Lochside Holiday Cottages by Loch Sunart, Ardnamurchan - each sleeps 6
Sandy beaches, striking rocky headlands, stark mountains, bleak moorland and lush green woodland all form the contrasting landscape of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, dissected everywhere by lochans and inlets. Tiny, empty roads take us snaking along, now by the coast, now inland until finally we double back on ourselves along a small, winding track and our destination is in sight - just before the track ends and right above the seashore. Here by the sea, a matching pair of holiday cottages sit in perfect seclusion in the most idyllic spot overlooking Loch Sunart, a haven for holiday makers such as oursleves and for the rich abundance of wildlife whose habitat we are about to share.
Here, it's all about the location and the view - south across the loch to the far side of the peninsula, over sea and islets - then further off to the west, Mull, distant Coll and the Atlantic Ocean. That's not to say that the cottages aren't lovely too - they've been beautifully designed to provide very comfortable accommodation which makes the most of the wonderful views, with large windows looking straight out over the beach and beyond and spacious rooms in which to spread out and relax.
We're all set for a holiday of walking, exploring and wildlife watching and I know we shall not be disapointed in any of these. There are plenty of places to explore without going far. At the far westernmost point of the British mainland, Ardnamurchan lighthouse has stood fast high above the rocks for over 170 years. We climb the 150 steps and two ladders to the top to marvel at the view and wonder how it must have been for the lighthouse keeper long ago. Although I'm not keen on heights, it's well worth it for the view and I'm restored by coffee and cake in the cafe downstairs.
A nostalgic boat trip to the isle of Staffa to see the cave and the puffins is another highlight for me. On a calm day you can go into the cave and try the accoustics, land on the island and see the tiny, stocky puffins up close, but even when there's a swell, it's well worth the trip to see the unusual rock formation and feel the atmosphere of the cave. A second nostalgic trip involves taking a small ferry from Kilchoan to Tobermory (leave the car behind) and a visit to the distillery. This was closed down when I last came here but is now producing five single malts, the lightly peated Tobermory and the very peaty Ledaig, providing me with evening entertainment for the rest of the holiday!
Back at the cottage when we sit quietly and keep our eyes open, regular vistors make their appearances - sea eagles soaring, a brief glimpse of otters running past early one morning, oblivious to us watching with breath held, red deer just outside the window, but the highlight was the pine martin. These attractive, nimble wee creatures are pretty rare in Britian these days but in this quiet spot, they are not entirely elusive - in fact they seem quite confident coming right up onto the decking outside the holiday cottage, looking for scraps of food - peanuts are apparently a favourite!