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
A Favourite Place
When I lived in Glasgow - much as I love that city - I was always champin' at the bit to get away to wide open spaces and breathe some fresh air. At weekends and bank holidays during the summer - especially if I had to return home in the evening - my favourite trip was to Drymen, Balmaha and Rowardennan - the last two settlements stretching along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. The A811 takes you through Balloch and into Drymen and then you cut off left just at the village square and head on down the B837 and its not long before you see Loch Lomond.
Drymen was once a centre for horse and cattle trading, being at the crossroads of the southern highlands and it remains a vibrant and busy village. Indeed, an agricultural show is still held here every year and for years me and my much loved Old English Sheepdog 'Dougal' spent many happy hours strolling round this very large and popular 'show'. Legend has it that Rob Roy MacGregor collected 'blackmail' here - now I know you're wondering what I'm talking about, but as I've just learned, apparently the word 'blackmail' has its origins in the southern highlands. The world 'mail' is old Scots for rent or payment and 'black' refers to nefarious deeds or the colour of the cattle at the centre of this scam. Given Rob Roy's reputation I would imagine the 'protection of cattle' service was a very lucrative business!
Another seven miles on the B837 takes you into Balmaha which is very definitely geared to boating fans. There's a small boatyard harbouring everything from a 'wee rowy boat' to sleek cruisers and fishermen are constant visitors as the walls of the local Inn are plastered with photographs of famous fishing trips and amazing catches. The Arctic charr (a cousin of the salmon and trout) is one of the species trapped in loch Lomond following the disappearance of the Ice age 15,000 years ago. It's evolution tears along at such a pace that Glasgow University have mounted a special study of the species carried out in a field station on the loch in conjuction with Iceland, Scandinavia and Canada.
A very steep climb takes you out of Blamaha and away from the loch for a short time then brings you back along the shore where there are small stretches of white sandy beaches, caravan and camping parks and, these days, very organised parking. When we used to visit you could park you car almost anywhere - within reason - and we always seemed to manage fine. It's not long before Ben Lomond comes into view - the most southerly of the Munroes and reputedly the easiest to climb. I can't comment as I'm not the type to go hiking up a mountain but I'm told a comfortable two and a half hour climb will take you to the peak.
It's not long before you drive into Rowardennan and pass the hotel en route to the car park which sits at the end of the B837 and indeed marks the end of the road and motor vehicle progress. Judging by the number of cars parked there were a lot of people enjoying all this part of Loch Lomond National Park has to offer. A little further along the shore you come across this very unusual War Memorial (below right) which is a recent addition to the shoreline but once you get used to it, it seems to sit very well here. You can catch a 'passenger only' ferry across the loch to Inverbeg from the pier but it only goes three times a day each way.
The thing that struck me during our visit is how well organised it has become over the years with landscaped camping and caravan parks, B&Bs, hostelries and car parks. There were more people making use of the facilities and walking routes than I'd noticed in past years and yet it was not overcrowded. A definite 'day out' experience not to be missed.
Here at the cottage we've had intermittent visits from two red squirrels but we really miss their daily appearances and hope they'll come back permanently soon. The garden is blooming already, due mainly to the fabulous weather we've had for the last three weeks and although I hate to say it - we need rain and lot's of it - but don't tell anyone I said that!
"Where the magnificence of the scenery is matched only by the beauty of visiting wildlife."
Text and photographs © Pamela Mackinnon.