Ancient Celtic traditions say that over the western sea, beyond the edge of any map, lies the afterlife. Sitting at Ardnamurchan campsite it’s certainly easy to believe, as you watch the sun torch the ocean between the scattered Hebrides, that you’re as close as you can get to Heaven on Earth.
The site clings to the coast just a few miles from the tip of a rocky finger of land that’s as far west as Britain goes.You approach it (slowly) via a ferry and a sinuous single-track road that hems in the crumpled and craggy landscape and makes getting here an escapade in itself. The site is situated to the west of the beautiful village of Kilchoan, on a small south-facing croft that has stunning views down the Sound of Mull to Morven and Mull. This far-flung location makes it the most westerly campsite on the British mainland.
Remarkably, it has been brought into being by one man, Trevor Potts, who has turned an old croft into this Elsyian camping field. The site may seem rough-and-ready at first glance, a slice of wild hillside only just tamed, but as you settle in you’ll appreciate just how much Trevor has done to make the site welcoming. Every pitch has been cut from the slope and levelled by Trevor’s own hand, and he has recently vanquished a field of seven-foot high bracken to open up a new camping area. It was Trevor who single-handedly built the ablutional stuff with all the recycled materials he could, it was even he who built the replica of Shackleton’s remarkable little boat that stands next to the campsite. There is nothing fancy or arty about what Trevor has done here, but he did it all himself, and everything fits in neatly with the surroundings. It feels like you’re camping on a genuine working highland croft – which is what this site used to be.
Pitches range from neat nooks with hook-ups near the washblock to wilder spots closer to the shore. If you camp right at the bottom of the slope you will be lulled to sleep by the wash of wave on rock. If the weather is being boisterous, you may even find the spray will splash your tent! The foreshore is rough, rocky and just right for a scramble. You can catch creatures in the rockpools, throw stones at the waves or simply watch the ferries weaving their way along the sound to islands that seem off the edge of the world. The facilities are humble and homely, with surprisingly powerful showers. Flowers add a burst of colour to the whitewashed walls, and there can’t be many washblocks that have their own whale skeleton to fascinate campers on the way to the loo.
So, what else does the Ardnamurchan Peninsula have to tempt campers? Well, some of the loveliest beaches on the planet can be found around the campsite’s edges, as well as a remarkable remnant of a volcano (unlike any other in Britain) nearby. A fairly unique experience, it may just pique your interest in all things geological. Just a few miles away are the glorious sands of Sanna, lapped by turquoise waters. The drive there takes you through a jagged, almost extra-terrestrial landscape of steep cliffs and snaggle-toothed ridges. If you’d visited 55 million years ago you’d have witnessed the epic volcanic spectacle. Fastforward through a few Ice-Age scourings and today you see a rocky ring more than three miles across.
Further on around the coast, another age of history was brought back to life at Swordle Bay in 2011, when archaeologists unearthed a rare treasure – a Viking burial boat, virtually intact, although you can’t see much more now than the mound of stones that marks the spot. You can, however, watch an occasional summer recreation of the boat’s burial – an impressive sight. Back at the site, it’s not hard to understand why people have been coming here for thousands of years.
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Basic and quaintly ramshackle, with toilets, showers, laundry and dishwashing facilities. 20 pitches and 4 campervan hook-ups, 2 loos and 2 free, powerful showers. You can also hire 1 of 2 caravans and a bothy. Washing-up area with fridge. Internet access. No campfires.
Tents, campervans, groups, dogs – yes. Large motorhomes, caravans – no.
Stroll on the sandy beach at Sanna, reached by passing through an extraordinary volcanic landscape. Visit the lighthouse at Ardnamurchan Point, the most westerly part of the British mainland, and climb the tower (01972 510210). Nearby Ben Hiant is a terrific wee mountain with superb views. You can also pop over to Tobermory on Mull by ferry from Kilchoan (0800 066 5000).
Food & Drink
There’s a fine and fun coffee shop in an old stable at the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. Bar meals and finer evening dining are on offer at the Kilchoan House Hotel (01972 510200), 1½ miles away. Guests are also encouraged to bring their own instruments along to create impromptu music in the public bar. So if you’re a budding KT Tunstall or Jack Johnson pack that guitar alongside your tent. There’s also good food available at the Sonachan Hotel (01972510211), on the way to the lighthouse.
April – Sept.
No availability showing at Ardnamurchan.
