Iona To Mallaig
ROUTE LENGTH: 131 MILES
From Fionnphort return along the A849 as far as the head of Loch Scridain. Turn left on to the B8035. Follow this all the way to Salen. Turn north on the A848 for Tobermory. Return to Salen, taking the A849 as far as the turn for Sgeir Mhor jetty and the ferry to Lochaline. Go through Morvern on the A884. After rounding the head of Loch Sunart, turn left on the A861. Follow this until you reach the A830 at the head of Loch Ailort. Turn left for Mallaig.
Cyclists can follow the same route as car drivers to Tobermory at the north of Mull. From here there are two or three alternatives:
1). Follow the route for cars back down the A848 and take the ferry to Lochaline. Continue on the car route. After Beasdale station there is an alternative route, avoiding the main road, to Mallaig.
2).From Tobermory take the regular ferry to Kilchoan on Ardnamurchan. Then go east on the B8007 as far as Salen where you will rejoin the route described for cars.
3). Currently there is one ferry/week during the season (4.00 pm on Fridays) between Tobermory and Salen on Ardnamurchan (phone Ardnamurchan Charters on 01972 500208 to check this).
From Salen use the same route as cars until you reach Borrodale. Bear left to follow quieter roads and tracks to Mallaig.
On Mull walkers can use the Ben More Drove road (http://heritagepaths.co.uk/pathdetails.php?HPath=HP219) It is a further four miles by road to Salen. There is a tradition that this route was a pilgrims’ way at the time of St Columba. An old cairn, Carn Cul ri Albainn, stands on top of Mam Clachaig and is said to have been erected by missionaries returning from Iona, at what was the dividing line between Alba and Dalriada.
There is a further drove road, The Acharacle Drove Road (http://heritagepaths.co.uk/pathdetails.php?HPath=HP72), from Glenborrodale to Acharacle (if you have taken the ferry from Tobermory to Kilchoan).
By Public Transport
To check times go to Traveline Scotland and click on Plan your Journey on left side of page.
When checking train times only you can use Scotrail
On Mull there is a bus service along the road between Fionnphort and Craignure, and one up the east side of the island from Craignure to Tobermory, with stops at Fishnish ferry terminal and Salen (Mull)
There is a bus service between Fort William and Kilchoan, stopping at Acharacle, Salen (Ardnamurchan), Glenborrodale and Kilmory.
There are railway stations in Lochailort, Bleasdale, Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig.
Iona became a destination for Columba, but it was also the staging post for wideranging journeys that radiated across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, or Alba as it was then known. The next stage of our journey is equally expansive, passing through the wide spaces of Mull, and crossing by ferry into the sparsely inhabited region of Morvern. In Columba’s time these were the borderlands between the Kingdom of Dalriada with its Irish ties, and the Pictish peoples of the mainland.
At Salen on Loch Sunart, there is a choice between continuing west into Ardnamurchan or turning immediately north into Moidart. The rough lands of Ardnamurchan were heavily wooded in Columba’s day, and the monks of Iona came often by sea, fishing and foresting. They treated Ardnamurchan as if it were another island, but nowadays there is a significant trail by road to the dramatic Ardnamurchan Lighthouse which is the westernmost point on the British mainland. There is a fine St Columba’s Well at Ardslignish on the south side, with magnificent views over the lochs. St Catan was buried at Columba’s instigation in the lovely little Bay of the Strangers below. There is a very old church is at the end of a narrow road on the north side at Kilmory, and another, the Church of St Congan, at Kilchoan on the south.
Moidart, leading into Morar and Arisaig, offers gentler pastures with ancient woods reaching to the lochs and silver sands. The area has a strong religious heritage reaching through Columban and medieval times to the Jacobite era, when Moidart remained loyal to the exiled Stuart kings and their Roman Catholic faith. At Eilean Fhinnin by Dalilea there is St Finnan’s Chuch with its ancient bell, and the burial ground of the Clanranald Chiefs. In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie left here to raise his standard at Glenfinnan, but in 1746 he left here again permanently for Europe after his defeat at Culloden. The road ends at Mallaig though the sea roads continue from there to Skye, the small isles of Canna, Rum, Muck and Eigg, and to the Outer Hebrides. All of these are Columban journeys as the personal influence and heritage of the Saint spread. At this juncture however our route continues by land.
May we have time
to stand and look:
At St Kenneth’s Isle,
At many coloured Tobermory,
At Fuinary of the Macleods-
Friends of the Gael-
At the lighthouse of the West,
At the Prince sailing into exile,
At the silver sands of Morar,
At seafresh Mallaig,
Road to the Isles,
And Columba’s curragh
Touching the beach,
Before our eyes.