Arisaig is a village on the coast of Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands, with a population of about 300. It stands on the "Road to the Isles", the traditional route from the south via Fort William to Mallaig and thence to Skye. You can still travel this way, though most traffic now reaches Skye via the bridge. Arisaig is now on a bypassed loop of the road and is more peaceful as a result.
Get in edit
By train edit
ScotRail run four trains M-Sa (one on Sunday in winter, two in summer) from Glasgow Queen Street along the scenic West Highland Line via Arrochar (for Loch Lomond), Crianlarich (where a portion divides for Oban), Fort William, Glenfinnan, Beasdale and Arisaig to Mallaig. The last train south is around 6:30PM to reach Queen Street by midnight.
The Jacobite steam train runs Apr-Oct between Fort William and Mallaig, and stops by request at Arisaig. It's a six-hour excursion (depart 10:15AM, return by 4PM) allowing two hours in Arisaig. May to mid-Sept there's also an afternoon train (2:30 - 8:30PM), so you could have six hours here, time for a boat trip to the Small Isles, by going in the morning and returning on the afternoon excursion. Trains also stop at Glenfinnan for the obligatory photo of the viaduct. These excursions connect with the Caledonian Sleeper from London. See their website and Fort William#Get in for more info.
Under your own steam, using the regular train service, you can day trip here from Fort William leaving at 8:30AM or noon and setting off back around 4:20PM or 6:30PM, for only £15 adult return, about a quarter of the Jacobite fare.
1 Arisaig railway station is the most westerly on the Great Britain rail network. It's just a platform halt with no facilities, buy your ticket on board if your journey starts here. There is step-free access to Platform 1 and a "barrow" level crossing to Platform 2 towards Fort William.
2 Beasdale railway station is another request stop eight minutes before Arisaig, which may be more convenient for Loch nan Uamh. It's just a platform halt with no facilities, the former station house is privately owned. During World War II this area was used for training "special ops" agents in paramilitary skills, and at Beasdale station they practiced leaping on and off moving trains.
By bus edit
Shiel Buses 500, 502, 505 and 534 run from Fort William three times M-F and once on Saturday, taking an hour via Glenfinnan and Lochailort, and continuing to Morar and Mallaig. The bus stop in Arisaig is by the village shop.
Bus 501 runs from Lochailort and Arisaig to Mallaig once on schoolday mornings, returning in the afternoon, with an extra run on Thursdays.
By road edit
Arisaig is just off A830 the "Road to the Isles", coursing west from the A82 at Fort William to Mallaig. Much of the A830 has been improved, so it's fairly quick driving, but there are a few tight bends.
Get around edit
The village is small, but you need wheels to explore the area.
- 1 Land, Sea and Islands Centre, Arisaig PH39 4NJ, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-4PM, Su 1-4PM. Displays about the social and natural history of the area, including the special ops agents.
- 2 Làrach Mòr is a woodland garden east edge of the village, open daylight hours.
- 3 The Prince's Cairn is where Bonnie Prince Charlie embarked for France on 20 Sep 1746. He'd been on the run for six months since his defeat at Culloden, and this was the sixth attempted rescue by ship with winter approaching and the redcoat dragnet tightening. He left with some 100 supporters, with upbeat promises to return; but France would not commit troops to a further invasion and in 1747 made peace with Britain.
- 4 Loch nan Uamh Viaduct was built of concrete 1897-1901 to carry the railway past the head of the loch. At the larger Glenfinnan Viaduct 15 miles east, there was a legend that a horse and cart fell into one of the bridge pylons during construction and became entombed. Modern imaging could find nothing there, but in 2001 the horse and cart were detected within the central pylon here. Alas, it was too late to save the poor horse.
- Arisaig Sea Kayak Centre lead trips around the coast.
- Golf: Traigh GC is midway between Arisaig and Morar. It's nine holes, twice around is par 68.
- Arisaig Americana is a music festival in June. The next is probably 31 May - 2 June 2024, tbc.
- Arisaig Highland Games and Clan Ranald Gathering are held in July / Aug at Traigh Farm by the golf course, with the next on 31 July 2024. The separate agricultural show is no longer held.
- Spar, 3 Smiddy Flats PH39 4NH (village centre), ☏ . M-Sa 8AM-8PM, Su 9AM-8PM. Small grocery store and post office.
- The Old Library is the best option, see "Sleep".
- Or try nearby Mallaig, which has a couple of seafood restaurants.
Try the hotels.
- Arisaig Hotel, Main Street PH39 4NH (village centre), ☏ . Basic hotel, mixed reviews for comfort and cleanliness.
- Arisaig Bunkhouse next to the hotel is simple but clean. Twin (room only) £50.
- Old Library Lodge, Main Street PH39 4NH (village centre), ☏ . Cosy small hotel with a good restaurant. Closed in January. B&B double £130.
- 1 Rhenetra, B8008 PH39 4NS, ☏ . Charming quirky B&B.
- 2 Sunnyside Croft Touring Site, 2 Bunacaimb PH39 4NT, ☏ , email@example.com. Beautiful beach setting, open Apr-Sep with pitches for camper vans, caravans and tents. Pitch £18 + £10 pp.
As of July 2023, Arisaig and its approach roads have a patchy 4G signal from EE, O2 and Vodafone, but nothing from Three. 5G has not reached this area.
Go next edit
- The road north leads to Mallaig, for year-round ferries to Armadale on Skye, to the Small Isles and to Knoydart.
- In summer the Small Isles can be reached direct from Arisaig by a foot-passenger ferry. Eigg is probably the most pleasant to explore.
- The road east leads through Glenfinnan with its famous railway viaduct, thence to Fort William.