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 Cowal Peninsula and a trio of squirrels
My mum was staying with us for a wee holiday the other week and on a particularly lovely day we decided to drive south to Tighnabruaich (see map at the bottom of the page) and have a picnic. So, having made enough food to feed the village we set off.
Tighnabruaich is pronounced Ti-na-broo-ich. It means 'House on the Brae'
One of the really marvellous things about staying on the Cowal Peninsula is that you can drive to the most incredibly beautiful spots within 30 minutes of leaving home - so you spend quality time at your destination instead of being hot and tetchy in the car. On our journey both there and back we were the only car heading in our direction - bliss!
I hadn't been down this way (A886) in a very long time having forgotten how beautiful the 16 miles of road was and I knew I wanted to share this experience with you. The sun was hazy, the temperature warm and with the tremendous amount of rain we've had all of this year - everywhere you looked, greenery was abundant.
Our enjoyment of the drive was exceeded when we reached the main viewpoint on the cut off road (A8003) to Tighnabruaich (8 miles) from which - on a clear day - you can see many natural features and places of interest including the Islands of Arran and Cumbrae. This particular viewpoint overlooks the Kyles of Bute and this is the site that meets your eyes...
The Kyles of Bute are the waters which lie horseshoe-shaped between the southern end of the Cowal Peninsula and the island of Bute, flowing into the Sound of Bute on the west side, and the Firth of Clyde on the East. It's very popular for the sailing enthusiast. I have heard it's one of the best sailing environments in the UK. In fact this whole area lends itself to the pursuit of water sports or, as most sailors were doing this day - due mainly to the lack of wind - simply gliding across the limpid waters and enjoying the moment.
Tighnabruaich itself is a small, sprawling, award winning village dotted along the coast with some interesting hotels, shops, B&Bs and restaurants. It has a very strong community spirit and once you've visited you will return. A lot of the inhabitants originally visited on holiday and returned to stay for good. For me it is just what we all dream a Scottish coastal village should be. This is an area steeped in ancient history and there are many interesting places to visit within easy driving distance. You can take a 5 minute ferry journey from Colintraive across the Kyles to the Island of Bute, visit the main harbour town of Rothesay and spend a whole day exploring Mount Stuart House and estate, the family seat of the Stuarts of Bute, direct descendants of King Robert the Bruce. One could easily spend a week on the Cowal Peninsula, visit all sorts of interesting and wild places and never be in the car for more than 45 minutes at a time - now that's what I call touring Scotland!
Meanwhile on the cottage front. Well, as I said before we have had rain, rain and even more rain for the first six months of this year and subsequently everything is green, green, green. There's been no shortage of birds or furry creatures though and here is a very unusual sight....
...three red squirrels tolerating each other in order to gorge themselves on the leftovers of my home made fruit scones and shortbread. They must have sat there for about thirty minutes before battle lines were drawn and off they all went chasing one another round the garden, tails twitching.
This year also we've acquired a pair of sparrowhawks. They are beautiful birds but I haven't yet had a chance of capturing them on film - will keep trying. We don't see them in flight, you just notice the little birds taking off and a shadow falls across the garden for a second, then you might notice a few velvet brown tail feathers just disappearing out of your line of vision and you know they've been. One almost flew into me one day and I don't know who got the biggest fright.
This lonely Jay has been with us all winter. Sad to see just one of anything, and Jays are not so common in this part of Argyll. However we have had one pair almost every year so we hope he/she finds a mate soon.
Our pheasants have all but deserted us and we're now down to one hen who comes every day for a feed. The cock pheasant is about - but he doesn't come in to the garden these days - maybe it's the sparrow hawks that are keeping him at bay - doesn't stop him screeching though!!! Needless to say with all the rain and now some heat and sunshine, the garden has decided to go daft and the weeds are calling to me to be uprooted and thrown in to the compost bin - ah, the joys of country life!
"Where the magnificence of the scenery is matched only by the beauty of visiting wildlife."
Text and photographs © Pamela Mackinnon.