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Loch nan Ceall from Arisaig, with Eigg in the Distance
Loch nan Ceall from Arisaig, with Eigg in the Distance

You can think of Arisaig as the place where the Road to the Isles and its accompanying railway strike the west coast of Morar and turn north towards their destination at Mallaig.

Arisaig's Shops
Arisaig's Shops
Boats at Anchor in Loch nan Ceall
Boats at Anchor in Loch nan Ceall
The Old Library
The Old Library

Arisaig used to be seen as a haven set between some quite challenging stretches of single track road. 25 years ago white lines down the centre of a road were a rarity anywhere between Fort William and Mallaig. Nowadays the road has been dramatically improved.

Arisaig Railway Station
Arisaig Railway Station
The Arisaig Hotel
The Arisaig Hotel
Arisaig from the Harbour
Arisaig from the Harbour

The opening of a new length of high quality road from Arisaig north to Morar in 2003 and another, from Arisaig south east to Loch Nan Uamh in 2009, leaves no single track stretches of road between Fort William and Mallaig. As an added bonus, the new road takes through traffic bound for Mallaig out of Arisaig, making it even more attractive.

The village itself is a nice collection of largely white-painted buildings scattered between the harbour and the line of the new road to Morar, across the hillside just below Arisaig's railway station. It offers a reasonable selection of shops, local services and accommodation, and in summer can become quite busy.

Arisaig railway station is on the line from Fort William to Mallaig. The station lies a little way inland from and above the main centre of the village; but is worth the trip for the views it provides over Arisaig and Loch nan Ceall, the loch of the churches: the very rocky sea loch at whose head Arisaig stands.

Arisaig's pier on Loch nan Ceall isn't the most pretty you'll find in Scotland, but it is both functional and effective. And lovers of boats will enjoy exploring the area and seeing the range of activity under way. The pier is also the terminus for summer boat trips out to Eigg, visible through the rocks and islets guarding the loch entrance, and to Muck and Rum. These provide an interesting alternative to the better known Small Isles Ferry from Mallaig and the trips do allow some time on shore.

Looking out over tranquil Loch nan Ceall today, it is difficult to believe it saw a naval battle in 1746 when two French ships sent to help the Jacobites after the Battle of Culloden were caught by the Royal Navy in the loch (see our Historical Timeline). The French escaped, after landing their gold. This was subsequently carried inland to Loch Arkaig, where it was allegedly hidden and subsequently lost.

Arisaig lies at the southern end of The Silver Sands of Morar. Indeed, the entire coastline here is quite sublime. To the east the main road skirts Loch nan Uamh. Here can be found The Prince's Cairn, marking the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie finally embarked for France on 20 September 1746 after evading the government forces that had been trying to capture him since Culloden.

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