The Out About Scotland complete guide to the walk to the Carsaig Arches
What’s this attraction all about?
The walk from Carsaig Pier to Carsaig Arches has to be one of the highlights of any trip to Mull, and although it’s a difficult walk you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views on the island and you’ll see a loads of wildlife along the way.
The arches are caves that have been carved into the cliffs by the power of the sea and it’s possible to walk through them onto what has to be the remotest beach on the island, but getting there is quite a difficult scramble.
The route starts at Carsaig Pier which is worth visiting in itself because there are often colonies of seals soaking up the sun on the exposed rocks jutting out of Carsaig Bay. After waving goodbye to the seals you’ll walk along rocky beaches and boggy grassland while following a boulder-strewn goat track, in-between scurrying across waterfalls and traversing narrow clifftop paths. One thing that can be said about this walk is that it’s not easy.
The views are fantastic though, with the islands of Jura and Islay providing a backdrop to a landscape that has dramatic cliffs towering on one side and the roaring ocean pounding on the other. It’s a wonder that so much wildlife chooses to live there but this part of Mull is a haven for animals and there’s no doubt that at some point during your walk you’ll encounter wild goats, red deer, seals, guillemots and black shags. Just make sure you’ve packed your camera before you leave.
There’s no getting around the fact that this walk is tough. And I mean really tough. Not because it’s particularly steep but because the majority of it is a clamber over boulders and rocky landslides, so although it’s only around 8 miles return from the pier to Carsaig Arches you’re going to need to set aside at least 6 hours to complete the walk. But if you do decide to make the journey you’ll be rewarded with an experience that you’ll remember for a very long time indeed.Read more...
Before you begin the journey decide if you’re actually fit and able enough to do it – it’s not easy, and I’d suggest you definitely don’t attempt it if you’re on your own or if you’ve got a fear of heights. That being said if you’re committed to reaching the arches you’ll need to drive towards Pennyghael on the A849 and follow the signs to Carsaig. The road here is very steep and single-track, so take your time, but once at the bottom you’ll find yourself in a small car park where you can leave the car before heading to the pier.
This small stone fisherman’s pier is a wonderful place to enjoy the bay, not just for the views but also for watching the seal colonies sunning themselves on the nearby rocks, but you’ll need to make the most of the daylight so take the track that runs along the top of the stony beach heading west and follow it until you reach an expanse of grass.
Take care once you reach this point because it gets extremely muddy, although thankfully there are a few wooden boards laid out that cross the worst of the bogs, but even so you’re going to want to wear boots for this walk. Trainers and Crocs are going to get destroyed…
Ahead lies a stone wall and a kissing gate, and after passing through it you’ll simply be following the coastal trail until you reach the Carsaig Arches. There are a couple of points of interest to be aware of along the way though.
The first is the Nun’s Cave, the partly hidden sandstone cave that was used by nuns fleeing from Iona Abbey during the reformation. If you want to explore the cave you can take a short detour off the track to look inside it where you’ll see some religious symbols carved into the walls which are believed to be over 1400 years old.
The second point of interest to look out for is a cascading waterfall about an hours walk after the Nun’s Cave that pours over the top of the towering cliffs above, and these cliffs also happen to be a favourite place for deer to rummage about for food, so don’t be surprised if a head suddenly pops up from behind the rocks!
And not only are there deer above but there are animals below because the beaches at the foot of the cliffs are a favourite resting place for herds of wild goats. I’ll admit I got a big surprise when I walked behind a rock on the beach and found an enormous goat staring at me.
When you finally get to the first arch you’ll no doubt be wanting to take a well-earned rest to just sit back and enjoy the view, or maybe watch the seals bobbing about in the sea below. It’s definitely a nice reward for all your hard work but the more adventurous will probably try to get to the second arch instead. To get there follow the narrow path that runs up the cliff face before the first arch and descend down the other side onto a small beach at the foot of the cliffs.
But take extreme care here. The rocks are slippery and the cliffs are high and steep so any fall could cause serious injury. To be honest, I was happy enough to just enjoy looking at the first arch before heading back, but whatever you decide to do once you reach this point make sure you’ve got enough daylight to make the return journey to the car park which will take at least 3 hours at a reasonable pace.
What I liked about this attraction
- There’s so much wildlife to see. Who’d have thought there’d be wild goats living on the beach?!
- The views are amazing at every point, from Carsaig Bay all the way to the Carsaig Arches
- It’s possibly the remotest point on the island so you’ll likely have the entire bay to yourself
What I didn’t like about this attraction
- It’s really, really hard going. In fact, I’d suggest you don’t even attempt it in the winter
- It’s slow going thanks to the boulders obstructing a lot of the track
- The route to the second arch can only be reached via a dangerously exposed path
Isle of Mull
Nearest postcode: PA70 6HD
- Telephone: NA
- email: NA
- Website: Isle of Mull official website
Prices and opening times
There is no fee to visit the Carsaig Arches.
The route is open 24/7, 365 days per year depending on weather conditions.