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

Summer 2004

The Kintyre Peninsula Part 1

May was a cracking month for weather and as we like to do when the weather looks good, we took off to spend a couple of days in one of the most breathtaking areas of Scotland - The Kintyre Peninsula, often referred to as "Scotland's only mainland island". The Viking Magnus Barelegs had his men carry their longships across the narrow isthmus at Tarbert so claiming Kintyre as his (I mentioned this quirky landgrab exercise in a previous Letter November '98 , where you could call any land your own if you could sail around it)- until the ancient Celtic warleader Somerled sent the Vikings packing around 1156. Although it is a long slow drive, it's well worth the effort. From Strachur its about 100 miles round the western side of Loch Fyne and then south to Campbeltown where the A83 stops. The road is slow going - there's so much to see and explore - although you can manage a round trip in one day, but once you get on to the A83 driving down the west coast you just want to stop and gaze at the ocean (Atlantic) washed beaches and feel the sea spray on your face.


The first stop you want to make is at Ronachan point where for thousands of years seals have gathered to sunbathe on the rocky outcrops which follow the shoreline. Sure enough, when we arrived there were some of them looking almost like rocks themselves until they made a slight movement. The hazy lumps in the background (left) are the "paps" of Jura and the islands of Jura, Gigha and Islay can all be reached by ferry from Kintyre. After spending some time watching the seals watching us, we headed off down the A83 passing through Mausdale with its stretches of white sandy beaches and called in at Glenbarr Abbey (right)Glenbarr Abbey - strangely enough not an Abbey, nor has it anything to do with religion, but the home of the Macalister Clan who can trace their routes back some 1000 years to Somerled.

We arrived here not expecting what we found and were welcomed by the current Clan Chief and his American wife. We were stunned to find a very well-set out small museum offering everything from militaria to opera glasses to china and a small portrait said to be of Bonnie Prince Charlie, not to mention the eclectic collections of thimbles, figurines and teddy bears belonging to the lady of the house.

ancient cemeteries

Following our most informative visit we headed off again to a spot which is, for reasons unknown - just a feeling, very special to me - Southend. When you drive along the southernmost road on Kintyre through the tiny village of Southend you come to the coastal road where there are ancient cemeteries (right) and ruins of medieval churches - one of which is thought to have been established by St Columba himself - and a very "out of place" building - the remains of the Kiel Hotel .

the remains of the Kiel Hotel

We stayed overnight at this hotel some twenty years ago and we thought it was odd then. It's built into the hillside and looks as though it was transported from the south of France with its white stucco walls and high-rise appearance.

Sadly today it lies in ruins and looks even more out of place surrounded by greenery and sheep. Apparently it can't be demolished as it is a building of historic (recent) significance. During the second world war when lighthouses could not be used to guide ships along this tricky coastline, the white walls of the Kiel Hotel stood out like a beacon and ships were able to navigate round the southern tip of Kintyre.

The Mull of Kintyre The Mull of Kintyre (right) - made famous by Sir Paul McCartney's song - is the lump on the far western end of the peninsula but we didn't have time to travel down the single track road to look at it in detail - you can do that when you visit. I'm realising as I write that to do Kintyre justice I will have to tell you about the rest of our visit, including the short cut you can take by ferry which cuts down the driving considerably, in the next letter.

Young red deer

Around the cottage, well, June has been a disaster for weather. I've never seen so much rain fall at this time of year and after May being so promising and the garden looking full of potential I'm afraid green has returned with very little flower.

One of the amazing things is that since we've stopped the deer feeding off the garden all winter, plants are thriving which I can't remember planting or had decided to move since they didn't seem to be doing so well. Our weeping cherry which hasn't put on any growth in four years has doubled in size in the past three months and everything just seems to have burst forth - even the roses are looking good for the first time ever. And to cap it all we were visited just yesterday morning by one of our pheasant hens and her five tiny chicks. They must be just days old and scoot about the garden as if they were on skates. Of course by the time I've got the camera out they've all disappeared into our fabulous spreading shrubbery, but I will keep trying and hope to bring you a photo of our new family next time I write.

"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...


June 2004
Argyll map

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