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

Winter 2004

Arrochar - Gateway to Argyll and the Southern Highlands

Arrochar When you travel in Argyll you are struck by the many, many villages you pass through on your way to anywhere. Sometimes it's no more than a few houses, then it may be a hotel and a few houses and if you're really lucky there'll be a sub-post-office adjoining some other building and doubling up as a tea room and gift shop. Arrochar is no exception - except that it's got everything.

We pass through Arrochar many times every year on our way to and from Glasgow and we're either eager to get to Glasgow or even more eager to get home so we never really spent any time taking a good look round the village - until recently. Arrochar sits at the head of Loch Long -Arrochar yet another of Scotland's sea lochs - and there's been a settlement here in one form or another for many centuries. In the 13th Century Vikings landed and did that trick of hauling their longboats overland to Tarbet on Loch Lomond from where they plundered the lands thereabouts. Fishing, until recently, was the main industry and still today it offers challenges for the sea angler who can catch sea trout, salmon and mackerel - among others - but you'll have battle for the catch with porpoise and seals. As Loch Long is a sea loch it is home to many strange marine plants and animals and at low tide different habitats are visible by bands of coloured seaweeds. More recently Scottish Hydro, Ministry of Defence and the Forestry Commission have made their mark on the village, expanding the population by bringing in skilled workers and of course providing homes, so the village now trails off in all directions and covers quite an area . You can follow the Clyde Sea Lochs Trail from Arrochar to Bowling near Dumbarton.

Arrochar No matter what time of year you visit, Arrochar is always busy as it's a very popular spot with hillwalkers, mountaineers and divers eager to climb up into the Arrochar Alps or plunge the depths of the clear cold loch. Every weekend, summer or winter, there are many cars and minibuses full of weekenders changing into hiking boots with no other thought in mind but that of walking up The Cobbler (Ben Arthur, right) so called because it's supposed to look like a cobbler at work over his last. Can't see it myself but perhaps it looks more likely if you get nearer to it. Although not high enough to be classed as a Munro - a mountain in Scotland that is over 3,000 ft in height - its strange shape makes it a very popular hike for a day out. Judging by the 'no vacancy' signs in the many B&Bs along the main road during the winter months this must be one of the few places in Scotland which has healthy trade during the 'off' season. There are a couple of fair sized hotels, several restaurants and bars and they've even got a fish & chip shop. Luxury!

Arrochar

They've recently built a small car park and stopping place on the loch side of the road at the head of the loch (right) and there's a great wee 'burger' van nearby which does a smashing bacon roll. So you can turn in there, get your snack, put your feet up and watch the wading birds and other sea creatures you might be lucky enough to spot. It's a sensible stopping off point on your travels west as you know by your surroundings you're in the southern highlands and you've left towns, commerce and heavy traffic behind you - bliss !!!

Arrochar Here at the cottage... well, the summer was a complete washout. We had a nice autumn but too little too late. Of course the work in the garden goes on and on one particularly good day I went berserk with the secateurs and rip saw and I'm amazed at the improvement overall made by cutting back those trees and shrubs which simply take over slowly year by year so you don't notice. I even almost cut down my Eucalyptus tree which had just shot up over the last few years and looked out of place - doesn't now, you can hardly see it but I've heard that they are incredibly hardy and I haven't killed it off so I'll keep an eye on it in future and hopefully turn it into a nice full short shrub.

Arrochar This winter we've got carpets of chaffinches feeding - there must be about 100 of them at any one time and our squirrels are still about although they now have to compete with the pheasants for peanuts in shell as our pheasants have developed a taste for them.

Christmas Day was just magical as it snowed for the first time in many years, starting on Christmas Eve and continuing through Christmas Day so we woke up to this:(right). It all quickly washed away with the torrential rain we've suffered all week but its been unusually mild so not all bad.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very loving and peaceful 2005 as we look forward and prepare for the year ahead.

"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

December 2004
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