Our Travel blog
Monday 16 May
We awoke surprisingly refreshed after yesterdays exertions and pointed Mavis West towards Mallaig, ready for the ferry to Skye tomorrow. We followed a gently undulating road sandwiched between coast and Lochs to our left and hills with dark angular rocks breaking through the grasses to the right. The road followed and criss-crossed the Jacobite railway line between Fort William and Mallaig, one of the great railway journeys in the UK, not just because of the amazing scenery but also because its pulled by a steam engine. What the passengers don't see though are the impressive viaducts that form graceful curves spanning rivers and watery land. It was built for the Mackerel trade when Mallaig was the most important port in the UK for the slippery little fish and was apparently recently voted the worlds most scenic railway. It is also featured in the Harry Potter films, as did some of Glen Nevis. I hope you're paying attention, we'll be asking questions about all this later.
Anyway our destination today was Portnadoran - a hamlet on the scenic coast road a few miles short of Mallaig just west of Arisaig, where we wandered to after the usual pitching up. The village is settled around a small harbour and nestles in a bay strewn with stubby rock islands and fine white sand. It has connections to the 18th century Gaelic poet Alisdair MacDonald and more recently it was one of the bases for the second world war Special Operations Executive (SOE) It was here at Arisaig that SOE operatives were taught to kill in interesting and stealthy ways. I was particularly gratified to discover one of the prime movers behind the merging of three existing secret departments into the SOE was the splendidly monikered Lord Hankey.
The little information centre that imparts all this, and more, information about the area was engaging, well thought out, with clear easy to read displays and even a book swap where you could exchange holiday reading. It really is cheering to to visit these community run centres. They are invariably free to mooch around in and staffed by cheery knowledgeable souls. The good folk of Arisaig even clubbed together to save the local public toilets. I love that rather than write badly composed letters to the local newspaper or stern missives for an MP's assistance, to be filed under 'ignore', the people around these parts actually do something to address whatever irks them. A lesson to us all.
Walking back we passed between an access road and a small unkempt field where three deer were quietly grazing. They watched us with baleful unblinking eyes and then returned to the grass with an occasional wary glance in our direction. Tearing ourselves away we returned to Mavis, took a short walk on the windswept beach of pure white sand and then settled in for the evening.
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