Muck is the smallest, lowest-lying and southernmost of the four Small Isles off the west coast of Scotland. It measures about two and a half miles from east to west and covers just over two square miles in area. The island is owned by the resident MacEwen family, who farm the land and raise Highland ponies and sheep.
Tourism is a vital part of the island's economy, with near daily visits by scheduled ferries from the mainland during the summer. While the island's population remains stable at around thirty, it can swell to almost double that during the summer thanks to a variety of accommodation. The tranquility and small size of the island make it extremely popular with families. The small size of Muck is also said to contribute to the relative absence of midges that plague visitors to other larger islands.
There are two scheduled boat services that connect Muck with the mainland:
- The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry MV Lochnevis sails to all four of the Small Isles from Mallaig throughout the year. It calls at Muck on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the winter; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and twice on Saturday in the summer. Although the construction of the island's slipway and pier in 2005 now permits the boat to enter the harbour and unload vehicles via its ramp, the channel into the harbour is narrow and winter sailings can still be disrupted by bad weather.
- During the summer, Arisaig Marine provide wildlife sightseeing cruises from Arisaig, about 10 miles south of Mallaig. Different islands are called at on different days, but the timetable generally allows access to Muck on days when the CalMac ferry does not.
If not travelling to Mallaig or Arisaig by car, you can reach the ferries by scheduled ScotRail train service (although note that the pier at Arisaig is not as close to the railway as the pier at Mallaig).
The famous 'Deerstalker' Caledonian Sleeper provides first class (single cabin) and standard class (double cabin) sleeper and reclining seat travel between Fort William and London Euston every night except Saturday. Local trains connect to Mallaig.
If travelling by day train, travelling to Muck from anywhere further south than Fort William is only possible without an overnight stop in Mallaig on summer Saturdays, when the early morning train from Glasgow Queen Street station connects with the second CalMac sailing to Muck.
Travelling from Muck to points beyond Fort William by day train is likewise only possible on summer Saturdays, when the first CalMac sailing from Muck connects with the train to Fort William and Glasgow Queen Street.
Muck has two popular anchorages:
- Gallanach to the north (56° 50.5’ North 06° 15.5’ West).
- Port Mor to the south (56° 49.6’ North 06° 13.0’ West).
Vehicles are not normally permitted to be brought onto the island. A single track road of about one and a half miles connects the small village of Port Mor in the south of the island (where the ferry arrives) with the farm and beach at Gallanach on the north side of the island. This is an easy walk for day trippers that can be achieved during the time allowed by sightseeing cruises.
The rest of the island can be explored on foot, although be aware of grazing animals and leave all gates as you find them. Ordnance Survey Explorer number 397 provides a usable scale map of the four Small Isles.
The majority of Muck's population lives either in the small village of Port Mor in the south or around the beach at Gallanach in the north. The western half of the island is unpopulated but can be explored on foot. The entirety of Muck can be surveyed from Beinn Aireinn (449 ft / 137m), the highest point of the island.
Camas Mor, a large bay on the south side of the island, has a rocky beach which receives a quantity of flotsam and jetsam brought onto land by prevailing currents.
There are five scheduled ancient monuments on Muck, all of which can easily be accessed on foot, although good waterproof footwear and long trousers is recommended for traversing boggy ground and thick undergrowth.
- A’chille (literally 'the old village') is described as a township, chapel and burial ground, and is located above Port Mor
- Toaluinn is a recently discovered large oval building, believed to be of Norse origin.
- Caisteal an Duin Bhain is fort at the western entrance to Port Mor. Of prehistoric origin, although the buildings on top and around about are more recent.
- Two cairns at Ard nan Uan: On the west side of Gallanach are Neolithic or early Bronze Age, 2,000BC. The central part of the north cairn has been used as the MacEwen family grave.
- Cairn on the summit of Beinn Airein, the island's peak.
A number of residential crafts courses are offered on the island, including rug, felt and toy sheep making (all using fleece from Muck's own sheep) and basketry (using willow grown on the island). For details of courses tel: +44 1687 462363 or +44 1687 460057.
A small shoot offers around ten days a season, with opportunities for pheasant, partridge, duck, snipe and woodcock. Full board accommodation is usually included in two or three day packages. Tel: +44 1687 462365.
