Loch Moidart, Ardnamurchan
Anchor in the shadow of the ancient castle and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this beautiful loch, says Jonty Pearce
O ver the years I have enjoyed many land-based family visits to Loch Moidart. Our favourite spot is the dramatic looming ruin of Castle Tioram, looking imposingly down the loch towards the open sea. Perched off the beach on its own tidal islet, the causeway covers at High Water leaving it marooned. Indeed, we lingered too long on one birthday visit and were cut off, only reaching the sanctuary of the car and my birthday cake after a deep wade moments before the causeway became impassable. It was the best birthday ever, and Castle Tioram has become a place of pilgrimage for me ever since.
Imagine my delight when a club cruise from Skye down to Loch Linnhe bestowed the boon of a visit afloat. Whilst the entrance to Loch Moidart might resemble a troll’s garden, careful attention to pilotage advice such as that offered by the Clyde Cruising Club’s Sailing Directions allows a path to be picked through the scatter of guarding islets and rocks. We chose to anchor in the shadow of the castle between the island of Riska and the shore.
Aside from its perfect beach, ruined castle and the four-mile snaking Postman’s Walk leading through to the venerable ‘Seven Men of Moidart’ trees at Kinlochmoidart, the area offers little other than truly breathtaking scenery. I have often spotted golden eagles soaring over the towering crags that overlook the substantial foundations of Dorlin House, which occupied a shoreside position so enviable that its still vacant site remains an enigma. Perhaps the bloody echoes of Castle Tioram’s troubled history proved to be a disturbing neighbour – in 1715, the owners torched the castle to prevent it falling into the hands of the Campbells. Here, the isolation is the allure, and no facilities such as shops, pubs or showers intrude to spoil the ambience.
To enter the loch, first identify Eilean Raonuil with its summit perch in the centre of the channel to the south of Eilean Shona. Make your approach to this island on a bearing of 100°, though if Castle Tioram can be seen it can be used as a leading line over Eilean Raonuil until that island can be left 0.5 cables to port, when a bearing of 73° will clear the rocks to the south-east. When the grassy tops of Eilean Carnagh and Eilean Cora come into line, steer 30° to port towards Sgeir nan Sgarbh until it is 0.3 cables to the north, before turning due east until the small cone of Eilean Cora is well open on Sgeir na Claidheamh. Pass Sgeir na Claidheamh to port, taking note of the rock to the south-west of it and head across to leave Ru a Bhaile one cable to port before circling Riska clockwise. We anchored to the south of the island, taking care to avoid the submarine cables supplying Shona.
The sandy beach is just a stone’s throw away and the lure of exploration is strong, but first breathe in the atmosphere of this most precious place and let your life slow down to the snail’s pace that this noble setting commends.
Looking out across Castle Tioram and Riska Island, Loch Moidart. There is a deep anchorage to the south of Riska