From the West coast
of Scotland

A fascinating ten-year archive of letters from one
the most beautiful parts of Scotland,
its people, places, landscape and wildlife.

map Pamela

"Strachur is a small, sleepy, sprawling West Highland village spread along the north eastern shore of Loch Fyne - the longest sea loch in Scotland. This is a very dramatic and beautiful part of Scotland, full of ancient history, magnificent forests and wildlife..."

Pamela MacKinnon's

Letters from Argyll

Autumn 2002

Strachur Smiddy, Carved Stones of Kilmodan and a Cheeky Pheasant

The Smiddy

In these days of 'tear everything down and build anew', it's refreshing to find a little corner of a village which has been lovingly restored and still serves a purpose. In Strachur we have the 'Strachur Smiddy' (Blacksmith's workshop). No-one knows exactly when it was built but the first reference to it appears around 1791. Coincidentally this is about the time when General Sir John Campbell was building Strachur House and a coaching inn which sits about 500 metres down the hill from the Smiddy, so an assumption could be made that he was responsible for building the Smiddy too. For most of its life the Smiddy has been owned by the Montgomery Family and the last blacksmith to work there was John Montgomery when it closed in the mid 1950s. The Montgomery family are still very involved in the running of the museum.

The Smiddy

The Smiddy remained closed up until the 1990's and over the last several years through hard work, donations, grants and fundraising events it has been restored to its former glory housing the original workings which are fully operational. I was amazed at the size of the workshop inside as it looks so tiny from outside but there is plenty of room to wander round looking at the workings and reading about the history with old sepia photographs of blacksmiths and people involved in its operation.

Several times a year the forge is fired up and a travelling blacksmith arrives to give shoeing demonstrations and ponies grazing in fields nearby are brought along to be shod. The latest open day was Sunday 29th September. The horse in this photograph is Linty a very well behaved highland pony who enjoyed admiring looks and affection from the public (not to mention lots of hard boiled sweets) while a set of new shiny shoes were fitted.

Pony and Trap

Across the road sits a pony and trap, expertly driven by a local enthusiast who takes groups of sightseers round the village. All proceeds go to the Strachur Smiddy Trust fund and adding to that fund are the proceeds from the small gift shop which nestles at the rear of the Smiddy offering local crafts for sale.

carved gravestones

Another village which has managed to hang on to something of the past is Glendaruel, a beautiful, sprawling area of verdant green fields, contented cows and the odd house dotted here and there covering a ten mile area on the road to Tighnabruaich. At the bottom of St Modan's Church graveyard, behind the village hotel, sits another tiny stone building called a Lapidarium - and this one is tiny - which houses a collection of ancient carved gravestones. These stones are fine examples of 15th and 16 century Celtic design carved grave slabs and as they are so significant they are now protected by Historic Scotland. The day I took these photographs it was mid summer, the weather could not have been better and I don't think I've ever been in such a beautiful and peaceful setting.

On the cottage front, well, what can I say, Autumn is most definitely here. After a disastrous summer for weather with a very green garden, September arrived with the most spectacular Indian Summer and up till now we've had very little in the way of rain. Subsequently the garden is looking more colourful now that it has all year however, we have had some serious frosts this last week and my begonias have definitely had it.

Pheasant

We've had great fun with the pheasants this year as the cock pheasant has decided to look in at us every morning and won't go away until we feed him. In fact he's recently taken to tapping the glass doors with his beak and looking in until we open up and speak to him. Of course then he runs away for a few feet but quickly comes back and I'm sure he knows my voice now.

Still haven't been able to catch the sparrow hawks on film although they pay daily visits to the garden but I'll keep trying. I thought I'd be smart and put some beef trimmings on the top of the bird table yesterday to attract the hawks, as sometimes they rest here, and then I might have got a photograph, but calamity this morning - bird feeder was on its side, trimmings gone and I suspect the cat from next door had a hand in this!

The leaves are beginning to turn colour now and I'll be out in the next couple of weeks snapping away, bringing you the best of the autumn foliage round Loch Fyne in the next 'Letter'. Meanwhile I'll have to mend the birdtable and think up some other attraction for the hawks. I've heard on the grapevine that there are a pair of golden eagles living in the hills behind the cottage - no specific information of course to ensure their protection, and we've never seen them, but with the amount and variety of birdlife which visit the garden I would not be surprised at anything which pays us a visit.

"Where the magnificence of the scenery is matched only by the beauty of visiting wildlife."

Text and photographs © Pamela Mackinnon.

Yours aye,

Till next time...

Pamela

October 2002
Argyll map

Return to the top ˆ