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 2005

Across the Water

Caledonian MacBrayne

After driving for many miles and hours to bring you the delights of Skye last time, I thought I'd bring you nearer to home this time and offer a trip "across the water" to a place full of history and centuries of changing industries - and not a single-track-road in sight. I refer of course to Greenock and Gourock on the banks of the River Clyde about 22 miles west of Glasgow. Just a short 25 minute drive south from Strachur you reach Dunoon and have the choice of ferry company - Caledonian MacBrayne or Western Ferries to cross the mighty River Clyde to Gourock. My personal choice of ferry company is Western Ferries simply because they run every 20 minutes or so, summer and winter, all day every day. The crossing takes about 22 minutes from Hunter's Quay in Dunoon to McInroy's point in Gourock.

Western Ferry

A major herring fishing port in the late 1600's Gourock is reputed to be the first place in Great Britain to cure herring. Travelling through the town with it's sweeping Victorian terraces and promenade all looking north to Cowal and the Holy Loch and west to the Kyles of Bute, it's difficult these days to know when you leave Gourock and enter Greenock as they merge so easily but I suppose my feeling is that Gourock is more of a residential town and Greenock is the commercial centre. There's a saying in Glasgow: if a hem of a garment is uneven then its up an doon like Gourock and no wonder. Everywhere you look, buildings cling to the sides of a series of hills that run the whole length of the towns.


In Greenock the skyline is broken by the enormous cranes of the Clyde Port Authority but there's very little else to allude to the enormous contribution to shipbuilding Greenock made to the world in times gone by - in 1958 Greenock yards produced 9 ships with a total tonnage of over 60,000. Greenock produced many famous men over the centuries, for instance - James Watt born in 1736 - inventor of the modern steam engine, and did you know that the unit of power called the "Watt" is named after him. And in 1936 - actor Richard Wilson was born, known most famously in the UK for his portrayal of the miserable Victor Meldrew, star of the BBC's comedy series One Foot in the Grave. The list goes on and on of men who brought industry and commerce to the area, religious leaders and poets.

The Architecture is stunning and very diverse - the McLean Museum and art gallery opened in 1876 thanks to funding from a local timber merchant - James McLean. The building looks like a grey wedding cake the edifice being so intricately carved and there's the town hall which looks like a fairytale castle with its turrets. Street are lined with sandstone villas and terraces testament to the wealthy industrialists who lived there over the years.


A major industry in Greenock was sugar refining from the mid 1700's. Raw material would arrive at the docks from the West Indies and be processed in factories - 14 or 15 of them in Greenock itself. The last sugar shipment arrived in June 1997 and the last refinery closed in August 1997. I have heard it mentioned many times that this industry is to blame for the sweet tooth of the Glaswegians and generally, people in the west of Scotland. Funnily enough I remember many years ago being in a food hall in an Edinburgh department store and having to ask where the biscuits were kept and was shown to a shelf. In Glasgow in the same department store the biscuit selection takes up two aisles !!!

Apart from the history, architecture and cultural delights of the area, there are lots of shops, and as it can rain in Scotland from time to time !!! - it's always useful to know of a place you can go and be under cover to while away a day - well worth a visit.

A damp red squirrel

On the cottage front - well, we are currently being hosts to a beautiful stray cat (above right) . She's been hanging round our garden since August, running away as soon as we appear and when I saw her eating bird seed I decided this was not good and started feeding her. She moved in three weeks ago and you would think she'd been with us for ever - we've called her Sooty. Of course when the weather improves she may just as easily move on to pastures new but we're delighted to have her meantime. The rest of the wildlife take no notice of Sooty and she takes no notice of them. We're over-run by red squirrels (right) who just love coconuts and I couldn't help photographing this wee chap with his ears blowing in the very cold wind but it didn't stop him from sitting inside the coconut and scoffing the lot !

May I take this opportunity to wish you and yours all the very best for 2006.

"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...


Winter 2005
Argyll map

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