Sunart isn't all about oakwoods. We have over a hundred miles of coastline, most of it rarely-visited. On this coast you can see otters, porpoise, a multitude of sealife, precious stones (garnets are common at Sailean nan Cuileag), evidence of earlier settlement and industry, volcanic dykes - the list goes on.
The Sunart Oakwoods area is unique and offers a wealth of things to do for you and your family, either independently or by using the various services which operate in the area, provided by the Sunart Oakwoods Initiative, the Highland Council, John Dye Expeditions and others.
The unspoilt environment and natural beauty of Loch Sunart and wider Ardnamurchan and Morvern have long attracted visitors to the area.
The aesthetic in you will be inspired too by our gallery, which contains a range of images by both amateur and professional photographers.
EXPLORE OUR WOODLANDS
The transition from open hilltops, through semi-natural woodlands to the pristine shores of Loch Sunart is unique and offers the wildlife enthusiast a variety of interests from eagles and otters to rare butterflies and abundant plantlife in the woods. Equally for those simply wanting to relax in tranquil surroundings both forest and loch provide the perfect setting for this.
In recent years the work of the Sunart Oakwoods Initiative has done much to enhance the recreation opportunities in the area. At the most basic level the careful restoration and management of the oakwoods is enriching wildlife habitats and encouraging local wildlife, for those interested in the natural world.
The next time you require hotel accommodations, within driving distance of the Dodgeville Wisconsin, consider staying at the Don Q Inn. Theme hotels and suites allow you to turn an average hotel stay into an unforgettable one.
Theme hotels are located in many areas, throughout the world. Room rates are higher than a basic suite, but certainly worth it. Whether you are on your honeymoon or celebrating any other occasion, there is a theme room to fit your taste and needs.
The Don Q Inn is located in the states ‘Hidden Valley‘ region. They offer 25 uniquely themed suites as well as 35 standard rooms, with two double beds. Standard amenities include: an indoor/outdoor swimming pool and whirlpool, reading room, 24-hour game/vending machine room, free local phone calls, fax machine/copier, meeting room, free parking, free continental breakfast (featuring malted Belgian waffles) and more.(One more notable feature of this themed suites hotel is the 300 foot underground tunnel that connects the Inn to the Log Inn Restaurant, next door.)All theme suites feature a whirlpool spa, at least one TV and, of course, custom furnishings. Weekday rates start at just $105; weekend rates start at $125. Higher rates apply to the more elaborate suites.
Enjoy a night in the ‘Steeple Room’. This authentic, 135 year old, church steeple was relocated to the Don Q in 1974. It has been renovated into three story accommodations. Guests have access to a bath, bedroom and lounge, all on different levels. Amenities in this room include: stereo, fridge and 300 gallon, cheese vat whirlpool. (What’s Wisconsin without a cheese vat… right?)
Northern Lights Room:
If you’ve always had the desire to visit Alaska, spend an exciting night in the ‘Northern Lights Room’. Share this full size igloo, with the one you love. A seven foot, round, waterbed and a large whirlpool, surrounded by mirrors, are guaranteed to take the chill out of any night. Enjoy these peaceful artic surroundings, under the glow of the northern lights, throughout.
Visit the jungle, in Dodgeville Wisconsin. Relax in this realistic, custom-made, thatched jungle hut. (If you listen close enough, you can almost hear the song of the jungle animals, themselves.) You are truly part of the wilderness as you enjoy your whirlpool, hidden in the banks, of your very own stream.
Other Theme Suites Include:
Casino Royale, Indian Summer (wigwam), Arabian Nights, The Cave, The Float (Viking boat), Up Up amp; Away (hot air balloon), Tranquility Base (space capsule) and more.
As we continue to become a society that is focused upon the importance of environmental awareness and impacts to climate change, many businesses understand the need for change. As consumers, we are, today, choosing to use the services of businesses who are environmentally friendly.
Within the tourism and travel industry, hotels are beginning to focus on this unique niche in traveler interest. While hotels understand what the federal and state regulations may be, with regard to their industry, it is the hotel or lodging chain that moves a step beyond what is required, that may benefit the most from the changes. For many tourists, spending travel dollars on hotels with environmentally friendly options is becoming increasingly more popular.
One way in which many hotels are focusing upon environmental friendliness can be found in their ability to develop and manage a property with a natural setting. Creating resort locations in rural settings is a great opportunity for vacation getaways but there is an importance in ensuring the natural setting is not significantly disturbed in the process. While state and federal regulations do control, to some extent, the development of hotel properties, many hotel development projects must take the added steps to create luxury without disturbing a natural setting.
