We just got back from a last minute trip to go kayaking in Arisaig, in the Scottish highlands. It was an impromptu trip. Originally we’d planned to visit Arisaig during half term next week, followed by a few days in Glasgow. It would be a chance to spend some outdoors time together, and show Flea my old university.
Alas, Boris had other plans. As of Saturday morning (a week before half-term) Lancashire was going into lockdown, with residents advised not to travel. A quick message to our AirBNB host in Arisaig and she agreed to move our booking to this weekend – meaning we could leave Lancashire before lockdown, and enjoy our weekend away before half-term.
Glamping in Arisaig
The drive up to the Western Highlands is long, but it’s beautiful.
After you pass Glasgow, the winding roads take you past some of the UK’s finest scenery. We passed along the edge of Loch Lomond before passing on to Glencoe and, beyond that, Ben Nevis. The autumn colours were just stunning, rivalling anything I’ve seen in New England.
We definitely planned our trip on a budget and with social distancing in mind. We wanted something affordable, close to the water AND remote.
We found the perfect place with this glamping pod in Braraca, a tiny village just past Arisaig. It is perched 2 miles up a one-lane track, overlooking Loch Morar. We paid £115 per night for the cabin, which sleeps up to 4 guests in a double bed and double sofa bed. The pod had all the amenities you’d need for this sort of trip. There’s a tiny but fully kitted out kitchen, plus a barbecue on the deck. The cabin also has a bathroom with a shower and heated towel rails. It was warm, and comfortable and we definitely recommend it to other AirBNB’ers.
As an added bonus, the house down the road has a retired working dog called Megan who loves to visit. She is SO excited to meet new people, and couldn’t get enough of the pod’s underfloor heating.
Kayaking in Arisaig
The star attraction of the trip for us was kayaking in Arisaig and its neighbouring beaches, which are world-famous for their clear waters and white sand.
As you drive North up the coast from Arisaig, there are a series of tiny coves with white sand beaches and sparkling blue waters. You can walk between the beaches and it’s not hard to find a lay-by on the road where you can pull up and walk down to the sand. The busiest beaches are at the start of this drive, and they seemed to get quieter the further along the lane we drove.
On a sunny afternoon, it was hard to believe we were in the Scottish highlands in October. The water is crystal clear and under blue skies, you could almost think you’re in the Med. This impression lasts right until you get into the water. Even with thick wetsuits and boots, you’ll definitely know you’re in the Highlands in October! Totally worth it though. Can you spot me in the picture below, living my best life?
We spent a glorious afternoon exploring the beaches, swimming in the sea, and paddling our kayaks between the little coves. As we’re quite new to sea kayaking, we paddled as the tide was coming in, which is a bit safer.
As the sun went down, we set the maiden fire in my new camping fire pit.
If you do any sort of camping or beach days, this fire pit is amazing. It has folding legs so it can be packed into a carry bag; it weighs very little, and can be set up on the beach in 30 seconds. We got a fire going, and cooked some burgers and hot dogs. Then we sat by the flames, chatting and listening to the waves, until every speck of light was gone. (aff link – I spotted that our fire pit is currently on special offer for £45 on Amazon, down from £85)
Kayaking Loch Morar
On Sunday morning the weather was cloudy, and we headed down the hill from our pod to explore Loch Morar.
The water in the loch was warmer than the sea, and despite the cloud it was calm and still. We paddled around, exploring some of the tiny islands in the loch.
Flea decided this was the perfect place to see if she could use a kayak as a paddle board (she could) and recreate the ‘crane’ manoeuvre from Karate Kid (she got very wet demonstrating that she couldn’t).
Once again, we were the only people on the water. Did I mention that I love the Highlands?
We did say hello to several sheep and deer on the lakeside path, but they weren’t friendly. Flea had a theory they only understand you if you say hello in a Scottish accent. Hmm.
The Silver Sands of Morar
At lunchtime we headed back to Arisaig and picked up fresh fish and chips to take away from the restaurant in town. We then headed back towards the beaches.
As you head North on the B808, you pass down a single track road that skirts many of the little beaches north of Arisaig. A few minutes beyond this, the road curves around and climbs a steep hill. You’ll see a parking site on the left for the “Silver Sands”. Park here and you can clamber down a steep hill onto the most perfectly white beach you’ve ever seen.
This long stretch of beach was the first time we’d seen anyone else on the beach all weekend. There were two other families there, so social distancing was still very easy! Flea was overjoyed to find out that people had hung tyre swings on the trees that back the beach, and had a lot of fun swinging up and down!
The Highlands in October
I’ve decided that the Western Highlands are one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever visited. Is it cold in October? Hell yes. It’s really cold, especially if you go in the water. But the autumn colours are spectacular and the bonus of an autumn trip is that you will probably have an entire beach to yourself.
It was definitely a long slog of a drive, but easily worth it. I feel like the fresh air and the scenery and the space has given me some sort of relief, to cope with what’s going to be a tough winter. And although I can now tick ‘kayaking in Arisaig’ off my bucket list, I’ve a feeling we’ll be back.
We had the best weekend, and as Flea remarked, “You can almost pretend there isn’t a pandemic, can’t you Mum?”