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How much time in Mallaig?

My family and I (all adults) will take a regular train from Fort William to Mallaig in order to be able to return to Fort Wm. on the Jacobite steam train at 2:10 pm.

My question: should we take an early train that will give us 4 hours in Mallaig, or a later one giving us only 35 minutes? I don't want to get everyone out of bed early if it's not that interesting a place to spend a half-day.

Thanks!

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, Irwolszon,

Mallaig is probably my favourite town on the west coast of Scotland. Unfortunately, most of the guide books give it short shrift. If I had to choose somewhere to spend the rest of my days, Mallaig would be among the top choices.

That said, there isn't a lot to see and do unless you enjoy boats and scenery. There are several hikes which you could take which would fill up the four hours, a great little used book store in the seamen's mission, and two small supermarkets (one well-stocked; the other not so much) if you need to pick up provisions. In addition, there are several restaurants and tearooms, a library, and a memorable statue down at the pier.

However, the choice is yours. Mallaig is a bustling little town. It's worthy of your time. As the early train out of Fort William leaves at 8:30, and arrives just before 10:00 a.m., you'd have time to wander about a bit, have lunch at one of the restaurants, or a picnic down by the harbour, and have plenty of time to get back to the train station for your return journey on the Jacobite.

Best wishes,

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
696 posts

My wife and I returned in mid-May from a visit to Scotland April 28 through May 14. We had been to the Isle of Skye before arriving by ferry in Mallaig. We had about a 2 hour wait before we took the Jacobite Steam Train to Ft. William. Do you have reservations for the Jacobite train? If you can, get seats on the right side of the train as it moves forward (Starboard).

But regrading your question about Mallaig. We arrived in the rain and it rained off-an-on for the two hours we were there. Perhaps our impression was influenced by the weather, but we didn't find it remarkable. The fish-n-chips at the vendor in the train station are delicious and modestly priced. Seating is extremely limited, we ate in the train station. You can take food on the Jacobite Train. Our bottom, line, don't get the family up early for Mallaig. For whatever it's worth, we also stopped in Oban (also in the rain) overnight and thought it was a more interesting place to visit than Mallaig. By the way, if you visit Oban, the restaurant at the Ferry Terminal at Oban (upstairs--not at ground level) had great food and the Oban distillery offers tours.

As we were doing our research, Ft. William didn't exactly get rave reviews, so as we made our plans, we were only there overnight (from the arrival of the Jacobite train until the next morning) but we thought it was worthy of more time than we were able to spend there. Are you planning on spending any time there; before or after your train journey? The Neptune Staircase is an interesting stop. We had hoped to visit the Ben Nevis distillery, the Nevis Range Mountain Experience and Inverlochy Castle, but didn't have time.

Happy travels in Scotland.

PS: Don't hang out the windows on the Jacobite train while taking photographs, you could get badly injured,

Posted by
37 posts

Maillaig is a fishing community - not a trinket filled tourist town - which makes me love it! I enjoy walking around looking at the boats and grabbing dinner or lunch and listening to music in the evening. I spent a few month and we visited often.
Fort William isn't anything great - I have driven through countless of times and it lacks the charm of most other towns. Once you finish the train tour, I wouldn't plan to spend much time there.

Posted by
940 posts

Well, that's two votes for yes, and two votes for no. Anyone want to chime in and break the tie?

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you, everyone, for your replies! Between the comments here and those in other RS forums, it seems that the balance is tipped toward not giving Mallaig too much time, though it does sound like it has its own charm, and I hope we can enjoy some of it for the short time we're there.
We will be spending 2 nights in Fort William before going on to Oban, where we'll take a ferry to Staffa and Iona and spend another night, before going on to Inveraray, where we plan to have some down-time. Any further thoughts will be appreciated.

Posted by
940 posts

Hi again, Irwolszon,

Just a thought - as you have the extra day in Fort William, you could easily drive back to Mallaig if you really like it. You may see things from the train that you wish that you had more time to explore - places like Arisaig, Camusdarrach Beach, the Glenfinnan viaduct, Loch Morar, or even Mallaig itself.

It's about a 90 minute drive from Fort William to Mallaig, if you drive straight through. However, no one drives straight through, unless they're trying to catch the ferry.

