When you tell folk that you are spending the summer in Scotland, they frequently utter that ‘oh right’ or ‘hmmm’ murmur that basically translates as, ‘Good luck with the weather.’
However, when you manage to sneak in that you’re actually heading to Arisaig, they nod and know exactly why.
If you have ever visited the west coast village of Arisaig, you’ll have fallen in love.
Almost at the end of the A830 ‘Road to the Isles’, even the drive there is magical, weaving past the iconic ‘Harry Potter viaduct‘, uninhabited coastlines and finally reaching the crystal-clear beaches for which Arisaig is so famous (think Local Hero).
We’ve spent at least a week caravanning at this beautiful spot on the west coast since I was a toddler, and this year was no different.
You might wonder why we’d choose to holiday in Scotland…
Especially on its western side where the weather is even more unpredictable due to the proximity of the Atlantic. But, even though the weather was outstandingly crap this summer, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
The raw beauty of Arisaig and its coastline just seems to reset your sense of self. Does that sound daft? When I’m there, I feel removed from shallow modernity, instant communication and the self-consciousness that our society brings.
A place like Arisaig also reminds you that there is nothing more powerful than nature. There, camping on the coast, you are completely at the mercy of the rain, wind and sometimes sunshine. No-one here gives two hoots about how much money you have, how important you are at work, or how flash your possessions are. Out here in the wild west, you bow down to nothing but the ever-changing sea and sky.
So if you’re one of those murmurers who can’t quite grasp the attraction of a summer in Scotland, the picture-postcards below will hopefully highlight some of the best bits from the beautiful Arisaig area. There’s even some exciting additions to add to my previous ‘travel tips’ article on Arisaig and Mallaig… All I’m saying is ‘pizza’!
Those soul-cleansing beach walks in the wind.
When caravanning at Arisaig, there are a few relaxing things I love: 1) reading whilst the rain taps on the roof and 2) wandering aimlessly down the beach. It’s just so far removed from the built-up city existence that’s become habitual to me that the freedom and lack of stress is a godsend.
We spend hours just wandering, listening to the waves whacking the shore and exploring the adjacent rock pools. Forget those meditation apps; this right here is a guaranteed stress-buster.
The feisty local wildlife.
Scotland’s west coast is a haven for wildlife, whether that’s seals, otters or the many critters that shack up in the seashore’s rock pools and sandbars.
Ever since I was young, I’ve had a fascination with rock pooling and to this day we still go hunting for crabs, small fish (like gobies or father lashers) and dabs. It honestly is quite astounding how many species you can discover in such a tiny area of rocks and sand, all on your doorstep in coastal Scotland.
That distilled, glorious Highland spirit of Scotland.
Hearing this young bagpiper play beside Mallaig Harbour was a tangible nudge towards the many traditions that not only bolster our own patriotism but also encourage visitors to come here and experience them for real (think ceilidhs, haggis, kilts and Highland Games).
And there’s also something about these communities that, for me, truly encapsulates what it means to be Scottish. Maybe it’s the proximity to raw landscapes, or the sense of togetherness, or even the unpretentiousness of life in places like Arisaig which appeals to me. What do you think?
The Crannog, Mallaig’s best new pizza joint.
When we visit Mallaig each summer, we’re used to spotting the minuscule changes in the town: maybe a shop closure, an altered menu or a new pontoon at the quay. But this last year, there have been some massive changes at the marina, namely that two beautiful buildings have been erected with some rather delicious residents.
This area is now home to not one but two foodie establishments: The Bakehouse and The Crannog. We sampled the menus at both eateries, but the Crannog’s pizza blew our mind. With the fresh dough bashed out in front of you, flour flying and then slid into the gigantic pizza oven, you can quite literally see your dinner being made in front of you.
Adding another star to its rating, the Crannog pairs traditional Italian flavours with Scottish venison, cheese and Hebridean sea salt all on the menu. All items are take-away, though if it’s quiet you can grab one of the stools by the window and munch whilst you watch the boats move in the marina below.
Being at the mercy of the west coast elements.
Okay, so bad weather might not feature on everybody’s ‘best bits’ list of summer, but this year was more spectacular than any I’ve witnessed. After three days of gale force winds, whipping rain, broken boats (see photo backdrop!) and dismantled tents the clouds finally cleared… And it was pretty amazing to see what damage the brute strength of the winds had caused.
The image above shows just a small section of an Arisaig beach but — all along the coast — there were lines and lines of kelp, snatched from the seabed and spewed up on the shore. The most shocking scene to appear after the storm was the mounds of kelp on the famed Camusdarach Beach between Arisaig and Morar. Here‘s what it looks like usually!
And between the rain showers, moments of pure magic.
It may have rained more than I can remember, but — thanks to the west coast’s changeable weather — we did get some pretty incredible skies this summer. One of the highlights was this evening (see above) where the light broke through the clouds so softly that it created an almost watercolour effect over the Isle of Rùm in the background.
And in that moment, when you’re watching the oranges and lilacs deepen and darken, you almost forget the torrential rain you’d experienced just a few hours before. Perhaps, just perhaps, that unpredictability is what makes this area of Scotland so magical.
