar

Loch Morar

Loch Morar

There are even still a few daffodils beside the road – spring comes later here than I am used to at home. Ahead is a small jetty presumably the one from which the launching of motorised boats requires a permit.

Loch Morar

Loch Morar

I continue passing a small car park where the map shows walks but the map only shows a path going north from here and abruptly ending. Perhaps there are more paths not marked on the map.

The road now begins to climb up but this rewards me with a wonderful view of the loch, which contains several wooded islands.

Loch Morar

Loch Morar

I soon reach the village of Bracora. The road begins to feel like I’m walking through a farm yard. Farm machinery and straw bales are dumped beside the road and cattle roam free on the road, so I give them a wide birth as much as possible.

Bracora

I continue on the road soon descending down to Bracorina, where I completed my walk around Loch Nevis last year and emerged on this path.

Bracorina, Loch Morar

Bracorina, Loch Morar

It is good to close the gap! Last time I was here I was fussing about parking but now I notice the sign actually says “No overnight parking” implying parking on the road in the daytime is in fact permitted, though it doesn’t matter to me now.

Bracorina, Loch Morar

Bracorina, Loch Morar

I had now closed the gap. I re-traced my steps along the road back to Morar. Normally I find there and back walks can be a bit tedious on the way back but here the traffic is light and the loch looks different in the other direction.

Loch Morar

Loch Morar

River Morar

The railway viaduct at Morar

The River Morar and A830 bridge

Soon I’m back on the B8008 and ready to continue south, but I’ll write that up as part 2.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Trains run 4 times per day between Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig:-

ScotRail West Highland Line : Mallaig – Morar – Arisaig – Beasdale (request stop) – Lochailort (request stop) – Glenfinnan – Locheilside (request stop) – Loch Eil Outward Bound – Corpach – Banavie – Fort William – Spean Bridge – Roy Bridge – Tulloch – Corrour – Rannoch – Bridge of Orchy – Upper Tyndrum – Crainlarich – Ardlui – Arrochar and Tarbert – Garelochhead – Helensburgh Upper – Dumbarton Central – Dalmuir – Glasgow Queen Street. 4 trains per day between Fort William and Mallaig, 3 of which continue to Glasgow, Monday – Saturday. On Sundays there are 3 trains per day, 2 of which run between Glasgow and Mallaig and one between Fort William and Mallaig.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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1 Response to 374. Mallaig to Bracorina via Morar.

  1. Pingback: 377. Morar to Arisaig | Round the Island

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