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The Ardnamurchan Peninsula - Slowly And Quickly

Ride Date 12 September 2022

By Ren Withnell

Of course I've hardly slept, I'm camping. That's what it feels like anyhow then Sharon informs me the rain was torrential last night and I don't remember that. And I was snoring, not much mind but occasionally. So yeah, it's plainly clear I've not slept, much.

Today's forecast is the typical British "sunshine and rain" so lord only knows what we're going to get. We're headed for The Ardnamurchan Lighthouse today which is, so I'm told, the most westerly point on the UK mainland. I've been to The Lizard Point, the most southerly bit of mainland UK. I've been to Dunnet Head, most northerly. I suppose I ought to go to Ness Point too one day, but it's sooooo flat around there.

Above the tent and the trees we see blue skies as well as heavy clouds
It's not a bad start to the day so far.

In keeping with the modern tradition Sharon will be relaxing in luxurious comfort on the rear seat of my vehicle. Our monarch of 70 years passed last Thursday but I doubt this will prevent Her Worshipful Sharoness from waving gently with cupped hand as our Queen once did. While she lacks the resources and and a genuine title even she will guardedly admit to being a closet snob you know. She's "poor posh" innit, why she chose a plebiscite like me I'll never know.

It is dry. Definitely not sunny nor particularly warm but dry. Google maps suggests it's only around 35 miles or so to the lighthouse, an easy ride, with the glorious fast swooping Highland roads this ought to an short ride, barely an inconvenience. 

Ahh. Yes. Right of course. Single track. Not a problem we've traversed many-a-mile on single track. I quickly ascertain this single track, while not at all "bustling" is sufficiently busy enough to command my respect. You can't steam into a corner that you cannot see around because there's a very real chance there'll be a motorhome taking up the entire width of the narrow lane. This rather slows our progress.

Not to worry, we have all day, this gentle pace allows us to take in the views. As ever with The Highlands there to our left is a loch, at times merely feet away. To our right it could be a steep hillside, thick damp woodland with moss and ferns, perhaps a small cottage nestled into the scenery or a rare field. We dodge the oncoming traffic, graciously waving a "thanks" to those who pull in and accepting a "thanks" after we've pulled in. Beautiful, but slow going.

Magnificent scenery seen from the road towards Ardnamurchan.
Wow! Being on the back Sharon can take images like this on the move.

We take a brief stretch outside Salen's Jetty Shop. There's not much here save for the stout wooden building of the shop, a jetty (obviously) and a handful of houses. Strontian feels remote, this feels remotely remote. Back on the road I try to imagine a life here. What do you do if you run out of milk in the evening? I have a 24/7/365 petrol station merely 10 minutes walk from my house, their milk ain't cheap but it's there for those desperate times. Life is tea, tea is life.

The sea loch, hills covered in trees, boats in the sheltered bay and a Jetty at Salen
The Jetty at Salen. 

Can you appreciate this wonder and beauty everyday? I am a truly lucky human being you know. I have several places within my house where a simple movement releases clear, clean and drinkable water. In fact I have so much clear, clean and drinkable water I use it to swish my poop to the sewage farm! I use the blooming stuff to (very rarely) clean my motorcycle. I am blessed. And yet I seldom appreciate it as much as I ought. 

Is this the same when you're surrounded by amazing scenery? Or do the locals hanker after 24/7/365 shops? Later research suggests the nearest DIY store is in Fort William, some 33 miles and a ferry ride away. It's 111 miles to the nearest B&Q in Inverness. That's a full day out if you want to go to the store and chose which shade of "midnight cerise" you desire when painting the kitchen wall. Life is very different here.

In the sprawling bustling chaos of Kilchoan (population ~150) there's sunshine, scenery, a place to sit and a small shop. We've probably only covered around 30 miles but this single track is slow going, I bet we've been on the road an hour and a half now and we're still not there. I pull in and we seek drinks and snacks from the shop. Lovely.

