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 2005

Skye - The Misty Isle

Map of Scotland and the Isle of Skye

For many years I've longed to return to Skye - the most northerly of the Inner Hebrides - and in September we made that trip. Leaving Strachur in the most incredible rainfall and wondering what on earth we were thinking of, we made the four and a half hour trip to Kyle. We drove through the mist and rain all the way through Inveraray, to Fort William and then on to Lochalsh and as we approached Eilean Donan, the rain stopped, the clouds cleared and the sun came out giving us a beautiful end to the day. The clearing of the mist allowed us to gaze at the extraordinary landscape before and all around us. Some of the mountains have a very peculiar look and I was struck by the absence of trees and greenery which we are overwhelmed by in Cowal. We were glad we had booked a hotel before leaving home as the area was very busy for the time of year and everywhere was full. The Skye bridge The hotel was just metres from the Skye Bridge and although from a distance the bridge looks modern and sleek, when we got close it really is just a lump of concrete, but it serves its purpose well and nowadays they've done away with the toll charge.

The Cuillins

Next morning it was off to Elgol to see the mighty Cuillins (right) which are only reachable on foot and indeed from Elgol at the end of the Strathaird Peninsula you can catch a boat which will take you over to the mountains, drop you off and pick you up hours later. Needless to say the day we were there the sun was shining but the wind was strong and the boat was being tossed around the sea so no trips that day. The Cuillins, said to be the most spectacular mountain range in Britain, just rise straight out of the sea - being roots of large volcanos - and I have to say I was moved to tears just gazing at this sight. There is something hypnotic about this range of mountains which includes a few Munroes (mountains over 3,000 feet). Elgol itself is a delight. A collection of about 12 cottages clinging to the hills, dotted here and there, there is a small harbour, a coffee shop and a public toilet !!! The people who live here must be hardy indeed. Their houses face straight out to sea - the Sea of the Hebrides - and they have no protection whatsoever. I reckon they must be blasted by weather all winter.

The road to Elgol

Something you'll notice as you travel round Skye - apart from the breathtaking scenery - it's very hilly, particularly in the south, and there are few trees (right) until you get to the south west area of Sleat. Suddenly you are engulfed in greenery and the hills take on a much smoother rounder appearance. Armadale is where you get the ferry to Mallaig (25 minutes) which is what we did, drove round to Kyle and drove back from Mallaig.

Sleat

We stayed in Armadale for one night and of course we explored the area. Driving right to the end of the A851 (single track road) we came to the end of the line expecting nothing but yet more fabulous scenery and found an artist's studio based in Aird Old Parish Church - amazing. Another terrific place to visit is the Clan Donald Centre in Armadale. This is a very well designed centre which has a great restaurant/cafeteria, gardens, nature trails, castle ruins (below), museum and study centre. The museum offers a very modern audio visual experience covering 1500 years of the history of the area. A study centre offers a unique experience to learn all about the Lords of the Isles and the influence they had on Scottish history.

Armadale ruins

This journey is not for the day trip. From Strachur it took us about four and a half hours to travel the 176 miles to Kyle as the roads are not fast. You should plan to stay a night or two either on the island on near to the bridge as it's a large island - about 100 miles to drive right round on the decent roads - and much of the most outstanding of the fabulous scenery is located by driving down my favourite single track roads. I know you'll love it.

A damp red squirrel Back at the cottage, well our departure upset all of our dinner guests and it took Charlie the horse four days to forgive us and arrive at the door for his daily carrot. The pheasants of course were there with all the other birds and our three new squirrels within minutes of the bird seed and nuts being replenished. Unfortunately we've not seen our lovely little rabbit, who was becoming a lovely big rabbit, eating daily as he did on bird seed and launching an attack at the pheasants to guard his favourite food - hysterical. Just yesterday three young red deer galloped across the field and disappeared into the woods without a look at our barricaded garden !!! The weather has been unusually mild and plants are thriving which should actually be in the greenhouse by this time - no rest for the wicked !!!

"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

Autumn 2005
Argyll map

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