MALLAIG: 12 VERY BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE HIGHLAND
Mallaig, Scotland was last updated on February 12, 2023
There are some amazing places in Scotland where the land meets the sea and it is on the coast that you will find some of the country’s prettiest towns. With open space, dynamic views, and that wonderful sea air, you will find the characteristic Mallaig, a pretty harbour town on the West Coast of the Highlands of Scotland. A great place to relax and explore.
If you have taken the Jacobite Steam Train ride from Fort William, you may have already visited Mallaig as it is the terminus for this scenic rail route. If you haven’t, I hope this easy guide will encourage you to do so.
Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace when outdoors.
PRO TIP: SCOTLAND
Book tours and tickets beforehand so not to miss:
Our Best Selling Day Trips and Multi Day Trips to undertake when visiting Scotland:
1 | See the best of Scotland in a day with this trip to Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Scottish Highland
2 | If you have more time, this 2-Day Highlands Tour with Hogwarts Express is the one to go for. It covers the best of the Highland and a ride on the quintessential steam train.
3 | Visit the famed Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle, for one of the most beautiful landscapes in Scotland entwined with stories and myths.
More Inspiration for Scotland?
OUR BEST READ ARTICLES ON SCOTLAND
1 | Mallaig – 12 Very best Things To Do at the pretty harbour town in West Coast of the Highlands Scotland
2 | The Jacobite Steam Train Journey in the Highland – Why you should ride it!
3 | Ride the ‘Hogwarts Express’
4 | Complete Guide to Inverness – Capital of the Highland
WHERE IS MALLAIG IN SCOTLAND
Mallaig is a vibrant fishing port in Lochaber, located in the west coast of the Highlands, Scotland. It is linked to Fort William by the A830. The coordinates for this pretty harbour town is 57.0038° N, 5.8272° W
You can see the location of Mallaig from the map below — rather remote on the west coast of Scotland. Other places are included in the map which will be mentioned in this article to give you some destination inspiration to help design your itinerary.
How to use the map above: Click on + at the top left to open the drop-down list of places on the map. Click on the highlighted marker to learn a little about the destination.
ABOUT THE HISTORIC HARBOUR TOWN, MALLAIG
The word “Mallaig” is derived from the old Norse “Mel Vik” which means ‘a sand dune bay’ and is less than 2 centuries old. It began back in 1840 when the owner of the North Morar Estate, Lord Lovat divided his farmstead known as Mallaigvaig which had a population of just 23 into 17 plots of land. He encouraged his tenants from the more populated part of the estate, Loch Morar and Loch Nevis to resettle here and adopt fishing as a way of life. By 1851, the population had grown to 134. The population and economy grew rapidly in the 20th century and became a thriving fishing port thereafter.
As a fishing port, Mallaig grew to be the busiest herring port in Europe in the 1960s. However, Mallaig sees the highest catches of prawns in Europe these days. Nevertheless, it still prides itself for its oak smoked kippers, which you must absolutely try when visiting this pretty town. There is only one place in Mallaig who does it “the old way” these days.
HOW TO GET TO MALLAIG: TRANSPORT CONNECTIONS TO MALLAIG
There are several ways to get to Mallaig.
The local railway station is the terminus for one the greatest scenic rail journeys in the world, the West Highland Line and the highly acclaimed journey from Fort William aboard the Hogwarts Express made famous by the Harry Potter series of movies.
There are train services all year round from Fort William to Mallaig operated by Scotrail. Check train times and ticket prices here.
This historic pretty harbour town is also linked to Fort William by the stunning A830, evocatively known as ‘Road to the Isles’.
Shiel buses operate many of the local routes between Fort William and Mallaig.
Overlooking the Sound of Sleat that separates the mainland from the Isle of Skye, Mallaig’s focus is its ferry services. There are daily services to the Isle of Skye, Small Isles, South Uist and to the Knoydart Peninsula. Caledonian MacBrayne and Bruce Watt Sea sail from Mallaig to Armadale on the Isle of Skye, Inverie in Knoydart and the isles of Rum, Eig, Muck and Canna.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU DO YOU NEED IN MALLAIG?
What to see and do in Mallaig depends very much on how much time you have.
Most visitors do the round trip journey on the Jacobite Steam Train which means they have about 90 minutes to have lunch and to sightsee. Some stay overnight at this fishing village and immerse in the surroundings, taking a piece of Mallaig with them when they leave. Some others stay a little longer, a couple of days and use the harbour town as base to explore the Isles and other surrounding remote destinations. Depending on how much time you have in this picturesque town, you could select from this comprehensive list to create your itinerary.
12 BEST THINGS TO DO IN MALLAIG
Rather remote in the west coast of the Highland is Mallaig, a pretty harbour town that offer 12 best things to see and do on your visit.