Remember yesterday? My contingency plan if there were no space at Sunart Camping in Strontian was to camp at Ardnamurchan Campsite. As a matter of interest we take the side road to the Ardnamurchan Campsite. This is barely even single track, narrow and now without passing places. The campsite is a field down a steep slope and through the farmyard it seems. I imagine how we'd have felt if Strontian had been unavailable. The site is fine, don't get me wrong, it's just a very long way from anywhere, especially for tired, cold and soggy motorcyclists.

The very last section of single track to the lighthouse is SO single track - it has traffic lights. We wait. And wait. I bet the lights have not picked up the motorcycle. Pfffft! We wait. A car comes down from the lighthouse. We wait. I pray for another car behind me. We wait. I'm gunna just have to ride through. Clutch in, into gear - and my light turns green.  It knows, I swear the damn thing knows.

The lighthouse is a lighthouse! Big tall round tower thing with a bright light on top, a few outbuildings and right next to the ocean, just as you expect. It's OK, I'm not here to actually see the light house as such. The lighthouse is an excuse, a raison d'etre to make the journey. The journey is the reason I'm here. Still, while we're here it'd be a shame not have a walk around. The weather is windy and somewhat greyer here. 

A soft top British Racing Green Jaguar E-Type at the Lighthouse, Sharon is looking away out to sea
Sharon's admiring the sea, I'm admiring this Jag E-Type.
Sharon looks out to see, posing in a silly fashion on the rocks by the Lighthouse
Sharon's looking for any handsome sailors.
The lighthouse towers above the rocks and the choppy ocean
It's a lighthouse, definitely a lighthouse.

Her Ladyship's Googling has revealed a beach nearby that she desires to peruse. Sanna Beach is one of those "must see" places that social media likes to throw up (sic (sick)). More single track later and we're parked and walking, fully kitted, over sand dunes. Social media shows you sun-kissed golden beaches, blue skies and beautiful bathing belles. We're being treated to a damn stern wind, cool weather and overcast skies. Not to worry I still have my own beautiful bathing belle with me.

Sharon poses sexily on the sane at Sanna - wearing all her bike gear including her helmet
Our sexy supermodel Sharon looking fabulous in the latest stunning waterproofs at Sanna Beach.
A broad sandy beach with low rocks amid the sand and sea, big rugged hills in the background at Sanna
Sanna Beach, I bet it's lovely in the sunshine.

While Sharon takes a perplexing plethora of photographs I build a damn in the stream, pushing the sand around with my bike boots. I'm impressed with my engineering skills, watching as the stream dries out dowstream and my reservoir grows upstream. When Sharon returns I'm now the 617 Squadron, flooding the Rhine. Men don't grow up, they are simply able to afford more expensive toys.

With all this exercise and excitement I sense there's too much blood in my teastream. Google maps (there's better internet connection out here in the middle of nowhere than I get at home) soon sees us riding a handful of miles to "Puffin Cafe". Puffin Cafe serves us the drinks we need and something sweet which we definitely don't need. Remote places can not afford to only do one thing, while being a cafe it's also the Tourist Information centre and the local village hall too. 

Suitably refreshed it's time to head back to Strontian. After a couple of miles I get behind a blue Citroen C3. C3's are nothing special, but the driver is. She's a local. How can you tell? Speed, and lots of it.

You can't go fast on these roads... unless you have someone in front of you. If there's a campervan or tourist coach coming the other way then she can hit them first and I'll be far enough behind to stop. I can only assume the locals have a system in place that allows them to see around corners to prevent them from hitting tourists like myself or indeed each other. I can keep pace with her - just.

She pulls in to let an oncoming car past, then waves my by. I gesture vigorously a most definite "NO NO!! You go". Mercifully I think she gets it and sets off at warp speed once more. Sharon is not enjoying this. She's being bounced around and all the exquisite scenery is now just a blur of green and blue and grey. I on the other hand am enjoying attacking the narrow road with a slight margin of safety on my side. 

