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
From Scotia to Dunadd
We escaped for a week at the end of April before the tourist season started and spent the entire time exploring the area between Oban and Kilmartin - even with bad weather and foot and mouth restrictions we managed to fill each day with marvellous sights and sounds which were all very new to us. The locals thought we were mad coming on holiday only an hour and a bit drive from our home on Loch Fyne but one of the best bits of not travelling far was coming home in such a short time. Over the next few "Letters" I will bring you some tales and pictures of our experiences and perhaps whet your appetite and I'll start with Kilmartin Glen.
You may be forgiven for driving through the village of Kilmartin without giving it a thought but you would be missing out on something really special. Kilmartin is - on first view - just another Scottish village. Some houses, a church, hotel and shop, however, take a while to park your car and explore. This area is steeped in history and there are burial cairns and standing stones dating back to the Neolithic and Bronze ages. These standing stones at Temple Wood are thought to be at least 5,000 years old and they surround a burial cairn. There is much written about who inhabited this area and built these stone monuments but of one thing there is little doubt. Round about 500 A.D. Ireland was known as Scotia and the inhabitants of that fair land - Scotti. It is believed that these Scotti sailed to the shores of Kilmartin in search of new lands. They obviously liked what they found and grew in numbers, cultivating the land and calling their adoptive home Dalriada - nowadays we know the area as Argyll! The sons of Erc, King of Scotia, brought their Coronation Stone, The Stone of Destiny, from Scotia to Dunadd - the capital of Dalriada - so their kings could be crowned with due ceremony, and to this day you can visit Dunadd and see the rock carvings from that ancient time for yourself. Indeed, all round this area there are burial cairns, forts and standing stones which you can get right up close to. This single standing stone is just off the main road north of Kilmartin - very accessible.
Unfortunately when we spent the day in Kilmartin Glen the weather was gloomy and restrictions in place so our explorations were curtailed, but now all restrictions have long been lifted and you can explore as much as you like. Kilmartin House and Museum is very good indeed and well worth a visit. They present a very high-tech slide show with 680 slides, music and sounds. Don't be put off with the thought of sitting through 680 slides. It's all done very professionally and the slides appear and fade in a most artistic manner all taking about twelve minutes to go through. The show is inspiring and for a few minutes you get a real sense of the history of the area, you know, hairs standing up on the back of your neck kind of thing. Added to that a touchy-feely, very informative and relaxed museum and an excellent cafeteria - not to be missed!
On our other travels off the West Coast we caught these seals having an afternoon siesta in the Sound of Jura. The area is just full of sealife and of course it helps if, like us, you can get out on a boat with skilled guides. If you get the chance you must sail across one of the Corrievreckans. These are two amazing stretches of water where two different levels of water meet and a sort of "boiling" of the waters occurs with many tiny whirlpools. You can actually see the differing levels. When we were there there was about a two foot difference and it takes your eyes quite a few moments to take in what you are seeing. Its like a large stone watery step - quite exceptional and sometimes the difference is four feet!!! Unfortunately the boat was pitching about so much I could not get a photograph of the phenomenon but take it from me it's well worth trip - quite frightening too. I was much relieved when the local Royal National Lifeboat Institution turned up on a training exercise and they stayed around until we were out of the Corrievreckan - who needs man-made thrill rides when nature provides this all for free?
And when we came home - look who's back . Yes, we are knee deep in squirrels again. We have five - three adults and two weans, and one of the adults is red and white - quite unusual. I hope to have photographs of all of them with my next Letter. The pheasants have been living in our garden since April - one cockerill and five hens and they do a great job eating everything that falls to the floor but the cockerill has worked out how to get seed out of the feeder and hopefully I've got that on camera too. I certainly hope so, I had to sit still for ages on the ground to get the shot. The only drawback of the pheasants is the mating season. For about two months we had "Cocky" as we called him, crowing, from 5.00am every twenty minutes right outside our bedroom window. However all is back to birdsong and the garden is coming along although our summer so far has been very strange indeed. But then, that's one of the joys of gardening - you never know what nature is going to throw at you and it's a constant challenge to keep up - talking of which I've just seen a deer wandering through the garden - better go and check for damage...
"Where the magnificence of the scenery is matched only by the beauty of visiting wildlife."
Text and photographs © Pamela Mackinnon.