The Great Arisaig Alphabet
There are so many reasons why you should consider putting Arisaig on your 2022 holiday hotlist, but if you're not entirely convinced, we've compiled an entire alphabet of temptation! So, lets bring on the Arisaig Alphabet, and A is for, you guessed it...
ARISAIG HOTEL & BUNKHOUSE
Now, we might be a tiny bit biased, but we reckon the place to be in Arisaig is none other than yours truly! With live music every weekend, great food, brilliant staff, comfortable accommodation, an excellent atmosphere and centuries of history, you'll love your time at Arisaig Hotel.
BILLIONS OF BRILLIANT BEACHES
The Arisaig coastline is home to some of the UK's most beautiful and bountiful beaches. We're talking about the pristine, powdery, picture-perfect kind; the Caribbean kind! There are literally hundreds of deserted & dreamlike beaches to be discovered, from tiny coves to ginormous sandy spaces, and what's more, you can usually get one all to yourself, even on the hottest of days!
Okay, so the Arisaig water is definitely not as warm as its Caribbean counterpart, but it's a crystalline DREAM, surrounded by the lushest of GREEN, so save yourself the airfare and take a trip to Arisaig.
CRAIC, CRAIC, CRAIC
Fear not, we don't mean the village has turned into a drug den! We're talking about the other craic, which in our experience is equally as potent and intoxicating! Who knows if it's the remoteness, that fresh sea air, the amazing music or the friendly and welcoming village vibe, but Arisaig definitely brings out the best in locals & visitors alike.
Although Arisaig is a picture-perfect holiday destination in its own right, if you want to do a bit of exploring, you're in for a treat! Within a short (and ALWAYS breathtakingly beautiful) drive from the village, you can expect to see some of the best sights in Scotland!
Glenfinnan - 30 mins
Skye (ferry) - 40 mins
Small Isles - 60 mins
Ben / Glen Nevis - 45 mins
Loch Ness - 90 mins
Glencoe / Etive - 90 mins
Fort William is known as the Outdoor Capital of the UK so if you're into the great outdoors, you can reach the town in just 45 minutes. We love this photo by Jane Barlow of Ben Nevis looming over the wreck of the Golden Harvest fishing boat on the banks of Loch Linnhe. The boat was built in 1975, but she ran aground on December 8th 2011during a heavy storm and has been there ever since!
EIGG (pronounced egg!)
A holiday to Arisaig wouldn't be complete without a day trip to the incredible island of Eigg (or even better, spend a week there if you can).
The MV Sheerwater sets sail from Arisaig Marine and will get you to the island within an hour. Watch out for Sea Eagles, Minke Whales and Dolphins as you make the crossing!
Once on dry land, day trippers will get a full five hours to discover the wonders of Eigg. We highly recommend getting in touch with Owain from Eigg Adventures where you can hire a bike or kayak to explore the island.
In 2008, Eigg became the first island in the world to launch an off-grid system based entirely on renewables and it's now completely self-sufficient thanks to the wind, water and sun!
For lots more information on the island, check out: www.isleofeigg.org
Arisaig might be tiny, but it packs a mighty punch in the festival department! From running to raving, Arisaig seems to have a celebration for everything; and just when we thought it couldn't get any better, the word on the street is that a brand new FOOD FESTIVAL is being planned for summer 2022.
July: Arisaig Games
November: A Write Highland Hoolie
December: Feis na Mara & Arisaig Christmas Festival
Arisaig is home to arguably the most beautiful golf course in the country. In fact, Traigh Golf Course is regularly voted as one of the most scenic in the world!
A challenging nine-holer, the course is situated directly above the sparkling sands of Traigh, so why not boost your beach day with a spontaneous round of golf, after all, there's no need to book in advance & club hire is available.
The clubhouse is open from April - September and it costs £20 to grace the green with your presence, and if you're feeling particularly confident, you can even sign up to compete at Traigh Open Championship on 23rd July.
If you're a keen golfer who spends a fair amount of time in the area, the membership deals are definitely worth considering:
Full membership: £205
Country (those from out-with the area): £125
Under 16s: £20
There's no better way to take in the full majesty of the Arisaig area than by getting up high! Arisaig is surrounded by the most incredible and accessible hills & mountain ranges.
From the village's very own Creag Mhor and the nearby Roshven Hills to the summits of the Rough Bounds and those spectacular island ridges, every peak in the area offers insanely beautiful views over Arisaig's coastline & lochs.
On a clear day, climbers who reach the summit of the UK's tallest mountain, Ben Nevis (30 miles away), will even be treated to fantastic views right out as far as Skye!
So what are you waiting for? Dust off those walking boots and book your trip to Arisaig.
