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 2006

Calling all seafarers

View  from the footpath

We've enjoyed some incredibly good weather this last couple of months and on one of these days we took off to a place we'd never visited before and what a joy - we drove to Crinan on the far west coast. It took just over an hour driving through Inveraray, passing the magnificent Crarae Gardens and following the A83 to Lochgilphead - the administrative "capital" of Argyll. Driving through Lochgilphead on the A816 - then taking the Oban road and then the B841 turn off, just a few miles brings you to the Crinan Canal.

Crinan Canal map Typical lock and lockkeeper's cottage

This marvellous invention of the late 1700s takes ships from Ardrishaig on Loch Gilp, Lower Loch Fyne to the Sound of Jura and cuts out the long and hazardous sail round Kintyre. John Rennie was the first of three famous engineers employed to start this construction in 1794. Lack of funds held back the completion of the project and it eventually opened - unfinished - in 1801 with a capital investment of £150,000. It was finally complete in 1809 but suffered flood damage and was closed for a time. Two years later Thomas Telford took over supervision of repairs and it was reopened in 1817. Ever since then it has been upgraded and improved and now forms part of British Waterways.

 Manicured lawns at Crinan Lock

The Crinan Canal has fifteen locks with a sea lock at either end. It is a scheduled ancient working monument and is surrounded by historic ancient monuments and settlements. There have been people living in this area for over 5000 years so there are plenty of forts, burial cairns, celtic stone carvings, etc. Kilmartin Glen is just six miles north on the A816 and the Moine Mhor Nature Reserve forms the north bank of the canal. The Crinan Canal is nine miles long and you can walk along its very tidy paths, passing the crisp white cottages along the way and you could be asked to lend a hand with boats entering or leaving the locks. There's a very strong community spirit here and good banter seems to be the order of every day. And, of course, you can drive (slowly, single track for most of the way) - there are plenty of car parks which are very well maintained.

Berthing for boats of all shapes and sizes

There's a very good hotel in Crinan which offers an amazing seafood menu - what else ! - and there's a lovely wee coffee shop right on the lock. People live in the little whitewashed cottages which sit right on the headland and their gardens are so pretty and well kept. The grounds surrounding the lock at Crinan are beautifully manicured and everything is so clean and fresh - of course the weather helped but there is obviously a huge effort from everyone involved in keeping this entire facility looking at its best. When we were there a very large yacht with a French complement was navigating the last lock and the lock-keeper and HER staff were being very helpful indeed, judging by the smiles and gestures of thanks from the crew. There's a small basin here and boats can tie up for the night - or longer and it was lovely to see an old puffer amongst the modern vessels. If you fancy taking a boat through the canal, the charges are based on the length of your boat and it's currently £9 a metre.

from the pier at Crinan HarbourCrinan Harbour

Just before you reach the end (or beginning) of the canal at Crinan there's another wee "single track road" you should explore as this takes you down to Crinan Harbour which is separate from Crinan . This tiny, natural harbour has, I think, six houses and the footpath stops at the pier. There's a large carpark adjacent to the harbour and of course the bay is littered with boats of all shapes and sizes. We just stood here and watched the boats bobbing about and could just about make out the paps of Jura through the mist. All in all a really terrific day out - and one I'm sure we'll repeat.

Rose

On the cottage front - well Summer is here at last. How do I know this - the roses are in bloom - yes this year we managed to keep the deer out completely and now I can choose which roses to pick for the house. (This one has the most wonderful perfume so I'm very glad to see it looking so healthy.

Other signs of summer - Charlie the horse is back in the field for summer grazing, the lambs are almost as big as their mothers and our new season squirrels are munching their way through tons of nuts - oh happy days!

"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...

Pamela

Summer 2006
Argyll map

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