Castle Tioram

Waking up on Loch MoidartCastle Tioram on Loch Moidart

I’d spent Saturday snowboarding at Nevis Range and the plan was to head out west once more to Ardnamurchan and stay overnight at Castle Tioram, where Loch Moidart meets the Atlantic.

I made my way from the ski area to Fort William after a quick stop in Glen Nevis to watch the final rosé rays of the sun on the snowy mountain peaks. I had to visit the town to stock up on some overnight supplies and stop nearby the train station where I could make use of the wifi and download some podcasts for night time listening.

Rose light in Glen Nevis
The rosé light in Glen Nevis

Once on the road it would be less than a 2 hour drive, but despite the lack of light for photography, I knew I’d make the odd stop to take in the surroundings. The Glenfinnan road is fairly fast, stopping just a couple of times to take in the blowing mountain tops under a full moon that was also reflecting off Loch Eil, where the wind denied a still reflection on its rippled surface. After turning off this main road I passed Lochailort and onto the Atlantic coast where once again I stopped to take in the shadowy shapes of the Islands of Eigg and Rum on the horizon.

The road narrowed and I passed a doe and fawn roe deer in the darkness, I vaguely recognised the road from just over a year before when I had passed in the opposite direction on the way to Arisaig. This time though it was reversed and in darkness, but my phone occasionally announced directions as I made my way through one of the most remote parts of the British Isles. Despite it being remote I passed a few settlements and as I closed in on my destination, notice a few of these roads were private, belonging to local estates, but eventually I found the carpark for Castle Tioram, my destination and sleeping spot for the night.

There was another vehicle in residence in the spot I had chosen, but since we were at the terminus of a rather long single track road, I was going to have to share this spot with neighbours. I don’t mind if they don’t. I parked diagonally opposite from them to maximise space and hopefully not disturb them with closing doors and the like. After a day of snowboarding and driving though, I rather quickly found my eyelids weighed heavy and it wouldn’t be long before I drifted of in the glow from my iPad as I failed to witness the end of another movie.

Moon in a pink sky

Cold shivers woke me from a relatively good sleep in the passenger side of the car. I was wrapped in my sleeping bag and I could feel the cold on my legs and feet. I hadn’t resorted to my down jacket in the night so it hadn’t been too bad. When I was awake enough to take note of the time, it was just before 7am. Not bad and not a particularly early start either. The sky was getting lighter and I could see the moon was still up, reflecting across a shimmering bay. I stayed here for a reason, so thought I’d better get myself up and out there and appreciate the view.

I was greeted with a view and a half. Almost clear cool blue skies were trimmed with pink clouds on the horizon and the moon hung low over the small islands in the outlet of Loch Moidart. Further out sat the Island of Muck. And there, surrounded by the still waters of Loch Moidart was Castle Tioram, with a backdrop of a Scottish fjord that looked like it could also have been in the Pacific north west, Vancouver Island or anywhere just as picturesque, they don’t have castles though!  It was incredibly peaceful as I returned from a visit to the car with my camera and tripod. I shot a bit of video as well as the moon over the water, watching its steady progress as it sank into a bed of cloud where the sky met the sea.

I returned to the car to boil up some water for a coffee and the sky lightened. My camp spot in the parking area was surrounded by forest as well as being sheltered under a rocky outcrop so remained in the cold shadows. In contrast, the opposite side on the loch was being lit up by the progression of the sun. Rich copper tones painted the tips of the trees and the bracken covered hill behind, contrasting beautifully against a crisp cobalt sky. Isolated houses were dotted occasionally amongst the trees. Some were lucky enough to have their own boathouses with slipways down to the water. Idyllic accommodation, even more so in the summer I’d imagine, give or take a midge or a million.

After my coffee I made my way along to the Castle itself, which sat a small isthmus which was rapidly revealing itself as the tide retreated. I hopped over the remnant water way separating the castle from the mainland and continued over the sandy approach before climbing amongst the tussocks of grass growing out of bedrock taking me to the level of the ancient building. The castle’s location is its main appeal last the walls themselves are fairly featureless apart from some moulded features on the battlements on the seaward side. It was closed off for renovation with warnings not to enter, so I concentrated on the surroundings. Looking back to the shore a tree covered rocky cliff guarded an opening to Loch Moidart, a handful of tree covered rocky islands populated the waterway with hills rising beyond, the highest peak contrasted the burnt umber with its bright snowy covering. This really did look to me like some Norwegian fjord, or at least what I imagine a small fjord might look like having never been to Norway myself.

I scanned the still waters for life. Every ripple or alert from a bird could be an otter or something more exotic. No extraordinary creatures made an appearance though. Just the odd gull or curlew was seen. The animals were probably still tucked up in bed. The landscape was all I needed. The perfect walk on a crisp winter morning took my mind off the fact there was little snow around for sport and that I wasn’t spending as much time doing what I love snowboarding.

My stroll easily took up the whole morning and it was around noon when I thought I should start my way back through Ardnamurchan and take in the views as I drove up the coast through the beauty of Glenuig, Roshven and Lochailort. The views across the sea to Eigg and Rum were truly stunning with snow capped peaks and russet tones.

Isle of Rum Mountains

I returned to Fort William in strong sunshine and as I passed through Glenfinnan, the massive bulk of Ben Nevis and surrounding mountains looked resplendent in white. Nevis Range and it’s ski slopes looked tempting, but I was too late to make a day’s snowboarding happen. Did I regret it? No, not at all. I’d had some action the day before. Conditions may not have been the best, but my little Ardnamuchan adventure more than made up for it.

Ben Nevis from Glenfinnan
Ben Nevis from Glenfinnan

After grabbing brunch and editing some shots in Fort William, I then went on to meet friends staying in Glencoe. There may have been a chance that Monday would have opportunities to snowboard. This turned out not to be the case, with high winds, low cloud and rain. No matter, I had my day in the sun the day before.

Loch Tulla viewpoint
Making my way home via Loch Tulla



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