The road to the Isles is considered as one of the best drives in Scotland. Travelling from Fort William to Mallaig you will see some of the best scenery in the whole world with stunning mountain views, white sandy beaches, stunning shimmering lochs, historical places and great views of the isles of Eigg, Rum, Muck, Skye and Canna. The length of the drive is approx 45 miles and worth every minute. Discover some of the best places to stop and see in our guide below.
Neptune’s Staircase and Corpach
Starting from Fort William you will pass Neptune’s Staircase, a flight of eight lochs designed by Thomas Telford forms a spectacular section of the Caledonian Canal, further along the road you will drive through Corpach where you can find great views of Ben Nevis by the canal and definitely worth a stop to get an iconic picture of this mountain, find the left turn to the Canal Lock at Corpach Basin by Loch Linnhe for the perfect picture.
Driving further along the A830 passed Loch Eil, you will drive by lovely views on the road to Glenfinnan. When you reach Glenfinnan you can park at the visitor centre and view the Glenfinnan Monument directly across the road at the head of Loch Shiel in the other direction you will see the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct featured in the Harry Potter films. You can take a short walk to get closer or even venture up the hills to get that perfect photograph of a steam train crossing the viaduct. Glenfinnan is a great historical place where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard at the start of the Jacobite Rising in 1745, much more information can be found in the visitor centre.
Loch Nan Uamh, The Prince’s Cairn
Further along the road you will pass two more lochs, Loch Eilt and Loch Ailort before you cross the Ardnish Peninsula to reach the spectacular Loch Nan Uamh. At the Loch you will find a stone that marks the departure place of Bonnie Prince Charlie after the Jacobite Rising. The prince left mainland Scotland on 20th September 1746 on a French Frigate that would carry him to safety and would never set foot in Scotland again. Loch Nan Uamh is a sea loch and if you are lucky you may spot seals and other marine life in the area.
Arisaig is a must place to stop especially if you require some refreshments or a toilet stop. Within this small village on the coast you will find a post office, cafe and a general store, as well as a hotel all situated by the marina. The village was used during the 2nd World War as a training place for agents in war torn occupied Europe. A memorial was built in 2009 to remember the Slovak and Czech soldiers that trained around the village during the war. From the village the stunning views of Eigg, Rum, and Skye start along with the stunning white beaches on the remaining journey to Mallaig.
White Sands of Morar
After leaving Arisaig you continue along the old coast road to Mallaig, here you will pass stunning beaches of white silvery sands and sea views of the Islands you will never forget, the final section of beach you arrive at is the White Sands of Morar a stunning white beach almost Caribbean like. This beach is the perfect place to take a walk and stretch your legs, on a nice sunny day it is a great place for a picnic. You can see why this area was featured in the films Local Hero and Breaking the Waves and set a stunning location for these films. The beach is set on the coastline of Loch Morar the deepest body of fresh water in the British Isles and also known for the less famous monster named Morag by local people.
At the end of the journey you drive into the busy fishing port of Mallaig, also home to the Ferry terminal to the Isle of Skye and the Small Isles, you will also find the final stop of the West Highland Railway line from Fort William. A typical fishing harbour with typical Fish and Chip shops, it is generally a busy place with lots of tourist during the summer months either waiting for a ferry to one of the Islands or simply waiting for the return journey on the steam train back to Fort William. A nice place for a brief stop and a bite to eat before you enjoy the road back along the road to the isles or in our case back to Fort William.