The other day, we focused on the Isle of Eigg, but did you know that Arisaig is the gateway to more incredible islands than you could shake a stick at?
Yep, if you included the intricate network of islands that make up the Arisaig Skerries, the number of "official" islands would run into the high hundreds. With bone-white bays and sparkly turquoise water, the Skerries make for a true paddlers paradise.
Further afield, Arisaig Marine’s MV Sheerwater & Orca can swiftly transport foot passengers to the glorious islands of Eigg, Rum, Muck, Canna & even Mull. The Marina is just seconds from the hotel and all of these islands can be visited as day-trips (although we highly recommend spending longer to fully embrace the island atmosphere).
And if that's not enough island action, just 10 miles from Arisaig, you can drive to Mallaig and onto the Calmac ferry, which will get you to Skye & Uist.
If you're into steam trains or the Stuart Cause, Arisaig should definitely be on your travel itinerary, because this area is Jacobite country!
In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie or more formally, Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart (bit of a mouthful!) arrived on the beautiful banks of Arisaig's Loch nan Uamh. From there, he journeyed to nearby Glenfinnan where he inspired over 1200 Highlanders to pledge their allegiance to the Jacobite Cause.
From the loch-side, it is possible to visit the Prince's Cairn, which marks the very spot Charlie arrived and fled Scotland. We also recommend exploring the cave where Bonnie Prince Charlie and his comrades took refuge after their defeat at Culloden!
These days, there's another Jacobite in town and this one comes in the form of the Jacobite Steam Train (aka the Hogwarts Express). The Jacobite Steam Train pulls into Arisaig Station at least twice a day from April - October and we HIGHLY recommend heading up to the UK's most westerly railway station to get a closer look.
Accessible only by boat or a verrrrry long walk, the Knoydart peninsula is about as isolated as it gets on mainland Britain. In fact, the main community of Inverie is officially the most remote village in the UK!
Sandwiched between Loch Nevis (the loch of heaven) and Loch Hourn (the loch of hell), the 80,000 acres in the middle make up the Knoydart peninsula, and if you're searching for solitude, scenery, seafood and some serious outdoor action, this is the place for you!!
There's plenty of accommodation options on the peninsula, but Knoydart can also be enjoyed as part of a day trip with Western Isles Cruises or a private charter with Minch Adventures (30 minutes from Mallaig to Inverie).
LUNCH WITH A VIEW
While there are loads of amazing places to enjoy a sit-down lunch in the area (we'll get to that later in the alphabet!), if the sun is shining, we reckon the best place to munch your lunch is none other than the GREAT outdoors!
And as luck would have it, there's some really epic takeaway options on offer. Take, for example, Arisaig Shellfish Shack! Arisaig Shellfish Shack takes the "hell out of shellfish" by sourcing, cooking, and preparing locally caught crustaceans right here in Arisaig. They also sell AMAZING Arisaig Bread Shed bread and pastries!
Overlooking the village and sea below, the ruined 16th Century St Maelrubha's Chapel is definitely worth a visit. The chapel, which sits in the pretty grounds of St Mary's, not only offers visitors a superb view, it's also a historical treasure-trove, packed with interesting artefacts from bygone centuries.
Máelrubai was an Irish monk who brought Christianity to the North West Highlands after he sailed from Ireland to Scotland in 671. Over the centuries, many churches in these parts were dedicated to St Máelrubai (twenty-one are still [kinda] standing), but who built St Maelrubha's in Arisaig? Some claim it was Allan nan Creach!
Allan nan Creach (Allan of the Raids) was a notorious cattle thief of the late 15th century. Allan finally became remorseful for his sins and turned to the Witch of Moy for advice (as you do!). The witch recommended that the best course of action would be for a cat to be taken, spitted and roasted alive!
Upon pursuing this action, legend has it that Allan was besieged by the poor cat's feline family, of which the largest came to him and said that he was to build six churches to make up for his crimes! One of these was St Maelrhubha's in Arisaig!
Did you know that there is a whole other Arisaig out there? Arisaig in Nova Scotia!
In the 18th & 19th centuries, our Arisaig was a thriving community where fishing and crofting played a crucial role in the economy; however, like much of the Scottish Highlands & Islands, it was devastated by the Highland Clearances. Over 1,000 crofters from this area were forced from their lands to make way for sheep.
When John Ban Gillis landed in Nova Scotia in 1791 he found a beautiful sheltered cove with many similarities to his home community of Arisaig, and so the other Arisaig was born!
Today, the largest ethnic group in Nova Scotia is Scottish (28.3%), with direct ancestors of our Arisaig still living in Arisaig NS. Gaelic continues to be a strong part of the cultural fabric of the province.
Here's some interesting Arisaig / Arisaig similarities:
- Shellfishing is a thriving and celebrated industry in both Arisaigs. While we have Arisaig Shellfish Shack, they have their very own Lobster Interpretive Centre!
- Both Arisaigs have popular gin distilleries! Arisaig Gin and Steinhart Distillery.
- There's a busy working marina in both villages.
- The coastal landscape is very similar!
OTTERS AT THE OLD PIER
If you're in Arisaig, we highly recommend packing a picnic and taking a walk / bike ride to the Old Pier at the end of the Rhu road.
The Rhu road wiggles its way through the shelter of ancient trees before opening up to reveal undisturbed views out towards the Small Isles. After 3.5 miles, the road ends at the Old Pier and storehouse where you'll be treated to the sound of nothing but the call of birds. This is otter spotting heaven, so keep those eyes peeled!
Prior to the arrival of the railway line in 1901, the predominant means of travel to Arisaig was aboard the MacBrayne steamers, Claymore & Clansman, and the Old Pier was built in 1885 to serve the passengers. The steamers would anchor out at sea and be met by a smaller ferry boat.
Did you know that Arisaig has a very tasty secret? There's no signpost, no website and no marketing literature, but if you know, you know!! Arisaig has its very own pizzeria!
Chris & Audrey from Arisaig Bread Shed make THE best hand-stretched and wood-fired sourdough pizzas EVER. If you're lucky enough to be in Arisaig on a Saturday night between 5pm and 8pm, we highly recommend getting in touch via their Facebook page.
Not only are the bases perfection, local toppings are used wherever possible such as wild Arisaig garlic, Great Glen Charcuterie venison salami and Rannoch smoked chicken.
If you're here as part of a large group or wedding, you can even hire Hector, the beautiful vintage pizza van, for your event!
Arisaig might be a bustling and vibrant village, but even on the busiest days of summer, it's possible to experience complete silence within minutes of leaving the centre.
The feeling of space and silence, broken only by birdsong, is almost medicinal. The wildness is intoxicating. It's possible to walk for miles without seeing a road (or even another person!), and even on the hottest days, you can always find an isolated corner on one of the area's many spectacular beaches.
Did you know that Arisaig is home to a wild woodland garden hidden from passersby beneath a dense canopy of rare and majestic trees?
Planted by John Augustus Holms in 1927, Larachmhor Gardens is a 28-acre woodland marvel and home to a collection of over 200 species of Rhododendrons, as well as many exotic trees and shrubs.
Holms obtained Larachmhor after spending eight years searching for a suitable place to plant his collection, and the garden's sheltered position coupled with its proximity to the gulf stream made it the perfect spot.
"Rhodoholic" Holms had hoped to collect every species of rhododendron in the UK and plant them at Larachmhor, but his aspirations were cut short after his death in 1938. His gardener, John Brennan, stayed on at the garden, unpaid, where he tended to the plants for the next twenty years.
If you verge off the beaten track, you'll find the ruins of Holms’ uncompleted house, where he had hoped to live amidst his beloved rhododendrons.
Larachmhor has been looked after by volunteers from the Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh after Brennan's reign.
If you're lucky enough to have access to a yacht, it should be ARISAIG AHOY this summer! With bone-white beaches, cobalt coasts, otherworldly islands and dramatic mountain ridges at every turn, the sailing around Arisaig is quite simple, world class!
Arisaig Marine has capacity for over 60 visiting and long-term moorings, plus a fully equipped workshop offering boat servicing & repairs, shower & laundry facilities, secure boat storage and an excellent on-site café and gift shop.
If, like most of us, you don't have your very own yacht parked on the drive, fear not! The marina also offers fabulous day trips and charters onboard the MV Sheerwater, Orca and Briscoe.
A huge part of Arisaig's allure is its isolation and remoteness. As you edge further and further into the wilds, your phone/radio signal and most importantly, your stress levels drop!
However, when looking at Arisaig on the map, your stress levels might take a jump as you work out how on earth you're going to reach us! Well, fear not, Arisaig has surprisingly excellent transport links:
FLY: International flights frequently land in Inverness, Glasgow & Edinburgh where it's super simple to hire a car or take a bus / train to Arisaig.
DRIVE: Road trip goals!! From Edinburgh & Glasgow, it'll take approximately four hours to get here (that's with the odd stop to take in the AMAZING views along the way). The A9 and A82 are both brilliant routes with equally brilliant food stops (those fish and chips at Real Food Cafe, Tyndrum!!). In April 2009, the final section of the A830 "Road to the Isles" upgrade was completed and what was once a wiggly single-track road where the prospect of meeting a lorry was quite terrifying, it's now a long and flowing pleasure of a drive!
