Fort William to Mallaig
The Road to the Isles
- A830 Fort William to Mallaig via Glenfinnan, Arisaig and Morar
- West Highland Line railway
The A830 Road to the Isles (Gaelic Rathad nan Eilean) runs west from Fort William to Mallaig, passing
through an area that is steeped in Jacobite history with many connections to Bonnie Prince Charlie
and his followers. So strong are these connections that, during the summer
months, West Coast Railways runs The Jacobite steam train service along
the Iron Road to the Isles (Gaelic Rathad Iarainn nan Eilean).
Both road and rail routes start their journey heading northeast from the
centre of Fort William before turning west. At their respective turning points,
each crosses the River Lochy: the railway adjacent to Old Inverlochy Castle and
the road at the junction of the A82 and A830, near the Ben Nevis Distillery.
Both routes cross the Caledonian Canal at Banavie and follow the northern
side of Loch Eil on their way to Glenfinnan. This is the first real sign of the
Jacobite history previusly mentioned with the Glenfinnan Monument marking the
spot where the clans gathered at the start of the 1745 Rising. However it
is probably the 380m long curving Glenfinnan Viaduct that carries the railway
over the River Finnan that is better known due to its appearance in four of the
Harry Potter films.
Continuing west from Glenfinnan, the road and the rail then pass Loch Eilt
with the former sticking to the northern side of the loch with the latter taking
the southern side. The routes then pass another site that features in the movie
Local Hero: Our Lady of the Braes Roman Catholic Church at Polnish
near the northern tip of Loch Ailort. However, it was only the interior scenes
of the film that were shot here; the exterior scenes used a mock-up on the beach
at Camusdarach near Arisaig. Before reaching Arisaig, however, there is one more
point of interest for historians, particularly those interested in the Jacobites:
near the eastern end of Loch nan Uamh is the Prince's Cairn, which is
said to mark the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie finally left Scotland
following his five months in hiding after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden
in April 1746.
At Arisaig, both road and rail turn north on their final legs of the journey
to Mallaig. This is a relatively new stretch of road, having opened in 2003 and
being the only stretch of the upgraded road that follows a different route to
the original single track road. This latter road, now classified as the B8008,
winds round the coast from Arisaig to Morar, merging briefly again with the new
road just before each crosses the River Morar on their own bridges. The old road
then passes under the railway viaduct and then crosses the railway once more at
Morar itself. To the north of Morar the old road once more joins the new before
diverging once to the south of Mallaig.