Mallaig Heritage Centre
Just next to Mallaig Railway Station is a nice little spot, home to a treasure trove of stories on West Lochaber, its people and landscape. Mallaig Heritage Centre is a place to learn about the local history. The Centre tells the stories on the history of the fishing industry in Mallaig, the building of the West Highland Railways, and explains everything you need to know about this pretty harbour town. The Mallaig Heritage Centre has a multimedia display, film show, lifeboat exhibition, a model railway and a gift shop. It is worth visiting if you have about an hour or so.
Address: Station Rd, Mallaig PH41 4PY
Opening hours: From 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Admission: Adults £2.50 : Concession £2.00 : Students £2.00 : Children free
Special rates are available for groups of 8 persons and over.
St Columba’s Church of Scotland Mallaig
St Columba sits on a small hill overlooking the harbour of Mallaig, with spectacular views over the Small Isles. The church was built in 1903 and has one stained glass window. The window depicts Christ walking on water. A little further up, near the Manse, you have stunning views across the Sound of Sleat, and the Small Isles.
Address: Annies Brae, Mallaig, PH41 4QX
Western Isles Cruises – Wildlife cruise
The Western Isle Cruise operate the Knoydart Ferry Service at Mallaig. They offer a one-hour wildlife cruise which is a great opportunity to spot some wildlife.
The boat travels past the isles of Skye, Rum & Eig on the right, crossing the entrance to Loch Nevis, onwards to Green Island in the Knoydart Peninsula. The waters here are visited by birds, seals, porpoises, dolphins, whales and basking sharks.
The tour is designed to fit in with the Jacobite Steam train and Scotrail arrival and departure times at Mallaig.
Tour departs the harbour at 12:45 p.m. and at 5:00 p.m. daily between April and October. Arriving back in time to catch your trains back to Fort William.
Dogs welcome. Fully licensed bar and toilets.
Mallaig Circular Walk
Ideal if you wish to explore more of this picturesque village. A pleasant, short circular walk around the hills and village of Mallaig offer great views over the Isle of Skye and Small Isles.
i | Park by the harbour, at East bay car park;
ii | Head away from the village centre, towards your right, to a path signposted as Circular Walk;
iii| Head up the hill at the back of the houses and onto rough pasture. The path passes through a valley.
iv | Continue along the track, past the signpost to the top of the hill. There is a bench ideally placed for best views.
v | The path then heads towards the coast, joining a track, passing some houses to wards Mallaig Beag. On a clear day, you are rewarded with views over the Sleat Peninsula, Small Isles and Knoydart Peninsula.
vi | The track continues to the road. Turn left and return to Mallaig town centre.
TIP: Every now and again, stop to look back at the views. The views of the coast, cliffs, birch and willow are spectacular. Look out also for marine life and coastal birds.
NOTE: Ensure you take the necessary responsibe precautions when hikinh which are easily overlooked: Use suitable footwear; approapriate hiking gear; have a map and/or compass as well as prior research on the route.
Explore the harbour at Mallaig
Mallaig harbour is lovely. The view of fishing boats, calm waters, the generous curve of the land, sunlight and breeze – moments where no clock can measure. It’s a place to easily dream away your time while watching the boats come in with their catches.
Morar Cross is located near Mallaig Railway Station. If you can climb to the Morar Cross, you will be rewarded with some spectacular views of the bay. The climb is a little steep and there is a handrail in some parts.
There is a car park next to the train station. At the gate, look out for a sign that says ‘Steps to the Cross’. Takes about 5-7 minutes to reach the top.
Morar is located to the south of Mallaig, about 4.8 kilometres (3 miles). Morar is ideal for spectacular views. Watch the Steam trains go past on the West Highland line and stunning views of the Small Isles. The beaches of Morar are famous for its silvery sands where movies such as ‘Highlander’ and ‘Local Hero’ were filmed. Take a relaxing stroll along the wide shoreline of soft, pristine sand and crystal clear waters in what seems a paradise.
There are seafood restaurants nearby that offer fresh catches of the day. The Morar Hotel is worth looking into if you are looking for a place to stay in this picturesque area of Scotland.
Close by is Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater loch in Europe. It is 19 kilometres (12 miles) long and 300 metres (1000 feet) deep in some places. Here you can hire boats and canoes or try some fishing.
If you do decide to head out to the waters, be sure to have your cameras ready to capture a photo of Morag, a monster said to be a long time resident of the waters. Legend has it that the first sightings were in 1887. A reported incident in 1969 of a large creature of 25-30 feet long with three humps led to several surveys of the loch undertaken by the University of London in the 1970s. Three further sightings have been reported since but no one has been able to capture an image of her. Who knows, she may pop her head up when you are out there, so be sure to capture an image of her.
