Mallaig (pronounced MEL-ig) is a ferry port and fishing village on the west coast of The Great Glen and Strathspey region of the Scottish Highlands, with a population of 660 in 2020. The name is Norse, Mel vik, sand-dune bay.
Three trains a day run from Glasgow Queen Street to Mallaig, taking 5 hr 20 min. They split at Crianlarich, with one portion heading to Oban, so you need to be in the correct section via Fort William, Glenfinnan and Arisaig. A fourth train starts from Fort William. Trains and ferries are sometimes held for connections... and then again, sometimes not.
The Caledonian Highland Sleeper from London Euston reaches Fort William at 10:00, with the first onward train to Mallaig at midday. You can also take the Lowland Sleeper (Su-F) towards midnight, reaching Glasgow for 07:30, then continue on the daytime train.
The railway route crosses impressive highland scenery, spectacular in fine weather and grim at other times. It passes Loch Lomond, bleak Rannoch Moor, Fort William beneath Ben Nevis, then across the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a hundred-year-old stone arched rail bridge. From up there you don't see much of the viaduct, but there are views down Loch Shiel to the left.
The Jacobite steam train runs Apr-Oct between Fort William and Mallaig. It's a six-hour excursion connecting with the sleeper (depart 10:15, return by 16:00) staying two hours in Mallaig. In 2022 a standard day trip is £52 adult, £30 child, and first class is £80 adult, £57 child. Single tickets are available in standard class. May-Sep there's also an afternoon train (12:50-19:00), so you could have six hours in Mallaig, time for a boat trip, by going in the morning and returning on the afternoon excursion. Trains also stop at Glenfinnan for the obligatory photo of the viaduct, and by request at Arisaig. The Saturday afternoon excursion runs two hours later, enabling an even longer day-trip. These trains no longer start from Glasgow or Edinburgh.
Under your own steam, using the regular train service, you can day trip here from Fort William for under £20 adult return in 2022. Just saying.
1 Mallaig railway station is 100 yards from the ferry pier.
Scottish Citylink buses run from Glasgow Buchanan station to Skye; get off at Fort William (3 hours) and change to the Shiel Bus. In summer the Citylink buses run daily every couple of hours, but only half of them have a speedy onward connection to Mallaig. So from Glasgow buy a through-ticket: the connection will usually be held. The first bus north from Glasgow is at 10:00 arriving for 15:00, the last bus south from Mallaig is around 15:30 for 22:00. Scottish Citylink and Shiel Buses also run between Inverness and Fort William taking two hours, 4-6 a day in summer.
Between Fort William and Mallaig, Shiel Bus 500 takes 90 min, adult return £8. In summer it runs four times a day M-F, but Sa Su only once. Sit on the right for views of Glenfinnan Viaduct. Bus 501 also runs three times a day between Mallaig and Arisaig.
The bus stop in Mallaig varies. A couple of buses connect with the ferry to Armadale in Skye, and run direct to the ferry terminal. Others stop outside the bank near the railway station before wandering off to the housing estate at Mallaigvaig.
Reaching Mallaig by road first involves reaching Fort William then following A830 west (past Glenfinnan) for the last 43 miles.
The route from Glasgow is by A82 north past Loch Lomond, Crianlarich and Glencoe. (From Glasgow Airport follow M8 west to cross the Erskine Bridge and join A82.) There's a choice of routes from Edinburgh; it's probably easiest to follow M9 past Stirling, then A84 via Callander and Loch Earn to join A85, which joins A82 at Crianlarich. (From Edinburgh Airport turn west to come onto M9.) From Inverness it's a straight run south on A82 past Loch Ness to Fort William.
Reckon to average at best 50 mph (80 km/h). You'll zip along the motorways but the A-roads are twisty and busy, with few opportunities to overtake safely.
