In his book "Ring of Bright Water" the author Gavin Maxwell wrote of his home at Sandaig (5 miles south of Glenelg) "That neither the house nor its islands and lighthouse are visible from the road above, and that paradise within a paradise remains, to the casual road-user unguessed".
Today, that sentence could easily be applied to Glenelg itself. Many who come down the Glen Shiel road towards Kintail are unaware of the community of Glenelg, which lies at the other side of the Mam Ratigan. Those who do turn off at Shiel Bridge, are transported back in time, as they encounter the single track road with its passing places, that winds its way over the Mam to Glenelg. On the way up there are reminders of the original narrow twisting road with its stone arch bridges. On reaching the summit at 1116ft, you can look back down towards Kintail and up towards the famous "five sisters" of Kintail; a range of 3000ft plus mountains that tower over the Glen Shiel road. The travel writer H. V. Morton described this view; "Of all the great views I know in Scotland this is the one that I place for its grandeur, its magic beauty, its terrifying splendour...The view from Mam Rattachan is a scene a man could watch with the same reverence and love every day of his life."
The descent from the Mam is winding with a steep drop on the left-hand side. In the distance you can just make out the waters of the Sound of Sleat. As you approach the village of Glenelg you come to a fork in the road, the right hand leads to the ferry, the traditional crossing point to the Island of Skye, passing Glenelg beach with its uninterrupted views down the Sound of Sleat to the islands of Rhum, Eigg and Muck. The ferry (the last hand-operated turntable in the world!) is the only other way for vehicles to get to Glenelg but it only operates between April and September. Continuing on the road towards Glenelg, down the tree lined avenue you will see on the right an imposing four storey ruined building, The Barracks at Bernera were built in the 1700's to control the crossing at Kylerhea and suppress any uprising by the native population.
Glenelg itself is a collection of dwellings with one main street, where you'll find a shop and at the far end, the Glenelg Inn. Past the entrance to the Inn is the Church and through a blind corner you come upon the Monument. An impressive tribute to those who fell in the First World War. It stands overlooking where the harbour would have been. There are panoramic views from the monument up towards Kylerhea, across to Skye and down towards the Point of Sleat. The road passes a collection of houses before crossing the bridge at the entrance to Glen Beag. Those who venture up Glen Beag will come across the Brochs, two examples (the best on the Scottish mainland) of fortified round houses, which were built 4000 years ago.
Crossing the bridge the single-track road winds down towards the village of Arnisdale, passing the unmarked track that leads to Sandaig. Arnisdale lies at the foot of Beinn Sgritheal, a three thousand-foot mountain that rises vertically from the sea to dominate the landscape. Across the dark waters of Loch Hourn (the loch of Hell in Gaelic, Loch Nevis the Loch of Heaven is nearby) is Knoydart. This mountainous terrain is considered by many to be the last great wilderness in Europe. The road ends at Corran but you can continue by foot on the old drovers track, which leads from the Kylerhea ferry across the shoulder of Beinn Sgritheall and down the loch towards Kinloch Hourn and the south.
Glenelg is the ideal base to explore the North Western Highlands and the Island of Skye. Throughout this area, there is an abundance of wildlife (from Highland Cows to Golden Eagles) and plenty of walks from the shoreline to three thousand foot plus.
This "unguessed" paradise awaits you....