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As the crow flies, it is easy to reach Ardnamurchan: face west and drive as far as you can across Scotland and stop before you reach the sea. Next stop is Canada, if you miss the turnoff.
In reality, it is a long and winding road to the isles, taking in some of Scotland’s most beautiful sights on the way, including the towering grandeur of the Ben Nevis range, the Glenfinnan landing place of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the railway viaduct immortalised in the Harry Potter films.
But when you reach your destination, the volcanic rocky outcrop fringed by the yellow sands of Sanna to the west and rock pools and changing tides on the others of its shores, you realise this little piece of heaven was well worth the journey.
Our home for the week was the aptly-named Mull View Cottage in Kilchoan, a two-storey croft house in the peninsula’s largest community, with uninterrupted views of the island of Mull, which rises from the sea, providing a home for the reintroduced sea eagles, indigenous golden eagles and a thriving seabird and wildlife population.
The house was everything we had expected and hoped for from a croft in the west Highlands – a place where time has stood still and the hardy residents have been subsistence farming since long before it became trendy.
After unpacking our car, which was truly heaving with clothes, food, boogie boards, fishing rods, bikes and board games for our week in the wilds – knowing that Kilchoan had only a tiny, albeit well-stocked shop, we didn’t want to take any chances – we set to work exploring the area.
Kilchoan itself is a tiny row of houses facing the sea. It has a hotel – the only place to find WiFi in the area, as my partner discovered while performing his Local Hero role to perfection – while, on Friday nights, it becomes the focus for families, with a games night when you can enjoy fish and chips eaten from the papers of the previous day’s Press and Journal, while taking on your offspring at Scrabble or dominoes – the perfect escape from the world of video games and television in which today’s youngsters usually reside.
The village also boasts a school, church, community centre, shop and small car ferry to Tobermory, with a couple of jetties providing a home for the peninsula’s crab population, who appeared to lie in waiting for a couple of children with crab lines.
My expert fishers, armed with the leftovers of that day’s breakfast, spent many a happy hour at the jetty tempting crustaceans of all sizes with their tasty bait, and watching in delight as they scuttled back down the jetty, only to be tempted out once more by the smell of bacon a few minutes later.
From our cottage, the grass stretched down to the shore, which was buzzing with wildlife – herons, geese and seabirds were regular visitors, while bats took to the skies as dusk fell, and mountain sheep grazed peacefully as close to the incoming tide as was safe.
Across the road from the houses and shop – which is truly the centre of village life and the hub of gossip and goings-on in the area – lies the Sound of Mull, fringed by grass and rock pools, with a handful of boats bobbing gently offshore, used to check the creels for their latest haul of delicious langoustines, available to buy if you are lucky enough to be in the know.
In my role as modern mum, I try not to stereotype. However, there was something about living in a croft house in Ardnamurchan that brought out the differences in our little group.
Within hours of arriving at our croft, my partner and son became at one with the sea, spending hours out on the jetty, striving for days and nights to catch that illusive whopper, and finally being rewarded for their perseverance on the final night when they landed four mackerel on the last cast and arrived home in true hunter-gatherer style, with beaming smiles.
Meanwhile, my daughter and I whiled away the days baking bread, painting and designing mosaic patterns on the patio with shells gathered from the beaches we had visited.
The more you explore Ardnamurchan, the more it reveals itself as a land of all seasons, with a typical week encompassing extremes of weather from sun to torrential rain, with the occasional gale-force wind whipping the waves into a frenzy across the Sound of Mull. The unpredictable nature means that a holiday there is never dull, with plans changing as constantly as the weather conditions.
The brightest days saw us heading for the beach and, after a day’s swimming (admittedly in wetsuits) and rockpooling on Sanna Sands, which must be one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland, we dried and warmed ourselves with a barbecue on the beach as the sun set.
Rainy days were spent baking, curled up with a book or playing board games in front of a roaring log fire, while windy weather provided the perfect conditions for a breathtaking visit to Sanna lighthouse, where we admired yachts in full sail while the tumult swept around our cagoules and we clung together laughing while we were buffeted like kites caught on the breeze.
The location of Ardnamurchan may make it out of sight, out of mind for many travellers, but, like all hidden treasures, it is well worth looking for.
Sonja Rasmussen stayed at Mull View Cottage at Kilchoan, booked through Steading Holidays on www.steading.co.uk Depending on the size of the property, a week’s stay costs from £245 in low season to £745 in summer. There are good deals available over the New Year.
The only way to reach the Ardnamurchan peninsula is by car, or by ferry to Kilchoan from Tobermory on Mull.