Ten Things You Might Not Know About Arisaig
Think of Arisaig and your mind probably drifts straight to blue sea, bone-white beaches and Bonnie Prince Charlie, but there are loads of lesser-known facts about the village that we think deserve to be heard. So, with that in mind, here’s ten of our favourite things you probably didn't know about Arisaig:
Arisaig Bread Shed
First and foremost, we’re diving straight into the most important thing of all. Carbs. Did you know that Arisaig has its very own artisan bread shop, which until now, has existed on a kind of under-the-radar basis for the exclusive pleasure of lucky Arisaigers? Thankfully, for anybody visiting the area in the future, Chris & Audrey Bradford are about to scale up “Bread Shed” production and sell their DELICIOUS bread and pastries to all and sundry!
Chris & Audrey also sell amazing woodfired pizzas (with loads of amazing locally sourced toppings) out of Hector, their vintage Citroen van, and offer spontaneous pop-up pizza nights in the village.
The “Other” Cave
Following the Jacobite defeat at Culloden in April 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie, or more officially, Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart (bit of a mouthful!) took refuge in byres, bothies and burrows as he traversed his way from the east to west. In September 1746, Charlie and his comrades finally reached Arisaig where they famously hid in a cave at Borrodale beach while they waited for two French boats to drop anchor on Loch nan Uamh and whizz them back to the safety of France.
Nowadays, Charlie’s cave is an Arisaig itinerary essential (if you can find it!); however, many locals dispute that this is the true cave in which BPC and Co spent their final weeks in Scotland. That’s because there is a far more suitable cave for the hiding of Jacobites in very close proximity. We’re not going to give the exact location; however, here’s a clue: You’ll need your wellies!
New Ferry Crossings & Cruises
A day out exploring the Arisaig coastline and Small Isles aboard the MV Sheerwater is definitely another Arisaig itinerary essential, and this year the great folk at Arisaig Marina have really pushed the boat out (literally)!
Every Monday evening throughout July & August, sunset seekers can now enjoy one of Arisaig’s famous sunsets aboard the Sheerwater. These spectacular two-hour cruises set off at 7pm every Monday at a cost of £30 per adult and £15 per child.
The Marina have also expanded their ferry fleet with the arrival of wonder vessel, the Orca, which has the capacity to transport foot passengers to Skye, Canna and even Mull in superfast time directly from Arisaig. Contact Arisaig Marine for further information on boat trips and private charters.
Arisaig Shellfish Shack
Did you know that the cool and crystalline sea around Arisaig produces some of the greatest shellfish in the world? Therefore, it makes total sense that we should be able to get our lobster loving mitts on it right here in the village.
So, you can imagine our delight when Paula Wilkinson & Claire Gunner floated the idea that we turn our adjoining shop into Arisaig Shellfish Shack. Collectively, we aim to take the inconvenience out of sourcing, steaming and shelling crustaceans to enable shellfish lovers to simply take home delicious, ready to eat (or enhance) locally caught shellfish. Not only will we be partnering with Arisaig Bread Shed to produce some proper crab, lobster and langoustine rolls, we’ll also be selling dressed crabs, potted shrimp, bisque, half lobsters & langoustines ready to spread with a rub of your choice and chuck on your BBQ or grill.
The Shack is currently being beautified and we hope to open at some point in May. Head over to Arisaig Shellfish Shack to keep up with the latest news.
An Unlikely Literary Connection
Another incredible Arisaig fact is that Treasure Island legend, Long John Silver, was actually based on John Silver (1845–1910) of Arisaig! Legend has it that Robert Louis Stevenson took the name for his famous Treasure Island character after his father, Thomas Stevenson, a pioneering 19th Century lighthouse designer, met John Silver during the construction of Barra Head Lighthouse. Thomas would then return to Edinburgh and regale a young Robert with colourful tales of the life and times of John Silver of Arisaig!
A Music Lover’s Dream
A tiny west coast village it might be, but over the past few years (with the exception of pesky 2020/21) Arisaig has been making some serious [sound]waves on the Scottish live music scene! Between the Astley Hall and the Crofters Rest, the village hosts some epic music festivals such as Feis na Mara, Arisaig Americana Music Festival & School of Dàimh! On top of that, there's live music sessions every Friday night and Sunday afternoon in the pub, plus a whole host of superb bands and musicians itching to come and play in the village throughout the year.
In recent years we've welcomed Shooglenifty, the Peatbog Faeries, Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5, Sharon Shannon, Niteworks, Talisk, Elephant Sessions, The Langan Band, Fras, Project Smok, The Vatersay Boys, Croft No. Five, The Poozies, The Bevvy Sisters, The Marwills, The White Feather Collective and SO MANY MORE!!!
A Secret Garden
Arisaig is home to a magical secret garden hidden from passing traffic beneath a canopy of rare and majestic trees. Planted in 1927, Larachmhor Gardens is a 28 acre explosion of colour where over 1200 species, including almost 200 Rhododendrons, thrive amidst the protection of a sheltered hollow within the Arisaig Estate. Why not make yourself a picnic and enjoy the sights, scents and sounds of Larachmhor?
The Safe Place
One of our favourite lesser known facts about the village is that Arisaig translates directly from gaelic to mean the Safe Place. The reason we love this fact so much is because the village truly is an incredibly safe place! The Highlands and Islands remain one of the safest places to live in the UK and Arisaig is no exception. Geographically too, Arisaig is incredibly safe as it’s tucked away on the shore of Loch nan Ceall and is well sheltered from the huge Atlantic swells by the Inner & Outer Hebrides.
Did you know that there’s not one, but TWO Arisaigs?! Tragically, in the 1790s over 1000 crofters were cleared off the land and shipped to Nova Scotia (New Scotland) in Canada in order to make way for sheep as part of the Highland Clearances. Families from the Arisaig area boarded ships at Rhu pier and upon arriving and settling in Nova Scotia they paid homage to the Arisaig they left behind by giving the name of their former home to the place they settled. We’ve yet to visit the “other” Arisaig, but if you’ve been, it would be interesting to know if there were any similarities?
The Village Museum
Arisaig's very own mini-museum and visitor centre packs quite a punch! The Land, Sea & Islands Centre, which is housed in the old smiddy in the centre of the village, incorporates a viewing room overlooking the Small Isles, a souvenir shop, artefacts on crofting and fishing, a rebuilt forge, wildlife exhibitions and information about wartime activities in the village (Special Operations Executive!). There’s also frequent talks, workshops and courses to be enjoyed at the LSIC.
The centre also acts as a hub for the Arisaig Community Trust, which since its conception in 2009 has really made a hugely positive difference to the village. The Trust’s projects include education, culture, housing, recreation, employment and the environment.
Cover photo by Albyn Photography