From the West coast of Scotland
From one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland,
the West Coast Highlands of Argyll,
Pamela MacKinnon writes from her home, Burnside Cottage,
about life in and around the village of Strachur.
"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..."
"The bonnie, bonnie banks"
"By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes" and I'm sure you will all know the rest of the words of this world famous song. Loch Lomond must be one of the most well known of Scotland's beauty spots and totally deserved. I've resisted for years the temptation to bring it to you - simply because it is already so well known - but on reflection I realised that perhaps lots of people, in their rush to get to the Highlands, race up the A82 and don't take time to stop and gaze. Just the other day we were on our way back from Glasgow and stopped in at the Loch Lomond Shores visitor centre and the view of the Loch was magical. Loch Lomond was pronounced Scotland's first National Park in July 2002 and it is a huge area stretching from Balloch in the south (where you will find the visitor centre) to Tyndrum and Killin in the north, Loch Earn in the east to Loch Fyne in the west - including Argyll Forest Park which forms about a third of the Cowal Peninsula.
On a map the Loch looks like a long leg of lamb which bends slightly at the knee at Tarbet where the road splits and this is where the new good road ends. You need to keep all of your wits about you as you climb westwards towards the Rest and Be Thankful (A83) or stay on the A82 as it continues north. Lots of islands are dotted around the south half of the loch and as the new road sweeps and bends the view changes with every corner. Dramatic mountains rise straight out of the loch in places and indeed on the road (B837) which takes you up the east side all traffic stops at Rowardennen - a good place to stop - although you could carry on by foot and do part of the West Highland Way !!! The day we took these photographs a mist hung over the entire loch about ten feet from the surface which meant the mountain tops peeked out above it. As we drove further north I noticed that tendrils of mist were hanging down from the canopy like mini cyclones without movement just dipping their toes in the water's surface - it was like a magical scene and I expected fairies and water sprites to dance along the water playing in and out of these spirals.
I travel up and down the A82 every month or so since we moved to Strachur and have been travelling up and down the loch side all my life - in fact I learned to drive on the old road which was not for the faint-hearted nor for those in a rush. Living in north west Glasgow for 40 years made Loch Lomond a very easily accessible escape destination - 20 minutes by car on a good day! No matter what time of year or how many journeys I make, Loch Lomond still mesmerises me with its heart stopping beauty. If you intend to make the journey, determine to pull off the road at one of the many parking places and just gaze - you won't be disappointed. You know, a friend once told me that when going on holiday she starts her holiday as soon as her front door is locked. She acknowledges the travelling as part of the holiday and no matter what delays or problems occur accepts that's all part of the experience. I've tried it and it works!
And how are things at the cottage I hear you ask? Well, Christmas was very, very wet indeed but today - the 30th December 2003 - we are frozen solid. Well, we're not with heating on and two log fires roaring up the lum, but several nights of - 40 and -70, and days of not much more, have resulted in a beautiful frosted landscape. Of course this means the 18 pheasants which now visit us daily are frantic for food and no sooner does it go out than its all gone . The three squirrels which have been with us for six months still keep warm by chasing each other round the garden, stopping only to frighten the pheasants. Quite honestly I don't know how I manage to get any work done while being constantly drawn to this dawn to dusk scenario - and I wouldn't have it any other way.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very peaceful and prosperous new year and offer the toast - "Lang may yer lum reek"
Till next time...
"Where the magnificence of the scenery is matched only by the beauty of visiting wildlife."
Text and photographs © Pamela Mackinnon.
Pamela organises the self-catering holiday rental cottages for Sir Charles Maclean on the Strachur Estate which you can see at www.aboutscotland.com/strachurestate/