Things to do in Mallaig
It’s one of Scotland’s most energetic ports, the end point for the iconic Jacobite Steam Train and the main hub of the Road to the Isles. Freshly caught seafood adorns plates in the waterside restaurants, surrounding peaks beckon invitingly and visiting day trippers suddenly wish they had more time to explore. There’s no shortage of things to do in and around Mallaig, with adventures by land or sea awaiting, regardless of how much time you have. Here’s a taste….
Note the maps below only give approximations on the routes as a rough guide, and are not exact.
A rewarding stroll offering superb views over the village and west towards Skye’s jagged pinnacles and the Small Isles.
Head north from the pier, following the road as it curves east and you meet the incline headed towards Mallaigmore. Take the obvious right turn on Loch Nevis Terrace to follow a road directly south. You’ll pass several houses before breaking off the road to the right and staying on the hill path as you continue south then west. You can clamber up to the summits on your right hand side for those big views before following the well-trodden path back down to the village.
Loch an Nostarie
Duration: 2 hours+
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
A serene, yet often boggy, walk into the larger hills over Mallaig that provide panoramic opportunities for walkers on the hunt for solitude and inspiration.
From Mallaig village follow the same route as for the above circuit walk but from the hill path take a signposted left turn to the Loch.
From this point it’s a rough clamber uphill from where you’ll have a superb vantage point down to the Loch and west towards the Hebrides. The unpathed route down is a boggy one so suitable footwear is a must. You’ll encounter a deer fence on the descent but there is a gate in the dip of the land at the lowest point and from there choose the least damp route to the water’s edge. You can walk all the way around the picturesque Loch an Nostarie if you choose, or just head west to find a picnic table and the start of a clear pathed route that will take you back to the A820 and Glasnacardoch. Turn right and follow the road back to Mallaig to complete the circuit.
Of course, a more straightforward alternative to get to the Loch is to park at Glasnacardoch and follow the pathed trail above in reverse. That option would take you around 15 minutes each way.
On the Water
Memory-making is certainly not confined to the land in Mallaig and some of the most thrilling things to do are on the water. While many have their sights set on the Inner Hebridean islands of Skye, Canna, Rum, Eigg and Muck, Mallaig is much more than just a stepping stone.
You can jump aboard Western Isles Cruises to visit the vast wilderness of Knoydart (approx. 30 minute crossing) as part of a half day, full day or multi-day adventure. Or head up haunting Loch Nevis by rib to experience deep isolation. There are also wildlife tours that seek out the safari of west coast sea animals including dolphins, porpoises, sea eagles, minke whales, seals and more. Finishing such days back in Mallaig with a feast of langoustines, lobsters and scallops may just be the definitive Scottish west coast experience!
Find out more boat trip options in our Members section.
Eating Out and Staying Over
Naturally, we hope you stick around and enjoy the things to do in Mallaig over the course of a day or more and you can see the full accommodation and eating options with our Members here. Although there are numerous options be advised that it’s an extremely popular wee place and you should book well in advance, particularly over the summer months.
Mallaig only really started to blossom as a hub in the mid-19th Century when a local fishing industry started to develop. Coupled with the game-changing arrival of the railway line connecting the village with Fort William, the catches could be transported to markets further afield and, by the mid-20th Century, Mallaig was a European herring capital.
The best place to immerse yourself in the past is the Mallaig Heritage Centre where you can learn about how the village came to be, and the story of wider Lochaber. Steeped in Jacobite folklore and melancholy, this was where dreams were made and definitively extinguished for Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1700s. Going further back, the Vikings and Lords of the Isles controlled the Hebridean waterways of the west coast during Scotland’s turbulent adolescence, with a legacy that hangs on.
More things to do in Mallaig…
If the thrill of an Atlantic dip at the nearby beaches is a step too far for you, a warmer option is on offer at Mallaig Pool & Leisure. Or enjoy a drink with a superb sea view on the West Highland Hotel’s terrace. Or simply sit back and enjoy the bustle of the working port as boats of all shapes and sizes come and go from the harbour, setting imaginations free.
This post was written by travel writer Neil Robertson, blogging as Travels with a Kilt.