Jacobite Steam Train
If you plan to get to Mallaig by car or bus, then a journey aboard the Jacobite Steam Train from Mallaig to Fort William is highly recommended. Well-known as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, this ride goes over the 21 arch Glenfinnan Viaduct with extraordinary vistas, creating timeless memories. It does not matter if you are not a fan of the wizardry world of Harry Potter, but a ride on the famous Hogwarts Express is a bucket list experience for many travellers. I highly recommend that you give it a go.
Recommended read: Jacobite Steam Train Journey in The Highlands aka Harry Potter Train – Best 6 reasons why you should experience it
Mallaig has several souvenir shops and a dedicated shop for Harry Potter fans. Also Mallaig Art Gallery and Mallaig Pool & Leisure. There’s a grocery store and a bank.
The Harry Potter shop is located at Haggard Alley, across from the Royal Bank of Scotland. It sells Harry Potter Official Merchandises.
There is an annual literary festival hosted here called “A Write Highland Hoolie” in mid November.
Other attractions near Mallaig
You may wish to explore some of the surroundings at Mallaig.
Arisaig is located about 13 kilometers (8 miles) south of Mallaig and is famous for its beaches and views of Small Isles.
Loch Nan Uamh – Loch of the Caves
Located south east of Arisaig, this is where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed to start the Jacobite uprising in 1745. This is also the spot where he fled to France in 1746.
Located halfway between Arisaig and Glenfinnan, Lochailort is home to Inverailort Castle that was the headquarters for 42 Commando during the Second World War.
Glenfinnan is a hamlet located at the head of Loch Shiel. It was here that Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard to regain the throne for the Stuarts. A monument is erected here to commemorate the event.
Sitting in a tranquil spot, the Glenfinnan Monument is 18 meters high and you can climb to the top via a narrow spiral staircase for outstanding views. Surrounded by mountains and overlooking the shores of Loch Shiel, the Glenfinnan Monument is a Highland gem worth visiting.
The Monument is owned by National Trust Scotland. It is open from April to October. The site has a Visitor Centre, gift shop, restaurants and amenities.
Visit the Glenfinnan Railway Station that is home to Glenfinnan Station Museum and if your visit is in mid August, you could witness the Glenfinnan Highland Gathering (Highland Games).
Address: Glenfinnan Monument, Glenfinnan, PH37 4LT
Places to Eat in Mallaig
Mallaig offers varied choices of an abundance in fresh produce from land and sea. There are cafes, takeaways, restaurants and fine dining for all budgets along with panoramic sea and island views. My top 3 are as follows:
The Cornerstone Seafood Restaurant has a cosy atmosphere and offers elevated views of Mallaig harbour. I dined here and their fish & chips is the one to go for!
Address: Main Street, Mallaig, PH41 4PU
Check Tripadvisor Reviews about The Cornerstone Seafood Restaurant
The Terrace Restaurant
The Terrace Restaurant has a range to offer – from light bites, soups, sandwiches to classic favourites and specialities. It ensures the freshest and locally available produce is used.
Address: Davies Brae, Mallaig, Inverness-shire, PH41 4QZ
Check Tripadvisor Reviews on The Terrace Restaurant
The Fishmarket Restaurant
If you love seafood, the Fishmarket Restaurant is the place to be. Fish and shellfish are as fresh as they can be from the local boats! Ideally situated in the centre of town, with beautiful views of the harbour.
Address: Station Road, Mallaig, Inverness-shire, PH41 4QS
Check Tripadvisor Reviews on The Fishmarket Restaurant
The one place in Mallaig that does Oak Smoked Kippers: Jaffy’s
Address: J.Lawrie & Sons ‘Jaffys’ , Station Road, Mallaig, PH41 4QD
Check Tripadvisor Reviews on Jaffy’s
Where to Stay in Mallaig
Mallaig has a number of good places to stay such as the West Highland Hotel but you could also do a search for best available to suit your needs
A final note on Mallaig
Mallaig is fascinating and it is different to other tourist destinations in The Highland. It is the harbour that is the centre point of activity rather than the town. Visitors soak up the atmosphere of a working fishing port while also relax in the untouched remoteness of this pretty harbour town.
Due to its location, Mallaig is the gateway to the archipelago of islands on the west coast of Scotland. Definitely a perfect destination to spend some quality time and an escape to for some island views, seafood dining and sunsets.
Have a splendid time exploring Mallaig and The Highland.
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Mallaig – Very best 12 Things To Do at the pretty harbour town in West Coast of the Highlands Scotland was first published at timelesstravelsteps.com
This article is regularly edited and updated. The last update was on February 13, 2023.
Sincerely hope you get to ride the “Hogwart’s Express”. It’s a great journey.
You bring the west coast if Scotland Alice with the parts I have never known. Interesting to read about St Columba because of the links to Iona. As for the Jacobite train ride, I would so like to do this. Great blog
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