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A cluttered, noisy port whose pebble-dashed houses struggle for space with great lumps of exposed granite strewn over the hillsides sloping down to the sea, MALLAIG isn't pretty. As the main ferry stop for Skye, the Small Isles and Knoydart, it's always full of visitors, though the continuing source of the village's wealth is its fishing industry: on the quayside, piles of nets, tackle and ice crates lie scattered around a bustling modern market. When the fleet is in, trawlers encircled by flocks of raucous gulls choke the harbour, and the pubs, among the liveliest on the west coast, host bouts of serious drinking.
The tourist office is by the harbour, with the CalMac ticket office (Tel:01687/462403), serving passengers for Skye and the Small Isles, nearby. For transport to Knoydart, Bruce Watt Cruises (Tel:01687/462320, Web: www.knoydart-ferry.co.uk ) sails to Inverie, on the Knoydart peninsula, every morning and afternoon (mid-May to mid-Sept Mon– Fri; mid-Sept to mid-May Mon, Wed & Fri).
For B&B, head around the harbour to East Bay, where you'll find the cheery Western Isles Guesthouse (Tel:01687/462320, Web: www.road-to-the-isles.org.uk/western-isles.html ; Price: 61-70), or there's Sheena's Backpackers'Lodge (Tel:01687/462764), a laid-back independent hostel overlooking the harbour, with mixed dorms (£13) and a modest seafood restaurant (Easter to end Oct). Alternatively, the FishmarketRestaurant, facing Sheena's, serves up lots of fresh seafood, while the Cornerstone, across the road from the tourist office, does the freshest of fish and chips – or a portion of scallops and chips if you're feeling decadent.