After around 45 minutes of this I'm worn out and I can only imagine Sharon's internal organs have been haphazardly rearranged. As we approach Strontian our leader, our guide, our hooligan minesweeper pulls into the shop near the campsite. We ponder. Does she really have to travel all that distance to go to the shops? There is a shop in Kilchoan and Salen, maybe the Strontian shop is the only one that sells "hard as nails" pills? Maybe she's en-route to the ferry and Fort William, going to work. We don't know.

We haven't been far, probably something like 70 or 80 miles. Even so it's taken up a large portion of the day. By the time we've made tea, eaten, washed up and had a chat the evening is already drawing in. We could, maybe should go to bed right now but it's only 2015 and if I'm in bed now I'll be up and about at 0400. We take another stroll, this time we wander around the posh end of Strontian. 

By posh end I mean one small street with about 4 houses where the people with money live. They're the ones who are likely "retired well" with swish cars and neatly manicured lawns. We then walk down to the loch once more. The waters are calm and tranquil though there's a slight chill in the air. We retire to bed and settle in.

The waters have but the slightest of waves in the darkening skies, the loch is calm
Calm waters as the night closes in all around.

I had misjudged how remote the Ardnamurchan Peninsula is. I'm thankful we didn't need to make our way up to the Ardnamurchan Campsite in the rain and camp there, that would have been epic and "tiresome". I'm thankful the weather's been on our side too so far. The peninsula is all I'd hoped for and expect - remote, rugged, a tad quirky and beautiful. As I drift off I can't get the question of what life here is really like out of my head. The fact is I'll never really know unless I live here. Could I live here? It's a long way to the nearest bike shop.

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Prologue - This Time It Is Up North Ren has made this kind of trip many times and several trips of much greater magnitude. The bikes are fine and everything is under control. Don't worry dear readers, Ren is worried about having nothing to worry about.
A Successfully Dull Day The job of the day is simply moving 2 people on 2 motorcycles around 280 miles north. Is it worth the effort?
Speed, Strontian, Showers And Silliness At last! The Dynamic Muppets finally get into The Highlands properly. There's a couple of things for Ren to moan about, particularly that Sharon is far too happy.
The Ardnamurchan Peninsula - Slowly And Quickly It's not far from Strontian to The Ardnamurchan Lighthouse... or is it? The weather ain't too bad and there's a lovely bathing belle on the beach that requires Ren's attention
Dangerous Distractions, Draughts And Dapper Drivers Not all is as perfect as one would wish for today. There's a draught or two and a lairy scary moment. All in all though things seem to be going acceptably well for The Dynamic Muppets.
The Majesty And Magnificence Of Mull By keeping his expectations in check Ren finds the small island of Mull to be a delight. Apparently it's all about the journey not the destination though.
Spendthrifts And Sumptuous Scenery Ren's wallet is quivering in fear and loathing as Sharon seeks the comfort of a real bed. Maybe the scintillating scenery will be sufficient to ease Ren's pain?
From The Sublime To The Ridiculous The day starts well with a full breakfast and good weather. The day goes well too considering the dynamic muppets are back in the throngs of civilisation. Ren's choice of accommodation isn't quite to Sharon's liking though.
Favourable Freeways And A Grotty Grotto After last night's debacle this time Sharon's choosing the overnight location, making it much more amenable. Ren decides the roads hereabout have much to offer too.
Epilogue - Home And Thoughts It's the final day of this Scottish trip. With regret Sharon and Ren must return home to their regular lives. Ren reflects on the changes in Scotland and considers his next moves.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
Nice write up Ed.
And yes, the lights do know.
Living remotely? I think you'd be OK Ed. Whilst our little town is nowhere near as remote, we have a convenience store......and pubs don't you know. But it is a long way to Kelso, Berwick-upon-the-Tweed or Alnwick upon the Aln if you need a supermarket etc. Probably around 20 Miles each way and about half a hour in the measurement of time.
This afternoon will see us attending Wansbeck Hospital, which is our nearest full blown Hospital, I spose it'll be about a 100 miles return journey but probably only about one hour each way and parking is easy and cheap'ish.
You simply get used to it and you don't forget the milk more than once.
But I admit there is remote and remote, remote, and that peninsula is remote, remote.
Keep it coming you wandering minstrels.
24/11/2022 13:01:59 UTC
Bogger said :-
Remotes ok until you get old.

