About the Area

Our area is wild, remote and beautiful. It is a paradise for walkers, rich in wildlife and steeped in history. It includes numerous SSSIs, National Scenic Areas and Special Areas of Conservation, more details of which can be found on the Sunart Oakwoods Initiative website. The Sunart Oakwoods are a rare survival of a temperate rain forest in Scotland, and include many walks and a superb wildlife hide at Ardery, on Loch Sunart.

The oldest rocks in the area are from the Moine era, about 1000 million years old, but more recently, a huge volcano erupted about 60 miliion years ago - the shattered main cone is still a landscape feature to the north of Kilchoan, and lava (basalt) outcrops are visible everywhere in the area. Ardnamurchan was already inhabited relatively soon after the ice sheets retreated following the last ice age - glacial action was a major factor in creating the stunning landscapes you see today, and few places in Britain attract so many geologists.

The climate is surprisingly mild - we benefit from the North Atlantic Drift, an offshoot of the Gulf Stream, and we are affected by Atlantic weather systems, and these factors keep our winters mild, even though we are further north than Moscow.

Viking Kings ruled the area until 1263, and this influence is reflected in many local place names. The Viking language never usurped Gaelic, however, which is widely-spoken in this area and is taught at the local schools.

Religion had a great influence on the more recent history of the area, which was a largely-Catholic domain, and this was doubtless a major factor in the choice of landing-place for the Pretender, Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) when he came ashore from a French frigate in Loch na Uamh, south of Arisaig, in 1745. He travelled down via Kinlochmoidart to Dalilea and thence up Loch Shiel to Glenfinnan, where he raised his standard to rally his supporters for the march on London.

The eventual failure of his campaign was an influence on the break-up of the Highland clan system. Many (but not all) landowners drove folk off the land to make way for sheep, and this, together with a massive increase in population, and, later, the potato famines of the 1840s, drove many people to emigrate to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA in huge numbers. Their villages, roofless and abandoned, and their overgrown cultivation beds can be seen all over the area today. After almost 150 years, the regional population of Lochaber is approaching what it was in the mid-nineteenth century, the difference being that most folk nowadays live in the towns - and the rural areas such as Moidart and Ardnamurchan are still underpopulated.

We still have a huge variety of wildlife, some of it locally common - thousands of Red Deer - and some of it nationally rare - White-tailed and Golden Eagles, Pine Martens, Red Squirrels and of course Otters. Off our coasts you may see whales and porpoises, Basking Sharks, and a huge variety of seabirds. Winter sees an influx of northern visitors including Whooper Swans. The Sunart Oakwoods Initiative have an excellent wildlife hide at Ardery, between Salen and Strontian, and they also have an informative website.

Walkers will find stunning and challenging routes all over our local hills - see our walking page. Our highest mountain, Rois Bheinn, is almost 3000 feet high - we have no Munros (mountains over 3000 feet) and this means our hills are not overcrowded with Munro Baggers trying to complete their list - the result is sublime and empty hills for you to enjoy.

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