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Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know about

Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know about


Postby dogplodder » Thu Aug 18, 2016 3:24 pm

Route description: Silver Sands of Morar

Date walked: 26/05/2016

Distance: 3.5 km

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I'd heard of the famous Silver Sands of Morar long before I ever set foot on them and they will remain in my memory as sands it took a fair bit of effort to ever set foot on!

Back in July 1990 we were on Skye for two weeks with our 4 kids and 2 friends and after a week of doing the usual Skye stuff they wanted to go to a Really Good Beach. At risk of offending my Skye born friends I have to say Skye doesn't boast the kind of wide sandy beaches they were dreaming of so we came up with a convoluted plan to reach one. We drove down the Sleat peninsula to Armadale, parked the car and crossed as foot passengers on the ferry to Mallaig where we took the train to Morar.

All of that was easy enough but once disembarked at Morar station we still had to find the Silver Sands and it wasn't obvious how to get there. We could see from the map where the nearest beach was, so set off along the B8008 heading south. I don't know if the bypass was there then but the old road didn't go in a straight line, twisted all over the place and quickly ran out of pavement. Herding 4 kids in single file along it and over the narrow bridge at the gorge-like River Morar to the constant chorus of "Are we there yet?" would have to go down as one of my less relaxing moments of that holiday!

After what felt quite a long road walk we did finally arrive at some white sand on the south side of the River Morar. It wasn't the wide expanse of silver sand with island views we'd seen on calendars, but with imminent threat of rebellion in the ranks we settled for a stretch of sand at the mouth of the river where our dog was terrorised for the next few hours by a feisty swan.

White Morar Hotel visible on left
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We spent a lovely afternoon there and decided rather than return the long way round by road we would take a short cut across the river heading for the white hotel which we knew was near the station. It was low tide so the river was shallow and it was good fun piggy-backing those who didn't fancy the wade. Finding our way up through assorted greenery to the station was more of a challenge and if there was a path I don't think we found it. There's no denying our beach day had been an adventure!

Crossing the river
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Roll on 26 years and we were back (just the two of us) in Arisaig for the week and decided to make a second visit to the Silver Sands of Morar, this time to the beaches of Bourbach and Sgeir Mhor on the north side of the river. Armed with the WH route description we left the car at Morar station and crossed the road to the hotel. We were looking for the underpass to the A830 but each time we had driven past the north end of the road into the village we'd failed to see it so I decided to save time and ask in the hotel, as the locals would be bound to know.

Morar Hotel
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The gentleman on reception was keen to help but he wasn't a local. He'd never consciously seen the underpass, didn't know how to access it but thought he knew someone who would. I can't fault him for his efforts but three phone calls later he still wasn't entirely clear about its location. He thought we might reach it via the field where they hold the show and if we headed in that general direction we should find it. The thing was it seems no one apart from the farmer ever uses the underpass and that's only to bring the cattle through. But the lights are on inside it day and night, just on the off chance anyone apart from cattle should happen upon it and decide to go through. He was being so nice and I was struggling not to burst out laughing which would have been churlish in the extreme. I left with a promise to return with whatever information we could find.

Old road through village
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When we reached the north end of the road where it's about to meet the junction with the bypass, there was the elusive underpass with a clear path leading to it.... It's a good illustration of things not being on folks' radar unless they use them. The cattle would have known.

Underpass by junction with main road
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You could tell it wasn't used much as it was completely graffiti free. I can't imagine the inside of an underpass in a city looking like this.

Underpass up close and personal
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Once through the underpass there was a gate and a sign indicating pedestrian access to the beach. We followed the track and came to two bungalows but without WH instructions I'm not sure we would have seen the faint grassy path which turned left between them leading to a small footbridge, which looked to me like the private footbridge for the occupants of the bungalows.

Footbridge
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We then walked to the right of a caravan and left of an old black house keeping close to the shore. The path at this stage wasn't very distinct, which is a polite way of saying it was non existent.

Tied boat and old black house
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We picked up the path again but it was very muddy in places with an attempt to cover the worst parts with old planks that were slippy enough to be more of a hazard than a help. It's not the sort of approach the average person wanting a relaxed walk to a beach would find all that pleasant to follow and made me think of that crazy walk to the beach we'd had all those years ago. Maybe the Silver Sands of Morar don't like their picture postcard status and just want to be left in peace?

Looking back to river we crossed on our first visit
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The first beach we came to was Bourblach beach facing south east and sheltered from the prevailing west winds by a little headland.

Bourblach beach
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View back to Morar
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Ahead we could see a steep sandy path up and over the sand dunes of the headland. As advised by WH we didn't
take it and since it was low tide could easily walk round the headland on the sand. Had the tide been in there was another path over the lower end of the headland to avoid causing more erosion to the sand dunes. Beyond the headland the west facing beach of Sgeir Dubh (Black Rock) stretched away from us with views to Eigg and Rum.

Sgeir Dubh beach
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The tip of the headland we walked round
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At this point we met the only other person and his dog we saw that whole afternoon on those beaches. He wasn't a local born and bred but had moved to the area a few years ago and would be considered a local now, his kids attending the local school. We chatted for a while about this and that and when he saw me taking photos so I could do a report for Walkhighlands he said "Whatever you do, don't tell anyone about these beaches!" so I promised I would only write a report for Walkhighlands and wouldn't tell a soul about the beaches. That's when it dawned on me why it's so hard to reach these beaches. The locals don't want to make it easy for tourists to find these secluded beaches because it would spoil them. And of course they're right. It would.

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Who needs air travel with scenery like this?
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Tess enjoying a dip
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We had Jack on the lead as the man we met said there were sheep about, though we didn't see any. Jack's an old boy now and probably wouldn't bother to show too much interest but better to be safe than sorry. So he was allowed a swim under close supervision and then back on the lead again!

