From the West coast of Scotland
From one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland,
the West Coast Highlands of Argyll,
Pamela MacKinnon writes from her home, Burnside Cottage,
about life in and around the village of Strachur.
"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..."
The Scots and Norwegians have a strong bond, sharing many similarities, not least the fascination for battle. During the 9th, 10th & 11th centuries, bits of Scotland were constantly carved up and claimed for this king or that lord and were forever changing hands. I came across a rather cheeky story which I thought might interest you. "Magnus Barelegs", King of Norway, seemed very fond of the West Coast of Scotland and made several trips here to, presumably, rape and plunder with varying degrees of success.
However, he decided he fancied conquering the Mull of Kintyre - yes the one Paul McCartney wrote the song about - under the seafaring rule of the time that if you could successfully navigate your ship round an island you could claim it for yourself!
Now the Mull of Kintyre is a very nice place but it is not an island, it is a peninsula, and has been since time immemorial. Undaunted by this geographical hiccup and determined as Vikings are, Magnus set out for Kintyre and ordered his men to carry their longships across the neck of said peninsula, so fulfilling the requirements for claiming the land they had navigated round! Kintyre then remained a Norse territory for many years.
Things improved after the Battle of Largs (1263) when The Scots soundly defeated the Norwegians and old King Hakon died at Kirkwall on his way home. Of course there was always so much fighting among the Scots themselves during these times that true peace in Scotland was a long time in coming.
We are fortunate indeed to live on the edge of Argyll Forest Park because we are often visited by deer - mostly Roe as in my photograph - but sometimes also Red deer, and they are quite undaunted by us.
However, one night I believe we were visited by a large black cat - something akin to a Puma... It had been raining that afternoon and our dog would not go out in the rain for the walkies. Just before turning in I decided to tempt her outside and boldly walked down the road which runs along the side of the house. There is no street lighting here and when it gets dark - it gets completely black - however fearless as aye off I trotted calling to the dog to tempt her. She was not for joining me and wouldn't even step out from the doorway. As I turned to head back to the house I heard a loud hiss, a heavy "bound" and my next thought was made from the hallway of the cottage with the door firmly locked.
Convincing myself over a bedtime hot drink that I had imagined the noises I eventually fell asleep, only to be wakened around 3.00 a.m. by the horses galloping and neighing in a frenzy, up and down the same road outside the cottage. As you can imagine sleep did not come easy after that and early next morning faithful dog and I went out for the morning paper and of course to have a look around. As we passed our gate I was taken aback to see one massive paw print in the soft mud and decided to take a photograph when I returned and send it off to an expert - if only to allay my fears. However, on returning from our morning stroll, I discovered that the postie had arrived earlier than usual that morning and had driven over the evidence!
On enquiring round the village I was met with blank looks and no-one had any information of the "big cat" kind to offer me. I have never had a similar experience since and the horses have never behaved like that at any time. I had convinced myself I had imagined most of it when two years later, I met a chap from Dunoon who on hearing I was from Strachur opened the conversation with "Well now, and how's the wild Puma behaving these days in Strachur?" ! ! !
Till next time...
"Where the magnificence of the scenery is matched only by the beauty of visiting wildlife."
Text and photographs © Pamela Mackinnon.
Pamela organises the self-catering holiday rental cottages for Sir Charles Maclean on the Strachur Estate which you can see at www.aboutscotland.com/strachurestate/