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Where The Road Ends

The Ardnamurchan Peninsula occupies an empty, windblown edge of Scotland, where residents --
and visitors by the thousands -- embrace its powerful remoteness.

BY BEN WILLIAMS

A map communicates nothing of the distances one must travel to reach the remote Ardnamurchan Peninsula and very little of the drama. On paper the place is almost inconspicuous, a fat finger of land jutting in among the islands of Eigg, Rum and Muck, which float in the Atlantic just to the north. Ardnamurchan is literally out on a limb, a long way from even the outpost towns of Oban and Mallaig that serve as its nearest hubs.

The people of Ardnamurchan think of it as being an almost-island and it has something of the interiority of island places. But according to lighthouseman Davie Ferguson, whose family has resided here since coming from Eigg in the 17th century, the people of the peninsula "have always welcomed migrants."

You can see Eigg through the hazy sunshine, topped with a mountain shelf that ends abruptly with a sharp, inverted horn, from the lighthouse Ferguson now manages on the westernmost point in the British Isles. The lighthouse was de-manned in 1988 and since then, it has come a long way. The current visitor centre and coffee shop are a far cry from the ruined and unroofed buildings the community inherited. "We're at the end of a pretty rough road here and often people just want to stop in for the toilet. But we also get the real fanatics. We had a visit from the Australian Lighthouse Society recently. When people like that come I can sell a lot of things with wee lighthouses on them."

In the 1980s many of the old buildings were sold as holiday homes; now, says Ferguson, there are more people living on Ardnamurchan year round, a change he attributes in part to the "new connectedness" of the modern broadband age. Even so, "Some people have a romantic idea of what it's like here and it's only after 18 months or so that you begin to think they might be here for the long haul."

The full text of this article is available in the Winter 2015 issue of Scottish Life.

Click here to preview our feature article on Orkney's Heart Of Stone by Jim Gilchrist.

Click here to preview our feature article on The Hollow Mountain by Keith Aitken.

Click here to preview Bens & Glens & Heroes, News of Interest To Scots.

Click here to preview our reviews of Scottish Books.

Photo © Ian Macrae Young / Scottish Viewpoint; Photo © Ben Williams