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The deepest loch in the western Highlands of Scotland is beautiful Loch Morar. Gouged from the rock by glaciers, this water body reaches the extreme depth of 1,017 feet - deeper than most of the seabed off Scotland's west coast. This rugged area has been called "the highlands of the Highlands." The steep-sided loch is surrounded by some of the Highland's highest peaks, such as Ben Nevis 30 miles to the southwest. As 'hill-walking' is a popular activity in the Highlands, Loch Morar receives plenty of holiday-makers, often on their way to conquer yet another peak.
Loch Morar is virtually uninhabited. The only road around the loch extends less than four miles along the north shore. The road ends at Bracorina, although a hiking track continues over the ridges to Loch Nevis and Loch Hourn. Swordland Lodge, with its Victorian stone lodge, was requisitioned by the Special Operations Executive as a training site during WWII and remains empty most of the time. As with much of the Highlands, the area contained a much larger population before 1900. The majority of inhabitants long ago left their small cattle farms for better jobs elsewhere, and settlements along the southern shore are now gone. Instead, the largest populated area near the loch is at Morar, a few hundred yards down the River Morar. The tumultuous River Morar is only a quarter of a mile long and drains into the River Morar Estuary. Morar is a quiet little village, particularly since the new highway bypassed the town. As such, Morar is a delightful spot to spend a holiday. It and the nearby coastal towns of Mallaig and Arisaig are well-supplied with vacation rentals in the form of bed and breakfasts, guesthouses, hotels, self-catering cottages and back-packers hostels. It is from the beach at the west end of the loch near the river that most boaters and fishermen access Loch Morar.
Boaters here enjoy sailing and power boating. Some swim areas exist along Loch Morar, but swimmers more often take advantage of the white sand beach areas of the River Moran Estuary west of the village. The primary uses of Loch Morar are nature exploration, hill-walking and fishing. Loch Morar was once noted for its prolific salmon and sea trout. Now, as with most lochs in northwest Scotland, these native fishes have nearly died out due to predation from parasitic seal lice from caged salmon farming. The loch still holds a healthy population of brown trout and Arctic char, much to the delight of avid anglers. The loch is a favorite canoeing and kayaking destination, with five relatively large islands and a number of small ones to explore. One of the larger islands, named Eilean Ban, held a seminary built before 1700. The building was destroyed in 1746, and little remains except some foundation stones.
Loch Morar is well-known in cryptozoology circles for its reported loch monster, Morag. Described in very similar terms to the better-known Nessie of Loch Ness, legend reports that Morag is the loch's spirit in the form of a shape-shifting mermaid. Sightings were described as a death omen for the MacDonald clan. Contemporary sighting from 1900 forward describe the 'monster' as a serpent-like creature. Oddly enough, Lochs Quoich, Oich, Lochy, Canisp, Shiel, Assynt and Arkaig have also have reports of lake monster sightings. Some researchers theorize that these cryptids are plesiosaurs that survived extinction and have adapted to the waters of the lochs. Others suggest they may be zeuglodons, primitive serpentine whales believed to have become extinct over 20 million years ago. Certainly, if there is anything to the sightings, it must be some sea animal that entered the lochs when they were connected to the sea thousands of years ago. All investigations so far have been stymied by bad weather, equipment failure or the great depths of the lochs in question.
The River Morar is short, rapid-running and spectacular. Tamed somewhat by a weir and power generation plant installed in 1950, the river drops 30 feet in its quarter-mile length. The river opens into a long, sandy-beached estuary very popular among hikers and campers. Nearby on the coast of the Inner Seas, Mallaig's busy harbor still supports a large fishing fleet. Arisaig has a popular marina with scheduled cruise ship service to the islands of Rhum, Eigg and Muck. The Jacobite Steam Train runs throughout the summer season with a service between Mallaig and Fort William. These amenities bring visitors to the Morar Peninsula in search of sea, sun, sand and solitude.
A visit to Loch Morar is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The isolated loch is the perfect backdrop for historic epics of clan battles, legends of loch monsters and breathtaking peaks towering above the clear, deep waters. Vacation rentals can be found in Morar and the nearby villages of Mallaig, Arisaig and Fort William. Real estate is sometimes found in the area although it is doubtful anything would be available on Loch Morar's lakefront. The perfect get-away for the student of Scottish history, lore and myth, a trip to Loch Morar will invigorate your imagination while it soothes the city-stressed soul. Come to Loch Morar - and make sure to bring the hill-walking boots!
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