Hope you have a wonderful time on the train(s)!

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, Andrew,

A chacun son gout, as they say. Did you take the time to wander around the town, and talk with the locals? Did you walk around to the end of the harbour, and take the footpath to Mallaigbeg? Did you walk up the hill to the West Highland hotel for a drink and some live music? And did you spend the night there?

You'd already cast a vote, so we're still at evens. We need an impartial fifth voter to break the tie. :)

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
940 posts

Hi again, Andrew,

I am sorry, mon ami, that you found no beauty in Mallaig. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. I'm sure that you must have been having a bad day upon your arrival in the town. Or perhaps it was lashing down rain, as it often does there.

Anyway, I'm sorry to hear that you didn't give Mallaig more of a chance. Maybe next time, eh?

Slainte!

Mike (auchterless)

p.s.: "auchter" = "clue"? Ha! I see what you did there. Tres amusant! Actually, Auchterless is a village in Aberdeenshire, not too far from Fyvie

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, JG,

The village gets mention in the song "Bonnie Lass o' Fyvie," AKA "The Lass o' Fyvie." Bob Dylan stole the tune (as he often did) for his song "Pretty Peggy-O."

Hope you're having a grand time in Scotland. I'll be over a week from Monday.

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: Since we're still tied on whether Mallaig is "charming" or a "dump," perhaps you can cast the deciding vote. :)

Posted by
1273 posts

One of the best things to do in Malaig is to get an ice cream, go to the CalMac terminal and watch the car tetris as they load up.

Posted by
940 posts

Well, looks like the "nays" have it. But seriously, fellow travelers, instead of zooming off toward Fort William, take an hour or so to check out the town. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
940 posts

Bon jour, Andrew,

Tres drole, mon ami (sorry, my computer doesn't do accents)!

Just back from 30 days in Scotland. Stayed in Mallaig again on the way from Harris to Rum. Had a good night at the Chlachain Inn, and an excellent dinner at the chippy at the train station. Checked our e-mail at the library, did some shopping at the Co-op and the bookshop, and had a most enjoyable day.

Damn, it was good to be back!

Regards,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
32 posts

In 2014 we took the Jacobite train in both directions so had about 2 hours in Mallaig. Despite being the height of summer - mid August it was about 11C and drizzling with rain so not terribly exciting. Just long enough to get cold and wet BUT the train trips were amazing.

Posted by
169 posts

I recall a good meal at the Fishmarket Restaurant and a not so good night at an inn nearby due to loud discussion in hallway that went on late into the morning, Did enjoy hardware store next to ferry terminal. Obviously we spent the night but might be hard to fill 4 hours there unless u had a car and visit nearby sights-beaches etc.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks, Everyone!

Clearly, everyone sees beauty and interest in different things, which is why we travel, correct? I appreciate all your opinions.

In the end, we decided to spend a minimal amount of time (35 minutes) in Mallaig, so we did not explore it further. Thus, we will never know the hidden charm of Mallaig. The train trip was wonderful, though, and we enjoyed just waiting in the Mallaig station before heading back.

Posted by
940 posts

Just to add to the Mallaig mania - One of the best low level hikes on the west coast leaves from near Mallaig. You can catch the train from Mallaig to Morar, and hike to Bracorina; or you can take a taxi from Mallaig to Bracorina. The taxi costs about 10 pounds plus tip.

From Bracorina, a well defined path leads along the shore of Loch Morar to the isolated house at Swordland. From there, a wide (but frequently muddy) vehicle path leads down to the hamlet of Tarbet on Loch Nevis. From there, you can take the 3:30 ferry (reservations strongly suggested) back to Mallaig via Inverie on Knoydart. Or if you're really ambitious, you can leave the ferry at Inverie, stay a couple of days on Knoydart, then return to Mallaig.

S'all good, man!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1 posts

I know it's a little late response to Mallaig; but, it is one of my favorite places. I live a VERY busy life and the easygoing atmosphere in this coastal town is appealing to me. I went on hikes, met the locals, caught up on my reading. I also like taking the ferry to other islands nearby. A little treasure among other busy places with schedules.