CalMac car ferries sail from Mallaig to:
- Armadale on Skye, 45 min. Apr-Oct M-Sa there are nine sailings, Sunday six. Nov-March has 2 or 3 M-Sa and just one on Sunday.
- Lochboisdale on South Uist, 3 hr 30 min, once daily in summer. In winter it's usually once on W Sa Su, but no sailings for most of Nov or Feb. When this ferry's not sailing, reach South Uist via Oban.
- The Small Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. Ferries sail daily throughout the year, but visit different islands on different days, so depending on route the crossing takes 2-4 hours. Don't take a car, use the free parking lot next to the ferry terminal.
- Inverie on Knoydart (operated by Western Isles Cruises): this is on the Scottish mainland but has no road connection. The ferry sails year-round, with four M-F and two Sa Su, taking 30 min. One sailing M-F calls at Tarbet, similarly isolated on the other side of the loch.
Mallaig is a small village, everything is within walking distance.
- Mallaig Heritage Centre, Station Rd PH41 4PY (by railway station), ☏ . Apr-Oct: daily 11:00-16:00. Tells the story of Mallaig and the surrounding area. Adult £2.50, conc £2, child free.
- 1 Morar is a little village 3 miles south of Mallaig: the trains and Shiel buses stop here. It has fine white beaches, and a short river rushes over waterfalls out of Loch Morar. This is almost 12 miles long and Britain's deepest freshwater lake at 1017 ft (310 m), a fjord scoured out by glaciation.
- Ferry trips for marine-life spotting and scenery, even if you've no intention to stay. The ferry trip to Armadale gives you time to see the castle gardens. Western Isles Cruises who operate the ferry to Knoydart also have sight-seeing cruises.
- Mallaig & Morar Highland Games are held at Lovat Games Field in Morar on the first Sunday in August.
- The Co-op opposite the station is open daily 07:00-22:00.
- Mallaig also has a few souvenir shops, a Spar, post office, chemist shop and ships chandlers.
- Steam Inn, Davies Brae PH41 4PU, ☏ . Bar: Su-Th 11:00-00:00, F Sa 11:00-00:00. Bistro and bar, also has rooms. B&B double £130.
- Fishmarket Restaurant, Station Rd PH41 4QS (within Coop), ☏ . Daily 12:00-15:00, 18:00-21:00. Serving fresh fish and some non-fish dishes. Very nice food.
- Chlachain Inn, Davies Brae PH41 4QY, ☏ . Pub with grub, also has rooms. B&B double £90.
Chlachain Inn (above) has an outstanding collection of single malt whiskys.
- Although some places close in winter, that's also when ferry connections are mostly likely to fail, so Mallaig landladies often rescue the stranded.
- Backpackers Lodge, Station Road PH41 4PU, ☏ . Bunk beds in mixed dorms. In 2022 they only accept full-dorm bookings. Dorm £25 ppn.
- Marine Hotel, 2 Station Rd PH41 4PY, ☏ . Clean welcoming place at the ferry pier. B&B double £100.
- West Highland Hotel, Davies Brae PH41 4QZ (east side of station), ☏ . A descendant of the original Victorian Station Hotel. Go for superior or classic rooms, the standard rooms are small. B&B double £120.
- Moorings Guest House, East Bay PH41 4QF, ☏ . Pleasant B&B open year-round.
- 1 Springbank Guest House, East Bay PH41 4QF (400 yards from ferry), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Welcoming, comfy, family-run B&B with 2 doubles and 2 twins all en suite. B&B double £115.
As of June 2022, Mallaig town centre has 4G from all UK carriers, but the signal is poor on the approach highway. 5G has not reached this area.
- See the pretty coastline between Arisaig and Morar, especially the "Back of Keppoch."
- Glenfinnan on the road east to Fort William has a much-photographed railway viaduct.
- Skye: the ferry lands you in Armadale, with roads onward to Broadford and Portree.
- Small Isles: a day-trip may suffice, since they're well-named.