Ardnamurchan, Ormsaigberg, Kilchoan, Acharacle PH36 4LL
It is possible to get here by public transport (but one heck of an effort). Take a train to Oban, ferry to Mull, then bus to Tobermory, from where the ferry to Kilchoan sails. Then it’s a further 3 mile-trek to the campsite. City Link buses (08705 505050) and trains (Scotrail 01397 703791) run to Fort William, from where Shiel Buses run a daily service to Kilchoan Post office (01967 431272), which is less than a mile from the campsite.
ReviewsAdd Your Review
Rated ★★★★★ over 15 reviews
Stunning view and friendly atmosphere
Stayed one night in June. Weather was great and the views were beautiful. Small site with a quirky feel to it. Basic facilities which were clean and there was plenty hot water. Peaceful and quiet with plenty space.
We stayed mid July for 3 nights and had the most amazing time. The view is amazing to wake up to in the morning sauntering along the rocky shore or just sitting watching the waves crahs and the boats pass was so peaceful. Having taken our bikes with us we enjoyed exploring the surrounding areas and beaches, cycling to the lighthouse was hilly but worth it and only took us a little over an hour to get there. The facilities are basic but just what you need if you love the outdoors and camping. I will definitely be returning in the future.
Worth the drive!
We camped as a family here in August - pitched up just next to the seafront with views out towards the Isle of Mull - stunning. Waking up in the morning and having your coffee looking out to sea made the twisty-turny single-track carriageway out there and back again worth it, most definitely! Caught the ferry to Tobermory with our boys and had a very fine fish lunch at the Cafe Fish - restaurant just on top of the white building that's at the ferry port - we passed by it at first and had to double back to find it - super-fresh seafood and a great selection of local beers. Lovely hosts at the campsite, great place to wander about and clamber on rocks. Very basic but perfect.
The Campsite at the End of the Road...
We have just returned from Ardnamurchan where we spent seven nights over Whitsun half term at Trevor's site, perched on the coast at Ormsaigbeg. It's a long way from where we live in Wharfedale and it's not over on crossing the Corran Ferry. The drive to Strontian is on normal single carriageway but very soon after becomes single track with passing places. The drive alongside Loch Sunart is stunning and safely taken at a very steady pace. This will give you a chance to avoid locals who don't slow down for anything. Turn left in Salen and head for Kilchoan, carry on past Pier Road (which leads down to the Tobermory ferry); straight on at the right hand turn to Sanna and on to Ormsaigbeg. Turn right up the hill past the shop and then another 3/4 mile will take you to the Ardnamurchan Study Centre and Campsite on your left.
Turning on to the site one drops down past the washup and WC's, the office is on the right next door to the Whalebone Bothy. Trevor is a taciturn character but welcoming and very relaxed about where you pitch up. The site runs steeply down to the stony beach and pitches are on terraces on either side of the central stone track. The right hand field is not so terraced and has great pitches close to the sea. We pitched on the left close to the sea. There is very little topsoil and the ground is quite boggy the further away from the fence you head. Taking your car on to the boggy area is not recommended. You also need some pretty strong pegs and a serious hammer. We use the three plane spike type pegs and managed to bend three... If use wind gets up this could be an issue if you haven't got things well pegged out.
Facilities are basic but clean and the showers are hot and powerful. There are two loos and two showers and a washup shed with a fridge by the entrance. The office reception and study room provide shelter and free electricity for charging phones etc. There is also wifi as there is only GPRS no 3G.
The site is basic, it's a long way away but I can tell you that if you like camping like it used to be then this is the spot. There's no playground but the beach, no bar but what you take with you (it's a mile walk to the Kilchoan Hotel and the shop is well stocked and a bit closer) and no airs and graces. It's location is magical and we loved every minute. We took bikes and only took the car off the site twice and one of those was simply to drive to the ferry for a day out on Mull - we went as foot passengers.
The view across to Ben Hiant and then to Mull, the constant movement of vessels on the water, the location is everything. A warm welcome from Trevor, reasonable price and good basic facilities gets five stars from us.
We love Ardnamurchan !! We came to stay in May 2013 (for the 2nd time). Its a great beauty spot and both times we've visited its been fairly quiet! The road to the campsite - MY GOD! - but its definitely worth it!
Relaxing, beautiful and peaceful. The view is addictive! A brilliant place to get away from it all and just get back to basics. The scenery is stunning - hard to leave. The facilities are simple but are absolutely fine, to be honest anything more on the site would spoil it. Everything is clean and the showers are surprisingly powerful. A bonus was being able to BBQ and have a campfire at night.