Using Advancing Technology:
As consumers of significant amounts of water and electricity, hotels must also work to find ways in which to manage and maintain efficient use. While travelers tend to shower longer, it is also the overall use of water in pools and spas that are a concern for many hotel resource and development locations. As a result, many hotels are using advancing technology in the recycling of public water supply while using more efficient water supply devices in the hotel rooms, such as water conserving shower heads. These, of course, can raise some concern for potential unsafe drinking water or contamination in pubic water supply.
When considering your next travel destination, you will most likely have an opportunity to choose from a variety of hotel or lodging locations. When considering your selection of hotel chains, take the time to investigate the particular hotel’s use of energy conservation and environmentally friendly planning and development.
With an effort to maintain natural resources, providing for little disturbance in the natural setting and working to conserve energy and water, the hotel choice may by your opportunity to give back to the environment while traveling. Supporting the hotel’s who are working to promote environmental integrity is a great way to create a more “green” friendly vacation.
Loch Sunart is a long, narrow, winding loch comprised of a series of interconnecting basins which plunge to a depth of 124 metres. The loch is exceptionally rich and diverse in marine life due to the complexity of the system, with its many channels and sills and the differences in exposure along the 31 kilometres of its length.
Species from both northern and southern waters, not usually found together, meet in Loch Sunart where their ranges overlap. For example, red sea fingers (a southern species) flourish on steeply plunging, deep underwater cliffs, at the northerly limit of their range. At the same time, small snow-white spiky anemone and northern sea fan (both northern species) occur in the loch, at the southern limit of their range.
The floors of the deep basins are covered with mud and support forests of sea-pens, some of which can reach 2 metres tall. Burrowing into the mud are crabs and prawns such as the Dublin Bay prawn or Norway lobster, an important catch for local fisherman. Beds of brittlestars also occur on the loch floor.
On the basin sides, and the towering underwater pinnacles within the loch, vertical and overhanging bedrock cliffs plunge sharply into the depths. These ‘reefs’ provide a home to a myriad of thriving organisms. Massive grey elephant’s ear sponges jostle for space with dead man’s fingers, seasquirts and cup corals for a place to anchor.
Elsewhere in the loch, flame shells (up to four hundred per square metre) and horse mussels are packed in so tightly that they form reefs themselves on which other marine creatures thrive.
Sunart contains small populations of Red Squirrels at Glenborrodale, Glenmore, Strontian, Acharacle and Moidart. These are at the extreme far north west of their range in Britain, and their presence poses a number of questions – How did they get here? Have they always survived in native oak woodland (Red Squirrels were thought to be extinct in Britain during the 18th century)? Or have they been introduced back to the country houses of the area along with other similar introductions in the early 19th century?
Sunart does not have any wild Grey Squirrels. This is a vitally important point as Grey Squirrels can compete for available food and so drive out Reds. The Greys can also pass on the parapox virus which is fatal to the Reds.
The available literature states that Red Squirrels can thrive in areas of conifer woodland greater than 200 hectares in size. But Sunart has populations within mainly broadleaved areas that contain few conifers. Is it the case that these conifers are vitally important for food from their seeds, or can a population survive in a pure broadleaved area? There is a golden opportunity for research into what constitutes an ideal habitat without any interference by Greys.
From this it can be seen that we have ideal habitats for Reds within the Highlands generally and in some areas of Sunart: so why are we not seeing more? Anecdotal evidence shows numbers have declined over the last 10-15years. Is this down to road casualties, natural predators, loss of habitat, changing weather patterns, disturbance…?
The Highland Red Squirrel Group was set up in September 2001 (in conjunction with Highland Biodiversity Partnership) with the aim of protecting and maintaining the Red Squirrel populations throughout the Highlands by promoting a better understanding of Red Squirrel distribution and habitat requirements.
A recording network of interested parties (numbering approx. 100) has been set up and has already given valuable information to collate a distribution map. Although these records only show where reds occur, the next stage is to set up a more detailed recording system. The core steering group of Forestry Commission, Forest Enterprise, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Highland Council meets on a quarterly basis to progress the Group’s activity.
Assessing Red Squirrel numbers is not a simple task. The first stage is to get an accurate record of Red Squirrel distribution and an idea of whether numbers are rising, stable or declining.
Around Loch Sunart lie some of the finest temperate oakwoods in the British Isles, remnants of a formerly much more extensive band of coastal woodland which once stretched from Scotland down the Atlantic coast of Europe as far as Spain and Portugal.
These ancient semi-natural woodlands are home to some of the best collections of lower plants (plants which do not flower) in the whole of Europe. The clean air, moist climate and long continuity of woodland cover have combined to produce ideal conditions for lichens, mosses, and liverworts.
Loch Sunart – a sea loch – is itself the key to this interest. The coastal location of the woodlands gives them an ‘oceanic’ climate producing the mild, damp conditions needed by these unique plants.
