Mallaig is a working port, and it is the port rather than the tourist that forms the main focus of the activity of the town. It makes a refreshing change to find a Highland town that still has this option. But if you have a soft spot for the sea and for boats (and if you don't, what are you doing in western Scotland?) then Mallaig is one of the most attractive and interesting places you'll visit.
There was a time when the narrow road into Mallaig from Morar to the south approached over the hill behind the town and dropped down the main street. This changed in 1988 with the building of a high quality new road close to the west coast that brings you directly to the roundabout at the entrance to the harbour.
The railway station is the first and last place that many people see in Mallaig, whether on the normal service trains or on the regular excursions of the steam hauled Jacobite from Fort William, surely one of the most enjoyable ways to experience one of the world's most wonderful railway journeys.
Mallaig is well catered for in terms of places to stay, ranging from accommodation for backpackers right through to rather more upmarket options like the West Highland Hotel. There are likewise plenty of options for those wanting to eat or drink, including The Watersedge on the pier, which serves excellent coffee and snacks whilst also providing local Tourist Information services and internet access.
But it remains true that one of the main reasons to come to Mallaig is to catch a boat. Since the opening of the Skye Bridge in 1995, Mallaig is the main ferry terminus for Skye with sailings to Armadale, near the toe of the Sleat Peninsula. These are more frequent in Summer than in Winter, but vehicles are now carried throughout the year.
Mallaig is also the main hopping off point for those wanting to catch a ferry to the islands of Rum, Eigg and Muck (though summer sailings are also available from Arisaig). And it is from Mallaig that you can catch a boat to the village of Inverie, on the southern side of the Knoydart peninsula and said to be the only village in Scotland with no link to the road network.
While in Mallaig it is worth exploring the housing development built on the hillside at Courteachan, on the far side of the harbour. This gives some stunning views back across the town, and beyond to Eigg, Rum and the Small Isles.