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 1999

Colour and Rowans

The View from the Cottage

There are an awful lot of myths going round the world about the Scottish weather and I hear these from the many foreign visitors we've had at the cottage, especially this year. We make jokes about it ourselves and I think I've heard all the questions "Does it ever stop raining?" "Does the mist ever rise?" "How do you cope during the winter with all the snow?" Having spent nearly 50 years in the West of Scotland I think I can speak with some knowledge on the subject. Yes, it rains - a lot - but, for that, we have hundreds of thousands of acres of lush forest, waterfalls and fertile glens feeding healthy and happy cattle. No, it doesn't snow much at all. In fact in the West it tends to be mild and humid up until January and that's when our Winter really starts. But for now as you can see, Autumn mornings are often like this and the colours are spectacular everywhere you look. In fact there's a hill in Cairndow - about 11 miles north of here - that looks as though its been knitted there are so many different trees turning to a myriad of autumn colours.

Rowans

I was waiting for the leaves to fall so that I could take a picture of this pair of Rowans which have been entwined in the traditional way - a practice that has died out in our modern times. This pair can be seen at the harbour in Strachur just along from the village post office and they were moved to this position when the road was improved. Why not chop them down? - read on! The idea was to plant twin Rowans either side of your garden gate and this would bring good luck and fortune to the inhabitants. As the years progress the branches intertwine to form an arch over the gate and this would ward off evil and keep good luck in the home. It was thought that the new branches represented each member of the family and, if you believe in the folklore, you would never cut down a Rowan or terrible misfortune would befall you - the reason these Rowans were preserved and moved! In fact, I have friends in this part of the world who will not have anything to do with the pruning or cutting down of a Rowan. The Rowan also produces lovely bunches of very striking orangey-red berries which some ladies in the village turn into a very tasty jelly that is quite tart and sweet at the same time and goes best with venison and game birds - mmmm lovely!

Rowan berries

You may remember I mentioned before about the BBC coming to the village to film a pilot show for a new sit-com and I was to be an extra for a day - well they did and I was. The film crew's presence in the village for a week was hardly noticeable and I have to say they were just marvellous to work with. Gregor Fisher was kind and entertaining to us "amateurs" and we hope they come back next year to film the series. The "extra" shots I was involved in took about 2 hours to film and actually lasted about 10 seconds on the screen. My appearance spanned an entire 2 seconds - maybe next time I'll double that to four, but all in all it was a great experience.

Shirley!

Life goes on apace at the cottage. Builders are moving in over the next month to knock a wall down in the kitchen and at long last I will have the kitchen I want - can't guarantee my cooking will be improved in any way but at least I should be better organised. The garden looks a bit bare presently. I have been wading in with secateurs over the last month or so but the weather has been so very mild new growth is already sprouting on some plants.

The Tail

The squirrel family are still visiting us every day and as I write there are three of them hanging upside down from different nut cages in the front garden. This has taken a very great deal of chasing, posturing and twitching of tails but after an hour of fun they have worked out who should be where and - oh oh, someone is challenging, and another confrontation ensues without a blow being struck - what entertainment! Meanwhile the birds sit quietly by waiting for the squirrels to depart.

Charlie the Highland Pony has spent most of the summer and Autumn near the cottage and now chooses to pose for photographs! He has worked out that visitors come to our house and will meander up to the cottage when he sees cars arriving and just stand there waiting to be cuddled and admired - quite a character. In fact all of the horses have been around the cottage this year and the younger ones are being broken and to be sold on and then they will be replaced by the next generation . That's life, ever changing, ever staying the same!

Charlie

I hope the Millennium passes without incident for us all and if my PC doesn't explode at midnight on Hogmanay I will be with you again - in the depths of our winter - with more tales - or should that be tails! -from the cottage.

P.S. Whales have been spotted in Loch Fyne by a number of people - watch this space!!!

"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 1999
Argyll map

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