Ardnamurchan (//, Scottish Gaelic: Àird nam Murchan: headland of the great seas) is a 50-square-mile (130 km2) peninsula in Lochaber, Highland, Scotland, noted for being very unspoilt and undisturbed. Its remoteness is accentuated by the main access route being a single track road for much of its length.
Strictly speaking Ardnamurchan covers only the peninsula beyond the villages of Salen (in the south) and Acharacle (in the north), but nowadays the term is used more generally to include the neighbouring districts of Sunart, Ardgour, Morvern, and even Moidart (which was part of the former county of Inverness-shire, not Argyll).
Ardnamurchan Point, which has a 36-metre (118 ft) tall lighthouse built on it, is commonly described as the most westerly point of the British mainland although Corrachadh Mòr, a kilometre to the south, is a few metres further west.
The whole north western corner of Ardnamurchan contains a complex of underground volcanic structures, often described, perhaps inaccurately, as a caldera. These originate from a 55 million-year-old volcanic complex. Relatively small areas of lava that were ejected onto the surface are found in some parts of the peninsula. At least seven other similar complexes of the same tectonic episode are dotted up the west coast of Britain, and these are popular sites for many university geological training courses. Geological research is continuing in the area. The sub-concentric rings of the volcanic complex can easily be seen in satellite photographs and topographic maps, though they are less obvious on the ground.
Donaldson identifies "Buarblaig" (now referred to as Bourblaige, about 5 miles (8 km) east of Kilchoan on the other side of Ben Hiant, grid reference NM546623) with Muribulg, where the Annals of Tigernach record a battle between the Picts and the Dalriads in 731. It may also be the 'Muirbole Paradisi' mentioned by Adomnán. Although its stone foundations still remain, the village of Bourblaige no longer exists, as it was destroyed in the Highland Clearances in the early 19th century.
Tradition has it that there have been at least two battles in the bays between Gortenfern and Sgeir a' Chaolais, in the northeast of the peninsula across Kentra Bay from Ardtoe. One involved the Vikings, the other may have been fought in 1297 in Cul na Croise between the forces of Edward I of England and islanders under Roderick of Bute and Lachlan MacRuari of Garmoran. Relics of a Viking ship burial in Cul na Croise have been given to the West Highland Museum at Fort William.
In 2011, a Viking ship burial, probably from the 10th century, was unearthed at Port an Eilean Mhòir on Ardnamurchan. Grave goods buried alongside a Viking warrior found in the boat suggest he was a high-ranking warrior. The Ardnamurchan Viking was found buried with an axe, a sword with a decorated hilt, a spear, a shield boss and a bronze ring pin. Other finds in the 5 metre long (16ft) grave in Ardnamurchan included a knife, what could be the tip of a bronze drinking horn, a whetstone from Norway, a ring pin from Ireland and Viking Age pottery.
Villages in Ardnamurchan:
- Acharacle (Àth Tharracail)
- Achnaha (Achadh na h-Àtha)
- Glenborrodale (Gleann Bhorghdail)
- Kilchoan (Cille Chòmhghain)
- Kilmory (Cill Mhóire)
- Ockle (Ocal)
- Portuairk (Port Uairce)
- Salen (An t-Sàilean)
- Sanna (Sanna)
Fauna and scenery
Ardnamurchan is widely considered by many who visit it to be one of the most stunning parts of the Scottish coast. It is beautiful, utterly wild and unspoilt. The most stunning of all, perhaps, is Ardnamurchan Point, adjacent to the most westerly point on the British mainland. Here there is a lighthouse, and a view from a sheer rock face of the open Atlantic Ocean.
Notes and references
- Site Record for Ardnamurchan, Bourblaige, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
- Donaldson, M E M (1923), Wanderings in the Western Highlands and Islands
- ScotlandsPlaces - Ardnamurchan, Bourblaige
- Site Record for Ardnamurchan, Gortenfern, Sgeir A' Chaolais; Gorten Bay, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The bays of Cul na Croise and Camas an Lighe are in grid reference NM6269.