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

Spring 2004

The Hollow Mountain and Spring

Have you ever had a desire to visit a "high head reversible pumped storage hydro scheme"? - no - well neither have I, but since the weather is stunning at the moment we decided on a day out the other day and called in at Cruachan Power station on Loch Awe Loch Awe to take the tour, and what a surprise I had.

Ben Cruachan is the "hollow mountain" where an enormous power station is located 1,000 metres or so inside the mountain, providing peak demand electricity for the national grid - apparently within 2 minutes!

One of the remarkable things about this plant is that you really don't notice it on the landscape. A dam - 316 metres long - Ben Cruachan was built in the cleft of Ben Cruachan from which water is forced down pipes in the mountainside to the turbine rooms deep inside the mountain. Once used, the water flows into Loch Awe where it is pumped back up to the dam to maintain water levels in the reservoir.

A visitor Centre provides an audio visual display but you really want to take the tour - it only lasts about twenty minutes and its well worth it. You are taken in a bus - with courier - 1000 metres inside the mountain and then you walk a short way to the viewing gallery. The noise is deafening and remarkably the temperature is very pleasant although a bit humid. Tropical plants grow well without sunlight in this cavern although they do have overhead lamps, but the real surprise is when you get to the viewing gallery and curtains are opened to reveal the turbine room. A huge cavern the size of a football pitch greets your eyes and it is said the height could house the tower of London. I was amazed that something of this enormity could be hollowed out of the hard rock and yet leave little trace of its existence on the outside. It was opened in 1965 by HM The Queen and was the only one of its kind in the world at the time - we now have four in the UK.

If a visit to Cruachan doesn't appeal then you should take the trip along Loch Awe (left) anyway.Loch Awe Another of Scotland's stunning lochs and at 25 miles long - the longest inland loch in Scotland. Kilchurn Castle There are many twists and turns on this road and interesting historic places to visit. For instance Kilchurn Castle (right, built in 1440) of which it is said that in 1879 the hurricane which caused the famous Tay Bridge disaster blew down one of the castle turrets.

Then there's St Conan's Kirk (left)St Conan's Kirk started in the 1880's and finished in the 1930's with its very elaborate style - open to visitors all the year round. You could spend a day just meandering around Loch Awe without going anywhere else and if you did want some hustle and bustle - Oban is just 19 miles further west where there's a definite buzz of prosperity.

At the cottage - Spring has definitely sprung. How do I know - well if anything defines Spring it has to be this.Ewe and lamb Lambs being born by the day - mostly twins and some triplets this year - soon our home will be resonating with the sound of bleating as lambs get more and more curious and stray too far from mum.

Added to that our pheasants have changed behaviour. All through autumn and winter we've had up to nineteen pheasants - four cockerills and 15 hens - but about four weeks ago one of the cockerills decided our garden was to be his territory so he has spent this time crowing from 5.00 a.m. - right outside our bedroom window !!! - and chasing off the other three cockerills. Most of the hens have also stayed away because when they do arrive to eat they are rushed at by Cocky who pitches himself to one side displaying all his feathers, pumps himself up with air to look more - attractive ? - and runs in tiny mincing steps towards each hen in turn trying to lure her into the bushes. Does it work? Well generally no. They put up with this attention for a wee while and then fly off. He does a lot of touring the garden alone and has taken to patrolling the roof of our shed from which he has a good view of all comers to the garden - the joys of country living!

"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...


April 2004
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