THE sign at the side of the road says it all: Glenelg (Earth) twinned with Glenelg (Mars).
You do feel you have entered a different world when you cross the high, twisting Mam Ratagan, the pass that leads over from Glen Shiel into Glenelg.
Let’s face it - if you are going to do the twinning thing then better to aim high. I suspect there have not yet been any reciprocal visits but then again, who knows? It’s hard to imagine the Martian Glenelg being any more serene.
This is Scotland’s Shangri-La, a kingdom of peace and tranquillity. Not that Glen Shiel is exactly gridlocked, but when you leave the A87 and head west over the series of switchbacks and tight curves you immediately notice the difference.
Some places look at their best in brilliant summer sunshine, others in the blanketing whites of winter. But for me Glenelg always looks at its best in a calm, clear, grey day. This monochromatic image fits snugly with a place at ease with itself; no need to be a holiday hotspot and attract thousands of tourists, just keep yourself to yourself and saunter through life at your own pace.
We rented a house on the shores of Glenelg Bay a few years back as our base for a week’s walking. The weather changed from snowy winter to scorching spring midway through the stay, and our evenings in the latter part of the week were spent lounging around on the beach while gazing over to the Kylerhea peaks of Skye.
There was a collective sigh of relief when the little car ferry which connects to Skye from April to October was saved from the threat of the axe. Now community owned, it’s one of those must-see, must-do attractions that everyone should experience at least once.
The first time I used it, the skipper had a wee dog that performed a party trick. When the ferry pulled in, the dog would jump off and sit on the slipway. When the ferry was ready to go, the dog was still sitting there, looking as if it was staying behind despite the prompts from the crew. Eventually as the ferry started pulling out, the dog reluctantly got up, strolled over and then leapt on to the edge of the ferry. I could swear it sighed, and it wore an expression that read: “Oh well, if I really, really must.”
Just past the village of Glenelg, there’s a left turn into Gleann Beag, a dark, lonely glen and the Iron Age brochs of Dun Telve and Dun Troddan. They are still in remarkable condition, possibly better than some of our council housing stock, and no matter how many times you visit, you are still struck by the sense of community there must have been in these ancient structures.
Follow the road to the end and you reach Arnisdale, the starting point for the peninsula’s lone Munro, Beinn Sgritheall. If ever a mountain deserved its name, it’s the mountain of screes.
It’s consistently steep, sheets of broken rock rising almost straight from the shore like a giant curtain, no respite during the short, sharp ascent. Being a lone Munro, the views are immense, Skye to the north-west and mighty Ladhar Bheinn and other Knoydart delights across the bay.
The B-road to Arnisdale has thrown up a few surprises over the years. Once when driving along I spotted what I thought was a snake weaving across the road. I got out to discover it was a mother duck with ten ducklings following her exact steps.
Another time when walking along the road a car stopped and a voice called out to me. Turned out it was an old friend and his wife, a couple I hadn’t seen for more than ten years.
And then there’s the jewel in the crown - Sheena’s Tea Hut at Corran. Several times along the road there were prompts luring you on to this oasis. I won’t spoil the surprise for those who haven’t been there but let’s just say it won’t fall foul of the Trades Description Act.