Great ferry ride to Tobermory and Sanna beach is well worth a visit. Lots of little places to stop and the home baking is delicious. Although a long journey to get here it was so worth the effort. Next time we will come via Oban and the isle of Mull.
Well done to Trevor for creating such a fabulous spot for us all to enjoy :-)
Seriously get away from it all! If you want shops and touristy things forget it, but for the best beaches in the world and the best rock pools in the world, and a volcano this is for you. Fantastic campsite great views, great wildlife, facilities a bit rustic but trust me you won,t mind once you are here. A completely relaxing place and well worth the long journey. Really can,t wait to go back- we almost didn',t come back!
After the most scenic journey along the southern shore of the peninsula, climbing through the volcanic landscape you arrive in Kilchoan truly feeling like you are at the edge of the world. We arrived on a warm spring evening welcomed by the scent of swathes of bluebells and the chirping of songbirds interspersed with cuckoo calls and the cries of seabirds. We were lucky enough to get a pitch a stones throw from the waters edge. Tent up, we sat drinking red wine watching an otter slowly making his way along the shore as the sun sank. Between the outlines of Mull and Morvern an enormous gold moon rose shining across the water to our little haven. Our kids pottered on the shore or made friends at the tree swing (the social hub for kids!). Breakfast was shared with chaffinches and a seal joined us in the bay. We loved our weekend on this site - it oozes rustic charm and teems with wildlife. The facilities are basic and quirky which add to the charm and are kept immaculately clean. Campfires are a must for our children and you are welcome to light up on the rocky shore (firewood can be purchased along with nearly everything else in the local store). There is an abundance of things to see and do in the area (if you love the outdoors!) but the best bit when here is just relaxing by your pitch watching the ever changing weather/landscape/wildlife. When we got home TV seemed a poor substitute! Will look forward to returning again armed with a good set of binoculars!
Ardnamurchan - place of inspiration
I always thought of myself as a five-star girl. Camping? Pftooey! Give me jacuzzis and feather beds. It was a grudging camping trip to Ardnamurchan that turned me. The first time I visited I was a camping virgin (rock festivals do not count, whatever they tell you), and I was anxious that I wouldn't bend to its naive charms. But when I arrived at this small picturesque site, I saw a solo female camper, sitting outside her wee tent, glass of wine in hand, dog sitting by her side. She sat there for hours, just looking at the devastatingly lovely view before her (while I wrestled and sweated to erect my unfathomable tent). She was a picture of calm and I wanted to be her. That evening - once the blasted tent was up - I wandered a few yards down to the beach, and looked for fossils and poked around for crabs in rock pools. I found neither, but that day, a new side of me was born.
Ardnamuchan is a small site: cosy, with basic, but perfectly serviceable amenities, and that is part of its charm. Here you feel a million miles from everything, and the glory of the water and the Isle of Mull is spread out for what feels like your own personal pleasure. Pitch down by the water and you feel at one with the scenery. Here, you can almost feel your blood pressure fall.
No trip review of the west coast is honest without mention of the midges and Ardnamuchan suffers, as do they all. Pray there's a slight wind to keep the little blighters at bay, but for goodness sake, pack your attractive midge hat. It may make the drinking of the wine more troublesome, but rest assured, it's not impossible.
the end of the earth
This is a beautiful place with stunning scenery however the owner needs to do maintenance, benches were rotten and the fridge in poor condition as well as broken washer facilities,a thorough clean of the facilities is sorely needed. Showers are good temperature but non adjustable and are on 30 second timers. We stayed for seven nights and it was a great place to visit. The views from the campsite are amazing. There is a midgie problem around the site so take a net with you as we were bitten loads despite using skin so soft.
The Ferry Stores local shop is amazing and stocks everything you could need for a camping trip and good prices considering location.
Go and see the lighthouse (say hi to Danny the lighthouse dog!), Tobemory and Sanna beach while you are there.
The Kilchoan Hotel serves a good pint but food is mediocre at best and very expensive for what you get.
The Sonachen hotels food was a lot better,cheaper and nicer place however let down by poor customer attention. Out of the two this one is your best bet.
In summary I have given four stars as its a great place to visit and the site has all you need but let down by maintenance but don't let that put you off, go, you will love it! Hopefully the campsite owner will invest a bit in the sites upkeep soon!