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No colour enhancing done here - it really was like this
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Connecting path over headland back to Bourblach beach
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After a couple of hours exploring two wonderful beaches we returned through the secret underpass and back to the hotel to tell the man on reception where it was, which information he was glad to receive. It may have taken a little effort reaching those beaches - but they were worth it.

Later that evening back at the cottage in Arisaig the owner who lived next door said there was a young stag in the field over the garden fence. At first I thought she'd made a mistake and it was a hind but looking at it more closely you can see the antler stumps appearing. The light was low so photos aren't the best. I think this young fellow was the same one I photographed a couple of days earlier and this must be his patch!

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Post script (added on 16th April 2017)

We loved this area so much we booked a holiday house in Morar and spent last week there along with son, daughter in law and 3 grandkids.

View from Half Moon Bay holiday house window
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One of the days we headed over to the secret beaches and found the path just as muddy as we remembered it. The 7 and 4 year olds had no problem and the 3 year old managed with a bit of help from mum and dad!

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Made it on to Bourblach beach
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I've used my quota of photos so will add a few more in a post.
Last edited by dogplodder on Sun Apr 16, 2017 4:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know a

Postby Walk cycle » Thu Aug 18, 2016 5:01 pm

I think I cycled on that underpass when I cycled from Fort William To Morar about ten years ago. Morar is a lovely part of Scotland. At the time I thought it was a bit 'urban' to see the underpass.
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Re: Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know a

Postby dogplodder » Fri Aug 19, 2016 1:09 pm

Walk cycle wrote:I think I cycled on that underpass when I cycled from Fort William To Morar about ten years ago. Morar is a lovely part of Scotland. At the time I thought it was a bit 'urban' to see the underpass.


It seems a questionable use of public money putting it in if only cattle use it - but imagine it was part of the original deal to the land owner when bypass was built. 8)
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Re: Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know a

Postby jamesb63 » Sun Aug 21, 2016 7:54 pm

What a nice report :clap: :clap: My father told me a few times of trips he made
to the Silver sands and the adjoining areas and rated them highly in his journeys
it is somewhere I have never visited but having now read your report this is something
I must rectify I am sure my dogs will love it too :D
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Re: Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know a

Postby dogplodder » Tue Aug 23, 2016 2:58 pm

jamesb63 wrote:What a nice report :clap: :clap: My father told me a few times of trips he made
to the Silver sands and the adjoining areas and rated them highly in his journeys
it is somewhere I have never visited but having now read your report this is something
I must rectify I am sure my dogs will love it too :D


Being labs who love to swim they'll love it! :D
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Re: Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know a

Postby dogplodder » Sun Apr 16, 2017 4:20 pm

Holiday house up there (top row, second from left)
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Bourblach beach
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Following the maze their dad marked out in the sand
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Sgeir Dubh (Black Rock) beach
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13 year old Tess still retrieving sticks of seaweed thrown into the sea
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The tide was so far out it was possible to walk straight back over the sand without getting wet feet. :D
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Re: Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know a

Postby malky_c » Sun Apr 16, 2017 4:36 pm

Thought I'd commented on this last year, but obviously not :roll: .

Lovely part of the world :D . Planning to camp along here somewhere next week if the weather is good. I have alternative plans for the more likely weather outcome :lol:
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Re: Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know a

Postby dav2930 » Sun Apr 16, 2017 8:10 pm

Missed this report first time round and I'm glad it's come up again as it's very interesting. What a stunning view that is from your holiday house! I visited the Silver Sands on a family holiday in 2002 and found it a magical place. As you say, let it be spared from the tourist hordes and above all from commercial development!

One thing I regret is that I didn't visit the Morar Hotel (I've been meaning to ever since), as it has a particular association with the composer Arnold Bax, who stayed there frequently for long periods. Much of his music was inspired by the land and seascapes around here and a number of his symphonies, which really do conjure up the atmosphere of the place, were written in the hotel itself. 8)

bax_arnold_0.jpg
A young Arnold Bax
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Re: Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know a

Postby Kimberly » Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:12 pm

Thank you so much for your posting about the walk. I printed your commentary and a few of the key photos -- without your guidance, I would never have found my way to the start of the walk!

I was there the last week in August - there was a holidaying family of five on the first part of the beach there for the afternoon, and two people a bit ahead of me doing the walk. It made for a lovely afternoon, and I'm so grateful to WalkHighlands and to you for providing these resources!
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Re: Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know a

Postby dogplodder » Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:14 am

dav2930 wrote:Missed this report first time round and I'm glad it's come up again as it's very interesting. What a stunning view that is from your holiday house! I visited the Silver Sands on a family holiday in 2002 and found it a magical place. As you say, let it be spared from the tourist hordes and above all from commercial development!

One thing I regret is that I didn't visit the Morar Hotel (I've been meaning to ever since), as it has a particular association with the composer Arnold Bax, who stayed there frequently for long periods. Much of his music was inspired by the land and seascapes around here and a number of his symphonies, which really do conjure up the atmosphere of the place, were written in the hotel itself. 8)



Didn't know that or might have ventured past the reception desk when enquiring about the way to the underpass! :lol:
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Re: Mystery of underpass to Morar beaches no one must know a

Postby dogplodder » Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:17 am

Kimberly wrote:Thank you so much for your posting about the walk. I printed your commentary and a few of the key photos -- without your guidance, I would never have found my way to the start of the walk!

I was there the last week in August - there was a holidaying family of five on the first part of the beach there for the afternoon, and two people a bit ahead of me doing the walk. It made for a lovely afternoon, and I'm so grateful to WalkHighlands and to you for providing these resources!


So glad it was a help. It truly is a magical spot and worth the effort getting to. 8)
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