RAIL: The direct ScotRail 'West Highland Line' from Glasgow to Arisaig has frequently been described as one of the most beautiful in the world, and we wholeheartedly agree. Three trains depart Glasgow for Arisaig every day and it is an incredible way to spend five hours.
If you're coming from further afield you can take the Caledonian Sleeper from London Euston where you will wake up fresh in Fort William at 10am and as luck would have it, the Arisaig train will be waiting to transport you to the village.
Did you know that Arisaig has its very own museum and visitor centre? Free to enter and run by twenty of the most enthusiastic volunteers known to mankind, the Land, Sea & Islands Centre is jam-packed with everything you need to know about the area - past, present and future!
Approximately 12,000 people are warmly welcomed into the centre every year and it's easy to see why.
There's historical information and artefacts galore, plus wildlife spotting charts, a book shop/swap, handmade gifts, locally grown vegetables, free wifi facilities, a children’s play area, tourist information and even a packed events calendar with book signings, poetry recitals, Christmas bazaars and more!
What's more, all money raised at the Land, Sea & Islands Centre goes straight back into projects that will have a positive impact on the village.
Arisaig is nothing short of a creature seeker's BEST FRIEND! The mountains, coastline and woodland that surround the village combine to create the perfect breeding ground for a huge array of stunning and rare wildlife.
From wading birds to whales and sea eagles to stags, those of you who dream of having a close encounter with a wild beast, will be in for a treat in Arisaig.
X-ECUTIVE (SPECIAL OPERATIONS EXECUTIVE)
Did you know that between 1941 and 1943, Arisaig became a hub for the training of Special Operations Executive Agents? Arisaig House, Garramore Lodge, Traigh House and Camusdarach House were transformed into schools which were used to teach officers skills such as evasion, sharp-shooting, unarmed combat, explosives training, communications and parachute training!
Many nationalities were involved; however, a very large contingent of Czech and Slovak officers in particular trained in Arisaig and a memorial, which represents a collapsed parachute, was unveiled in the village in 2009 to honour the many Czechs and Slovaks who fell during the conflict.
If you're after some serious sustenance, ARISAIG IS WHERE IT'S AT! Considering its size, there's oodles of great places to take full advantage of the area's abundant natural produce. From hedgerow to hill and tree to sea, Arisaig is a foodie's paradise:
The Crofter's Rest: Our very own Crofter's Rest serves up great locally sourced pub grub with a side of live music! The most popular items on last year's menu were Loch nan Uamh Mussels, Mallaig Haddock and Beef Brisket! Wheelchair accessible. Dog friendly. GF/VE options always available.
Sound Bites: Marvellous Megan and her mama, Michelle, are behind the newly renovated village cafe where excellent food is served day and night. Megan is vegan (we didn't realise that rhymed until right now!), therefore there's loads of great vegan and vegetarian options. Wheelchair accessible. Dog friendly. GF options.
The Old Library & Lodge: Delightful David & Penny took over the cosy Old Library a few years ago and the menu is packed with delicious locally sourced & imaginative options. GF/VE. Wheelchair accessible.
The Boathouse Cafe: Catherine & Donald-Iain of Arisaig Marine offer customers a great selection of freshly prepared soups, salads and sandwiches as well as an enticing array of homemade cakes and bakes, which can be enjoyed with glorious Loch nan Ceall views! GF/VE. Wheelchair accessible.
Arisaig Shellfish Shack: Paula & Claire transformed our annexed shop into the Shack last June with the objective of serving up Arisaig's world renowned shellfish. Whole cooked crustaceans, shellfish sandwiches & tasty fish tapas tubs are freshly prepared and ready to take the beach!
Arisaig Bread Shed: Chris & Audrey are a total blessing to the village with their sensational fresh-out-of-the-oven sourdough baguettes, seeded loaves and DELICIOUS sweet pastries! They also serve up pizzas on a Saturday night between 5pm and 8pm.
With the freshest of fresh air to fill your lungs, the rhythmic sounds of the sea and all that outdoor action, a trip to Arisaig pretty much guarantees a superb night's sleep (and we're not even exaggerating).
Fresh Air: The air quality in Arisaig is superb! Our brains use almost three times as much oxygen as our muscles, and one of the brain’s major functions is to regulate our body clocks. Therefore, getting a good amount of fresh air will help your brain do its thing.
Nature: Arisaig is quiet! The calming sound of nothing but the sea and the natural world can help to reduce anxiety levels and promote better sleep.
Exercise: The area that immediately surrounds the village is so incredibly beautiful that, come rain or shine, you'll want to embrace as many beaches, hills, glens and forests as you can possibly squeeze into your itinerary! All that extra exercise will have you hitting the land of nod faster than the speed of light!