Thursday 22 May 2014

Scotland by Rail - Mallaig, then over the sea to Skye

Tues April 22nd 2014

Blog post 1 was the journey, Glasgow to Mallaig on The West Highland Line

Blog post 2 was the destination - Mallaig.

Blog post 3 is a spontaneous (and cheap!) trip over the sea to Skye.  This is blog post 3.

I was in Mallaig on a research trip, making preparatory sketches for an outdoor painting for Mallaig station platform. Here's the compositional sketch. 

Mallaig harbour composition, watercolour, 24 x 38cm

Monday afternoon and first thing Tuesday morning I was outdoors around the harbour. I'd been noticing one ferry, the Cor' Uisg', coming and going and coming and going, more frequently than I thought a ferry should. I went into the booking office and picked up a timetable - Cor' Uisg' runs all through the day, to and from Skye, only half an hour each way, only £7 return! 

MV Loch Nibheis (Lochnevis) on the left, MV Coruisg (Cor' Uisg') on the right.

I love ferries. I couldn't resist. An hour later I was onboard and half an hour after that I was disembarking in Armadale on Skye. 

The ferry:

loading at Mallaig

from the ferry deck

leaving Mallaig

Armadale Castle, looking tempting

arriving in Armadale

From the ferry I saw shags, all the gulls, grey seals, black guillemots, regular guillemots, razorbill.

ferry sketches - black guillemot, shag, grey seal

On Skye:

Armadale is small. You walk from the ferry down onto an open area where a nice assortment of craft shops tempt. I wanted to get to the castle so I didn't stop, but I did get a coffee in the Sleat Community Trading Co. Ltd (deli-cafe+internet-localfarmshop-postoffice-garage) just up the road. Everyone was lovely. 

Between ferry and Community Trading Co. is a little bay on your left. Swallows were swooping for insects, redshanks were running along the pebbly sand, taking flight with their peeping cries, a blue tit flew over, from one stand of trees to another, willow warblers were willow warbling.

A ten minute walk on footpath set back from the road (amazing lichens!) gets you to Clan Donald Skye - Armadale Castle, Gardens and Museum of the Isles. It's a beautiful spot: ruined castle (including cast-iron-banistered stairs that once stood in the main hall, now under an open sky), dappled forest, woodland blooms; rhodedendruns, wide herbacious borders; sunny multi-levelled pond, romantic stone bridges over fairytale gorge. 

There's a fantastic raven sculpture, dark, large and wise with a slight knowing smile twitching the edge of its beak. A memorial to Donald MacDonell, 22nd Chief of Glengarry. I walked, sat, photographed, painted a watercolour.

from Armadale Castle lawn

'Albies alba, Silver Fir, Europe'

Armadale Castle entrance arch, Skye, watercolour, 15x21cm

Then home:

Then back onto the ferry, to the hostel to collect my bags, leaving Mallaig by train at 4.05pm, arrived home in Burntisland 11.14pm.

my ferry, Cor' Uisg', heading to Mallaig

'Fame', not my ferry, heading to Mallaig


Harry was here


Corrour Summit

crossing the moor

from Horseshoe Curve viaduct,  night coming

How to get there: 

Trains to Mallaig leave Glasgow twice in the morning, once at noon and once after tea. Trains back leave Mallaig terribly early, a relaxed 10am, late afternoon, and just after tea. Check it all before you leave - up-to-date timetables on ScotRail website here.

Ferries to Armadale on Skye are regular and cheap. From Mallaig Calmac also run services to the Small Isles - Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna. Timetables here.


  1. Hi. I love your watercolour of the castle entrance gate. Great colour scheme.
    Also, what is that very tall stemmed plant? Don't think i've ever seen one.

  2. 'Landscape, art, nature, birds' eloquently records the observations he makes during his frequent trips around Scotland

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