I have an idea for you and Sharon to spice things up a bit. No, no, no get your mind out of the gutter ED.

Why don't you ride pillion on the back of Sharon. What a splendid idea. I commend it to the house!

24/11/2022 20:16:08 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
Nice write up Ren, and educational.
I had always thought (mistakenly) that St Davids was the most westerly point on the UK mainland.
I second the motion that you should spend some time as pillion.
Back in the 70s I spent some time on the back of my wife when she was learning to ride.
24/11/2022 21:11:05 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
We were once out on our 125s. I pulled us into a quiet side lane near where Sharon lives. I hopped on the back of her 125 and she set off. I managed about 3 yards before I saw my life flash before my eyes and started screaming like a 4 year old who's just had his sweeties taken off him.

I'm not sure an scared tensed up 80+ kg blerk on the back of 50kg Sharon's 100kg 125 is perhaps the best introduction to carrying a pillion for Her Ladyship.
25/11/2022 08:26:26 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
It's many years since my - very few - pillion rides. I hated them then. In fact I loathe being driven / piloted by anyone else under any circumstances. This has caused a certain amount of domestic friction (quiet at the back you louts).
25/11/2022 13:13:39 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ahhhh, domestic friction, you can get lube for that, SAE 10W40 works well. You know we haven't had an oil thread in ages.
I'm with you Mr.Soady sir, I haven't got a clue why Er'Indoors goes on the back, but I'm glad she does.
25/11/2022 16:51:31 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'm not too keen on your domestic lubricant Upt', are we talking new 10w40 or used?

I'm not a fan of being pillion but I can do it satisfactorily if required. As for being a passenger in a car? It depends on the driver - I'm pleased to report Sharon's driving is up to scratch.
28/11/2022 13:56:53 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
He's told us how far from the shops he is so I suppose when the mood is on him he'll just grab whatever's nearest......

As long as he doesn't do what I did once - reached for a tim of GT85 to free an awkward fastening and picked up spray glue instead. Took ages to clean it all off. It might be worse in what you delicately describe as a domestic situation.
29/11/2022 12:48:49 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
HAHAAA! Oh Ian that made me larf. I have this image of Upt' in a domestic situation with the long suffering Mrs North, finding themselves in need of embarrassing medical assistance.
29/11/2022 17:07:53 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Long suffering?
I'm a delight.
29/11/2022 17:10:22 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'm sure Mrs North would offer a different point of view on that Upt'.
29/11/2022 22:16:45 UTC
Borsuk said :-
So Ren, I think I am channelling Ian but for how long has Sharon been dating an election.

"she chose a plebiscite like me I'll never know." I think you mean plebian or pleb, a plebicite is a bit different.

Why was Sharon looking for handsome sailors, she has met me, the rest would all be a disappointment.
07/12/2022 13:45:45 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Yes you must be - funnily enough I was going to say the same but thought I was deep enough into Ren's bad books already.
07/12/2022 14:35:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The plebiscite mistake has already been pointed out to me - in a most polite email from the most polite Rev. Mick! I did consider correcting my error but I chose to leave it in place to ensure you all had something to gripe and moan about.

Plebiscite - the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.

Plebeian - a commoner.

Pleb - a person called Ren who knows how to use online dictionaries after the fact.
07/12/2022 16:52:56 UTC

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