22 responses to “A postcard from… A summer holiday in Arisaig”
Those photos are amazing! I’m putting Arisaig on my list for next summer now. Great post
Thanks Nicola! 🙂 Honestly, it’s my favourite place in Scotland, I’m so biased. The beaches around that area (especially Camusdarach) are like the beaches you get on the Outer Hebrides… Just slightly more accessible! Haha
I grew up at Back of Keppoch and still return home every couple of months. Love the pictures . Feeling a bit homesick this morning.
Hi Donald, thanks for commenting! How lucky that you got to grow up in such a beautiful place. I absolutely love the Arisaig area! When summer starts, I just can’t wait to get back up there 🙂 When are you next heading home?
Not until Xmas I’m afraid. Limited now to school holidays.
Not until Xmas I’m afraid. Limited now by school holidays and it is an 8 hour return journey.
Hey. I live in back of Keppoch now..where about did you live?
First house on the right – my mum still lives there. My folks used to run the Cnoc-na-faire hotel.
I have been holiday inn off and on in Arisaig for 50 years, my own family do so now too and my grandchildren . So many changes over the years but still even now when I drive over the hill from Arisaig village to back of keppoch I feel a sense of being home. It is an amazing place and we will be back in September for a holiday ❤️ Catherine x
Hi Catherine! Thanks so much for commenting! What a lovely thing to hear that generations of your family have gone to Arisaig. I hope to take my children there too; I just think the freedom of running down the beach (rain or shine!) is something you can’t beat! I hope you have a lovely time when you head there in September and I will keep my fingers crossed that the weather is kind to you 🙂 x
Informative and inviting!
Beautiful photos! I don’t really enjoy the Scottish summer – or lack thereof haha but I do enjoy holidaying in Scotland whenever the season. There’s always something beautiful to see and discover 🙂 And Arisaig looks majestic. I want to go there with my parents when they come visit!!x
Thank you, Camila! how are you? 🙂 I know what you mean about the lack of Scottish summer… But we have been luckier this past week or so! You should definitely visit Arisaig with your parents, there are such beautiful beaches nearby and you’re also close to the isles! let me know if you need any accommodation recommendations! 🙂 x
Beautiful photos I too have gone to Arisaig & Fort William since I was a toddler staying on Peter’s Caravan park for our 2 week summer holiday until it closed & now Glen Nevis unfortunately only for long weekends now but can’t be without my annual fix. You have summed it all on this “postcard”
Hi Carol! Thank you for commenting, and thank you so much for your kind comments about this article! 🙂 I am glad to know I’m not the only one who is crazy about Arisaig… nor the only one who needs their annual fix! This place really is special. I hope you are heading back up there soon! 🙂 x
We had caravan holidays at the Back of Keppoch every year as kids, we absolutely loved it and i would definitely say it is my favourite place in Scotland. The white sands and clear water, day trips to Mallaig and meeting up yearly with other caravaners were some of the highlights. We loved pkaying on the beach and having bbqs at night. I would recommend Arisaig to everyone.
Hi Ann! Thanks so much for your comment 🙂 I wholeheartedly agree with you – I’d recommend this place to anyone and everyone, it’s always one of the first places I tell tourists about! It sounds like your holidays were very similar to ours 🙂 do you still get to Arisaig nowadays? x
Hi Laura. I just read your blog and thought wow – those are my exact thoughts about Arisaig! I’ve been holidaying there since I was a toddler 40 years ago and every time I arrive I feel like I’ve come home (despite my actual home being some 450 miles away on the Lincolnshire east coast). Ive had people ask me why I’m not bored of ‘always going to the same place’, or ‘ oh, you’re going to Scotland again are you?’ I just smile to myself now and think ‘you don’t know what you’re missing!’.
And if people mention the bad weather, I tell them if they head to Scotland for the weather, they’ve missed the point!
This August we had 4 days of torrential rain, gales and a landslide. And I still happily booked again for next year. Because even in the worst weather, Arisaig is just good for the soul.
Hi Mel! How are you? First, a massive thanks for your kind comments on this article! And I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said in this comment; it’s a nice wee epilogue to this blog in fact! I can completely empathise with the ‘going home’ feeling – there’s just something magical about the place that feels so familiar, yet not boring but relaxing and inspiring in the fact that it doesn’t change every year. Were you there this August during that horrendous storm and the landslide between Lochailort and Glenfinnan? Because if you were, I think our paths may have crossed even if we didn’t know it… 🙂 x
Am 40 years old and go to Arisaig every year to the silver sands the place is my heaven have lots friends who I met there the place is amazing but plz keep it quite getting to busy lol
Hi Bobby, cheers for commenting! Totally agree with you – the place is amazing! It definitely has become much busier, even in the past few years, but sometimes you still go down Camusdarach and it’s quiet! I think it must be good for local businesses though so I just tell myself that when I have to elbow folk out the way in the Co-Op in Mallaig hahaha!
[…] be different if I was a tourist here! I spent almost all of my childhood holidays caravanning in beautiful parts of the country so I guess you could say I’m a creature of habit, because I’ll be doing just that again in a […]