The Craft Shop, Tea Room and Restaurant is Muck's only commercial outlet, and is open every day during July and August from 11am onwards, and most days for the other summer months. The Craft Shop is situated in the main settlement of Port Mor and during the summer months is the centre of activity for both locals and visitors alike. The shop offers a large selection of original crafts, many produced on the island, including rugs made from Isle of Muck wool, homemade baskets, hand knitted garments and handspun island wool, a selection of craft books, and cards of all shapes and sizes capturing the beauty of the local scenery.
The Craft Shop, Tea Room and Restaurant is open every day during the summer months to cater for those visiting by boat from Mallaig or Arisaig and those staying on the island. Evening meals for the latter are also available but must be booked in advance. Wherever possible, homemade and locally sourced ingredients are used, including freshly caught shellfish from around the island. For lunch, home made soup and a large selection of sandwiches, made from freshly baked bread, are available. For those returning from energetic walks across the island, there is an impressive selection of homemade cakes. For information tel: +44 1687 462362.
Those staying in the island's hotel or bed and breakfast accommodation may also enjoy an evening meal in their property. For details see the 'Sleep' section below.
Self-catering guests can usually purchase items from a small supply of provisions, a range of seasonal fruit and vegetables, and various cuts of Isle of Muck lamb from the Craft Shop. However most guests choose to bring the majority of supplies with them from the mainland. The Spar (tel: +44 1687 460257) and Co-Operative Food (tel: +44 1687 462240) stores in Mallaig accept telephone orders with Solo, Maestro, MasterCard and Visa cards and, for a small freight charge, will deliver them to the Calmac terminal in Mallaig for carriage to the island. Orders must be placed the day before delivery, and preferably before midday.
No alcohol is produced on the island. The Craft Shop, Tea Room and Restaurant has a with-food alcohol license and small selection of beer, wine and spirits for those eating in.
Details of all accommodation on the island can be found on the island's website isleofmuck.com
- The Bunkhouse, ☎ +44 1687 462042. Is the cheapest accommodation the island, with three modest bedrooms sharing a small kitchen and living room in Port Mor. Can by rented by the bed or in its entirety for groups.
- Port Mor House Hotel offers the island's most luxurious accommodation with full board that includes sumptuous three course dinner. Packed lunches also available. The house is located in Port Mor, on the opposite side of the small harbour to the Calmac jetty. Tel: +44 1687 462365 or visit isleofmuck.com.
- Godag House Bed & Breadkast is a comfortable family home, about half way Port Mor and Gallanach, with views of Rum, Canna and the Outer Hebredes. Dinner (using garden vegetables when available) is available. Tel. +44 1687 462371.
- Carn Dearg Bed & Breakfast is in the heart of Port Mor, a few minutes walk from the pier and perfectly located for the craft shop / restaurant. The two bedrooms (one double, one twin) have an excellent view of the bay. Evening meals using local produce and home grown vegetables are available. Tel: +44 1687 462363
- Three cottages, ☎ +44 1687 462362. Are available for rental by the week (Saturday to Saturday) throughout the year. For further information or visit isleofmuck.com. The cottages are:
- New House, on the north side of the island overlooking the beach and bay at Gallanach, with views towards Rum, Canna, Skye and Eigg. Sleeps up to 10.
- Gallanach Cottage, effectively the 'last house' on the island, at the very end of the road from Port Mor to Gallanach, overlooking Gallanach Bay with views towards Eigg and Skye. Sleeps up to 7.
- Seileachean, a cosy and sheltered house with an open plan kithen/living room and bedroom that sleeps 2 comfortably and families up to 5. Five minutes walk from the beach at Gallanach.
The island has a comprehensive website with details on activities, accommodation and transport. It can be found at isleofmuck.com. Telephone numbers for all contacts and up to date information can be found here.
With the exception of Saturdays during the summer timetable (late March to late October) the Calmac ferry MV Lochnevis only visits Muck once on the days it is scheduled to call. On those summer Saturdays, however, it is possible to take advantage of the two calls and make a short day return to the neighbouring island of Eigg from about 12:30 - 15:30. This is just enough time to climb Eigg's An Sgurr or cross the island to the Bay of Laig and Cleadale.