From the West coast
A fascinating ten-year archive of letters from one
the most beautiful parts of Scotland,
its people, places, landscape and wildlife.
"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..."
Letters from Argyll
- September '98 Introduction
- October '98 Half Hung Archie
- November '98 Magnus Barelegs
- December '98 Pantomime
- January '99 Storms and Gardens
- February '99 Campbells and midges
- March '99 Macleans and birdsong
- April '99 Loch Eck and Spring
- May/June '99 Dunoon and Squirrels
- Summer '99 Glasgow
- Autumn '99 Colour and Rowans
- Winter '00 Siskins and Finches
- Spring/summer '00 Puck's Glen
- Autumn '00 Macbeth and a Squirrel
- Spring 2001 Town and Country
- Summer 2001 From Scotia to Dunadd
- Winter 2001 Bridge over the Atlantic
- Summer 2002 Cowal and 3 Squirrels
- Autumn 2002 Smiddy and Stones
- Winter 2002 Bagpipes, deer and jays.
- Spring 2003 Rest and Be Thankful.
- Summer 2003 3 lochs and a castle
- Autumn 2003 A Beaut of an Isle
- Winter 2003 The bonnie banks
- Spring 2004 The Hollow Mountain
- Summer 2004 Kintyre Peninsula 1
- Autumn 2004 Kintyre Peninsula 2
- Winter 2004 Arrochar Gateway to Argyll
- Spring 2005 A Walker's Paradise
- Summer 2005 Scotland in Miniature
- Autumn 2005 Skye - The Misty Isle
- Winter 2005 Across the Water
- Spring 2006 The Crossroads of Scotland
- Summer 2006 Calling all seafarers
- Autumn 2006 A day out in the rain
- Winter 2006 A Winter's Day Out
- Spring 2007 A Favourite Place
- Summer 2007 Bonnie Galloway
- Autumn 2007 Port Appin
- Winter 2007 Loch Fyne and a Fine Dram!
- Spring 2008 Snow mountains and Spring!
- Summer 2008 A Walk in the Park
The Crossroads of Scotland
Time to get out and about now that the days are much longer and at long last the weathers, starting to improve. Now don't faint! For this trip we've actually moved away from my beloved West Coast to take you to a most ancient and important town in Scotland since time immemorial - Stirling. It's a lovely drive from Balloch at the tail of Loch Lomond, straight across the centre of Scotland on the A811, passing fields of growing crops and dairy cows and not a sheep in sight. The Trossachs sit far away to the north and on this occasion covered in snow, and the highest ground you pass nearby is of the soft rolling hills variety, with tiny farming communities tucked in to the sides. The town of Stirling itself is a real mix of modern and very old. From almost every part of the town you can see the Wallace Monument as the town and surrounding land is so very flat The monument was erected to honour Sir William Wallace - or as he's now known - Mel Gibson - in the film Braveheart!. It sits atop Abbey Craig, a volcanic outcrop, and the stone used to build the monument was carved from the craig. The money to build it was donated by Scots all over the world in the 19th century and it was finished in 1869. Although the photo proves we were up close and personal to the edifice, I'm afraid we did not attempt to climb the 289 steps or so to the top - my excuse - the weather was quite misty and the views would have been compromised! It was only when we moved well away from it that the sun came out and gave it quite a different look.
The other outstanding feature of Stirling is Stirling Castle which also sits on a volcanic outcrop and it's believed communities of people have inhabited this hill, due to its strategic position, from medieval times to the nineteenth century. It is now in the hands of Scottish Heritage who open it to the public almost every day of the year. A wooden fortification was built on the site in the 11th century and it has been added to and renovated over many centuries. This statue is of King Robert The Bruce who defeated the English armies at Bannockburn in 1314 and the statue sits at the entrance to the castle. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned there in 1543 and it was a favourite residence of the Stuart Monarchs. The Castle also has its own cemetery (left). The castle looks out to Stirling Bridge where William Wallace defeated the English in 1297. Needless to say the English and Scots fought each other over lands in Scotland for millennia and the castle changed hands frequently. It is said to be the most strategically important Castle in Scotland sitting at the crossroads of the north/south and east/west roads through Central Scotland. Fortunately you can drive right up to the castle as it's a wee bit steep to walk up but the architecture on the way is completely bizarre as the style changes from building to building depending of course on when they were erected.
The Castle fell into disrepair over more recent centuries until 1906 when it was brought back to life and became an army barracks until 1964. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum is housed within its walls. There is plenty to do and see in Stirling including many retail therapy opportunities, and it offers a cracking day out - especially if the weather is unkind and you need to get indoors.
At the cottage, well we had the heaviest fall of snow ever a couple of weeks ago and although it only lasted overnight and was gone in 48 hours it wreaked havoc with the trees. Most have been damaged by the sheer weight breaking limbs, and the forestry commission boys have been out for weeks trimming the worst of the damage but it has been a long winter and very cold which is unusual for us in the West. According to the week ahead weather report we're not out of the woods yet as more snow is forecast for later in the week - jings !!!
And what of Sooty, the stray cat who moved in, well here she is in one of her favourite spots. In this position she can keep an eye on me in case I move into the kitchen and one eye on the wildlife. She's particularly interested in the dominant cock pheasant who is in the middle of the mating ritual and she lies here for hours watching his hysterical antics. As you can see she is completely black and nearly got squashed today as she decided to curl up on my office chair which is also black. We're all getting quite attached to each other so I hope she decides to stay a while as we wait for the arrival of a very late Spring.
"Where the magnificence of the scenery is matched only by the beauty of visiting wildlife."
Text and photographs © Pamela Mackinnon.