After our long drive through one of the most scenic routes in the Scottish Highlands, we decided to switch things up a notch and “go slow” (though in all honesty, we’d decided this well in advance of even arriving in Scotland).
The day started with a short drive over the bridge to the Isle of Skye, which I have to admit, was my biggest regret on this trip.
As you probably already know, the Isle of Skye is absolutely amazing and although I wanted to see so much more of the Highlands than just the ‘obvious stuff’ (there’s just so much more to the Highlands than it’s popular sights), I definitely would have loved to have spent more time exploring the rugged beauty that is the Isle of Skye; even if just for a few more hours driving around this island. (Then again, I guess this is a huge reason to head back up here again very soon… 😉 ).
We actually ended up spending just a couple of hours here; we drove over here to catch a ferry and with limited time on our hands, headed over to Armadale Castle – the former home to the MacDonald clan.
Not much remains of the castle except for its rather impressive façade so you although you won’t need to spend too long here, it’s absolutely worth a visit. Plus, it’s right next to the ferry terminal so you have no reason not to go really…
Major sidebar: A better way to spend a few hours here (from the suggestions I got afterwards) would have been to do something of a scenic drive here (it’ll take like 20-25min). To do it, you drive to Toskavaig bay between Tarskavaig and Ord and walk to Dunscaith Castle (there’s a walking route here if you’ve got even more time to spare). Dunscaith Castle is said to be pretty impressive – it dates back to the 1300s is thought to be the oldest standing castle on the Isle of Skye: although not much of it is actually still standing. 😀 The castle was originally built for the MacAskills clan but it passed quite early in its life to the MacLeods clan (my knowledge of Scottish clans is some worth lacking but if you’re into Scottish history, you’ll have a field day here.
The Ferry you need to catch by the way is the Calmac Ferry, which takes you over to Mallaig in the Lochaber area.
Apparently, Lochaber is the outdoors capital of Scotland; I guess that means there’s a lot of outdoorsy stuff to do here – ergo why the Slow Adventures movement (and indeed, collective) was created. The whole idea with Slow Adventures is to actually get to immerse yourself in your surroundings and I guess just actually enjoy the Highlands in depth.
Our ‘Slow Adventures’ started the way all good adventures should start (I reckon) – and that is with food!
Our lunch plans were basically to forage for food by the seaside in Arisaig (which we drove to from Mallaig) and then cook this food for lunch.
I have to be honest here – I’ve never really been much for foraging. My biggest fear with foraging is my profound lack of knowledge as to what to eat and what not to eat.
Even when it comes to simple things like picking blackberries, I’m the kind of person that would reach lower down the bushes with everyone else screaming in horror in an attempt to stop me – apparently, you never go low with the blackberry bushes as the foxes could have pee’d on the berries lower down. You always go as high as possible.
I’m just generally terrified of picking or trying to eat the wrong thing so I don’t even try. Meeting Leon from Wildwood Bushcraft absolutely changed that (for starters, Leon studied all this stuff back at University – after which be promptly fell in love with Scotland, and hasn’t left since).
They check things like algae bloom with the official organisations in Scotland to make sure everything is all okay before heading out to go foraging.
Foraging here means you can find oysters, different kinds of seaweed and other seafood.
Apparently, all seaweed is edible (there’s no poisonous seaweed) and also the reason why you get sick from bad shellfish is because shellfish basically suck up all the stuff they get in the water which means if they’re in contaminated water (e.g. water that’s near sewage plants brimming with E. Coli), then you’re gonna end up ingesting whatever is in the water. The things you learn from foraging here, eh?
Areas like Arisaig are some of Scotland’s most pristine coastlines (which isn’t unusual when it comes to the Scottish Highlands (Scottish seafood – and especially Scottish salmon is famous for a reason) so you know you can get good stuff when you’re here.
Anyway, enough about my seafood and foraging rambling, long story short – we foraged for food with Leon’s expert advice and cooked it all up for something of a very real and rustic experience of the Scottish Highlands! Definitely not a bad way to have lunch when you’re up here (you do also get to learn more about the area and the wildlife here but lunch is a big win here… 😉 ).
Fed and watered, we bade Leon farewell and headed off to find something of a hidden gem here – Camusdarach Beach; a long stretch of fine white sands dipping into cool blue waters.
You’d have no idea the beach was here if someone didn’t tell you. You park up several meters away from it 100 – 200 metres away from it (there’s a car park) and you still can’t see it as you navigate through long grass and tiny little footpaths.
The beach itself is definitely worth a stop – even if just for a little bit.
On leaving the beach, our next stop was the Loch Shield hotel, where we would be spending the night but this route from Arisaig to Acharacle (where Loch Shield hotel is) is one that’s filled with several reasons to keep wanting to stop.
Rolling hill, beautiful Lochs and even an absolutely stunning castle… which is right next to an equally amazing sunset if you arrive at the right time.
The castle here is Castle Tioram and it’s one that’s arguably as impressive as Eilean Donan Castle (albeit perhaps more derelict).
Sat on the edge of the Loch, you’ll struggle to leave this spot as the sun dips and the sky burns a fiery orange, moulting into even more amazing hue of pink and blue.
Eventually, we had to say goodbye to Castle Tioram as our bellies rumbled from hunger (I did say that fresh Highlands air will get you 😉 😀 ).
Over at Loch Shiel we ended up having one of the most story-book Scottish nights ever. It started off with fish and chips for dinner (for me) and a Scottish Beef burger for Lloyd (told you, that boy likes his burgers) finished off with a sticky toffee pudding for me (love the stuff) and a Sundae for Lloyd.
We then headed over to the pub area of the hotel for a drink or two and before you know it, got stuck into conversation with some of the locals who regaled us with tales from far and wide (seriously, it was from the local area right up to Hong Kong).
There was loud chattering, followed by equally loud laughing and even more drinks! Such an absolutely fun way to finish off an already amazing day in the Highlands – and not to mention, to actually get to meet the brilliant folk who live in the area.