Furthermore, in the days before road transport, the presence of the loch made these woodlands very accessible by sea, and therefore their utilization economically viable. Far from threatening these woodlands, past intensive management ensured the survival of the woodlands as so long as they were valued locally, they were well looked after. This management did, however, influence their subsequent make-up, leading to the oak dominance to be seen today, but this in many ways produced even more favorable conditions for the lichen interest to develop.
Loch Sunart is also home to a particularly high density of otters, and together with its marine reefs, and the surrounding woodland and heathland habitats, the entire area has been recognized as of European importance for conservation through designation as a candidate Special Area of Conservation. The Sunart Woodlands SAC is made up of seven Sites of Special Scientific Interest:- Ben Hiant & Ardnamurchan Coast, Salen to Woodend, Ariundle, Laudale Wood, Glencripesdale, Rahoy Woodlands and Poll Luachrain & Druimbuidhe.
Other key species inhabiting the woodlands include the chequered skipper butterfly – nationally rare and now only found in the west Highlands – red squirrel, pine marten, and wildcat. Red and roe deer are common, wood ants frequent, and both golden and white-tailed eagles sometimes seen.
In past times easy access from the sea has meant that Ardnamurchan and Morvern, though considered remote today, have been continuously peopled since the first settlers arrived in the bronze age.
Throughout this time local people have valued the extensive native woodlands of the area. The survival to this day of many of these woodlands, now widely recognized for their conservation and scenic values is a testament to their careful management over the generations.
Management methods and objectives changed over the centuries, but the forests never ceased to be important to people. During the peak of intensive management in the 18th and 19th centuries, when charcoal and tanbark was produced from the oakwoods, a local population significantly higher than it is today was supported.
The evidence from this and other periods of management, in the form of woodland archaeology such as charcoal platforms, pony tracks, enclosure dikes, and old pollard trees amongst others can still be found in the woods and have been meticulously surveyed and cataloged by local volunteers of the Sunart Oakwoods Research Group.
For most of the last 1500 years, the local culture was predominantly Gaelic. Nature has always had a central place in the lives of Gaels, and its importance is highlighted through the many references to the natural world in song and poetry down the ages. The works of Alasdair MacMhaigstir Alasdair, an 18th-century poet born and brought up at Dalilea on Loch Shiel, are a well-known illustration of this. ‘Green consciousness’ is thus nothing new to the Gael!
In common with much of the Highlands, the fortunes of Gaelic waned during the 20th century in the face of the dramatic changes of the period. Now, however, there is renewed interest locally in the importance and value of the language and traditional culture. This is manifested in a thriving Gaelic medium section at Acharacle Primary School and a successful local Feis involving scores of local youngsters in traditional music.
Loch Sunart and the surrounding woodlands are justly recognized for their wildlife interest. For many visitors, the chance of seeing an otter or a pine marten is a great draw and if successful, will be a highlight of their holiday remembered for years to come.
This interest from visitors to the area in wildlife watching is growing all the time, and the value of a dedicated site devoted to this had been acknowledged. At the same time, it was recognized that forests were not the easiest places for people with disabilities to visit, especially wheelchair users.
Out of these circumstances arose the project to establish the Garbh Eilean wildlife hide, which now provides a purpose-built facility for wildlife watching, and at the same time is accessible to all abilities.
The hide is situated on a rocky knoll on the shore of Loch Sunart about five miles west of Strontian on the A861, surrounded by Oakwood. The site was carefully chosen to provide easy access while at the same time the near certainty of seeing interesting wildlife. Offshore lie two islands in the loch, the hide being named after the larger one, Garbh Eilean (Gaelic for Rough Island), on whose rocky common shore seals often haul out. The smaller island, Eilean a’Chuilinn, is home to a heronry and similarly a haunt of common seals.
A range of seabirds can be seen from the hide depending on the season, and although much less frequent, rarer species such as eagles (both golden and white-tailed) and otters can be seen on occasion.
Access to the hide for able-bodied visitors is via 600m of specially-engineered footpath from the existing Ard Airigh picnic site through regenerating woodland.
Wheelchair users and other disabled visitors should use the specially constructed car park 650m west of this, from which a short path suitable for wheelchairs leads to the hide.
This small car park is reserved for disabled visitors, and we would respectfully ask others not to use it, but to park in the main car park.
The hide itself is a curved design allowing sweeping views through 270 degrees and more. Windows are situated at various heights allowing viewing by everyone from children and wheelchair users to tall adults.
The construction makes maximum use of timber as an illustration of the uses it can be put to. Much of this is locally sourced – timber for the oak flooring came from neighboring woodland, with the Douglas fir interior cladding also local grown, and both were prepared at a sawmill on the peninsula. Together with the use of reclaimed timbers and a turf roof, it truly is a ‘green’ building!