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The Morar the merrier: Trip round loch is great fun, but beware Morag the monster

The stunning beaches of the Silver Sands of Morar
The stunning beaches of the Silver Sands of Morar

It’s one thing if it rains while you’re camping – it’s cosy, almost. It’s quite another when it pours while you’re setting up.

Niall and I, in the fading twilight of a short winter evening, raced to put up our tents while keeping as much water on the outside as possible.

We were at the Silver Sands of Morar and had opted for a flat spot under some trees in the hope of getting a bit of shelter.

The next day was grey, but not raining. The tents were rolled up wet and we drove into Mallaig to pick up breakfast. Part of Niall’s bike had fallen apart the day before so I dropped him off at the harbour so he could take an excursion across to Skye and back while I headed off to the start of a ride along the shore of Loch Morar.

In good weather, you can take the ferry out to Tarbet and ride back along the loch shore.

The ferry stops at Inverie on Knoydart, then drops you at tiny Tarbet, but I was ready for an early start so I rode it both ways.

I took the road section out of the equation by parking at a small lay-by in Bracorina.

There’s something especially dense and foreboding about the water on Loch Morar. Maybe it’s knowing that it drops to an almighty 300 metres (984 feet) or maybe it’s the stories of Morag – the loch’s monster.

Morag may be less famous than Nessie, but the legends about her go back a long time and it’s said she makes an appearance when a local passes away. The loch is almost 12 miles long, surrounded by craggy hills and littered with the remains of human settlements.

Boats connected these places, with the exception of one between the busy A830 and Tarbet. Once a busy hamlet, it now claims a population of six.

Tarbet is at the foot of a wee gap in the hills between lochs Nevis and Morar.

Leaving Swordlands, as the area is known, behind, the path curls north towards the summit of this gap and there’s a descent down to the pier.

I went all the way to Tarbet for a little time on the peaceful shore. Returning I bumped into a few people coming the other way. Perhaps it was the satisfaction of being homeward bound, but the path felt easier from east to west.

I rolled into Bracorina to meet up with Niall,then it was off to Mallaig for food.

The sky cleared, the aches and pains of a rough night eased by chips and ibuprofen, and we were soon happy and warm and on the road home.


Location: Morar

Distance: 18km (11 miles)

Ascent: 260m (850ft)

Maps: OS Landranger 40 OS Explorer 398

Parking: Park in Mallaig and cycle in, or find a spot along the road to Bracorina.


Top tip: Any visit to Mallaig is worth bundling up with some time on Knoydart. There’s easily a day’s riding on the remote peninsula, making a great weekend of really wild cycling.