Mallaig is the terminus of the West Highland line extension, opened in 1901, and is situated on a rocky hillside beside the Sound of Sleat, with views across the sea to Skye and the Small Islands. It is a fishing village and the ferry port for Skye and the Small Islands of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna. There is also a ferry from Mallaig to Loch Nevis, and the village of Inverie which can only be reached by sea. There are hotels, bar/restaurants and local shops in Mallaig.
Mallaig was originally established to act as the service port for the new railway to exploit the large quantities of herring which frequented the seas off the west coast of Scotland. With the coming of the railway it was possible to have freshly caught caught herring landed and loaded on the fish vans at Mallaig and delivered by train to London for sale at the London Billingsgate market the following day. It was this fish trade that created the business case to build the railway from Fort William. Mallaig and the ‘Mallaig Extension’ as the line from Fort William was called, and still is referred to as such, is therefore a relatively new development in the West Highlands. As a result it has an industrial aspect and many visitors find it rather an anticlimax after their journey through such glorious west highland scenery. The irony is that, although Mallaig remains a significant fishing port, no fish are now transported by rail and the lines principle custom is the tourist traveller.
Mallaig, despite its setting, may lack the attractiveness of other west coast fishing towns, like Oban and Ullapool, which have a long history of habitation. Despite this Mallaig is not unattractive and its location, busy fishing harbour and ferry services to Skye, the islands of Muck, Canna, Eigg, Rum and the remote Knoydart peninsula makes it a must visit place. The ferry to Inverie on the Knoydart peninsula is especially interesting since it is the only way for visitors to access Knoydart other than by a long walk in from Kinloch Hourn, itself a remote place at the end of a long single track road.
There are four trains from Glasgow via Fort William every weekday (fewer on Sundays). Refer to the ScotRail timetable for details. Mallaig is also the terminus for the Jacobite steam train between Fort William and Mallaig which runs from spring through to autumn, at Easter and during the Christmas festive season. This is a very popular service and prior booking is essential to guarantee a seat. Please visit the Jacobite Steam Train website for timetable and tickets.
The Jacobite steam train prepares to depart from Mallaig on its 40 mile return journey to Fort William.
The Mallaig ferries moored for the evening in Mallaig Harbour. The ferries, operated by Caledonian Macbrayne (CalMac) provide a regular daily service between Mallaig and Armadale on Skye and a varying schedule of sailings to ‘The Small Isles’; Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. The sailings provide a wonderful opportunity to visit these islands, all of which are different, but equally attractive, with the added attraction of sailing through breathtaking scenery. A great reason to travel and stay in Mallaig. To find out more, check timetables and purchase tickets click on the CalMac logo: