From the West coast
A fascinating ten-year archive of letters from one
the most beautiful parts of Scotland,
its people, places, landscape and wildlife.
"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..."
Letters from Argyll
- September '98 Introduction
- October '98 Half Hung Archie
- November '98 Magnus Barelegs
- December '98 Pantomime
- January '99 Storms and Gardens
- February '99 Campbells and midges
- March '99 Macleans and birdsong
- April '99 Loch Eck and Spring
- May/June '99 Dunoon and Squirrels
- Summer '99 Glasgow
- Autumn '99 Colour and Rowans
- Winter '00 Siskins and Finches
- Spring/summer '00 Puck's Glen
- Autumn '00 Macbeth and a Squirrel
- Spring 2001 Town and Country
- Summer 2001 From Scotia to Dunadd
- Winter 2001 Bridge over the Atlantic
- Summer 2002 Cowal and 3 Squirrels
- Autumn 2002 Smiddy and Stones
- Winter 2002 Bagpipes, deer and jays.
- Spring 2003 Rest and Be Thankful.
- Summer 2003 3 lochs and a castle
- Autumn 2003 A Beaut of an Isle
- Winter 2003 The bonnie banks
- Spring 2004 The Hollow Mountain
- Summer 2004 Kintyre Peninsula 1
- Autumn 2004 Kintyre Peninsula 2
- Winter 2004 Arrochar Gateway to Argyll
- Spring 2005 A Walker's Paradise
- Summer 2005 Scotland in Miniature
- Autumn 2005 Skye - The Misty Isle
- Winter 2005 Across the Water
- Spring 2006 The Crossroads of Scotland
- Summer 2006 Calling all seafarers
- Autumn 2006 A day out in the rain
- Winter 2006 A Winter's Day Out
- Spring 2007 A Favourite Place
- Summer 2007 Bonnie Galloway
- Autumn 2007 Port Appin
- Winter 2007 Loch Fyne and a Fine Dram!
- Spring 2008 Snow mountains and Spring!
- Summer 2008 A Walk in the Park
A Winter's Day Out
We have just experienced the wettest autumn on record with October/ November/December being complete washouts and more water everywhere than we would like. You can imagine our surprise therefore, when on the 18th December, we awoke to the perfect winter's day - sunshine dawn 'til dusk and tops of the mountains covered in a sugaring of snow. So a decision had to be made - stay at home and work or jump in the car and go for a wee run - difficult one that - needless to say we jumped in the car for a wee run !!!
As the days are a bit short we didn't want to go far so we headed south east and visited the town of Helensburgh which sits on the Firth of Clyde. We travelled to Arrochar and then took the B814 - a very wibbly-wobbly road, which brings you down the side of Loch Long, then on to Gare Loch, past Faslane where the naval base is sited and the colourful and long lasting peace camp. You then come through the conservation village of Rhu - very popular with the yachting fraternity - would you believe they host an annual New Year's swim in the Clyde - and straight into the busy main street of Helensburgh. There has been a community on this spot since about the 1600s composed mainly of fishermen, but in 1776 Sir Ian Colquhoun - the family owned most of the Loch Lomond area at that time - planned a town and called it after his wife Helen. It has always been a popular place, due firstly to its ferry service to Greenock, and then in 1812 Henry Bell built Europe's first ever ocean-going paddle steamer The Comet which brought passengers down from Glasgow. In 1858 the Glasgow/ Dumbarton/Helensburgh rail link was opened allowing people to work in Glasgow and live in Helensburgh.
It was such a wonderful day we decided to enjoy an al fresco lunch, so we got some fish suppers, wandered over to the sweeping promenade and sat there enjoying the warm sunshine on our faces. Needless to say we were instantly joined by about 60 birds - gulls, pigeons, and crows (thought: we were in an Alfred Hitchcock film...) and they very patiently waited until the odd chip or piece of fish were thrown to them. We then realised the birds had eaten most of the fish suppers - which isn't a bad thing for the figure - and of course once finished, the birds flew away.
To end the day we climbed up to the most famous of Helensburgh buildings, The Hill House, aptly named, and built in 1902 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for the Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie. Not only did CRM design the house, he also designed much of the interior decoration and furniture. His wife Margaret MacDonald designed fabrics and a unique panel over the fireplace in the drawing room. The house was purchased for the nation by The National Trust for Scotland in 1982 and it underwent a series of extensive conservation repair and refurbishment. Every detail has been carefully selected and even the street lighting outside is of Rennie Mackintosh influence. The house is open to the public from April - October and the gardens are open in the afternoons all year round. A real 'must' for those interested in architecture as the town has grown up over many centuries and the style of buildings is diverse to say the least. Helensburgh also has a thriving retail sector with lots of independent 'boutique' style shops of every description as well as the usual smaller versions of high street shops - a good day out for everyone!
Here at the cottage - well we haven't quite floated off into the Loch but would you believe on the 11th December while filling up the bird feeders I was able to pick six roses and some 'viburnum bodnantense dawn'? (Doesn't that make me sound as if I know a lot about gardening!) It was just starting to flower as it should at this time of year. Never been known before - a vase of fresh flowers from the garden in December - that shows just how mild this year has been. Sad to say our squirrels disappeared in August - as they usually do - but they haven't come back (usually re-appear by end September) - I hope they join us in the Spring, I miss watching their antics. Sooty the cat is curled up beside me as usual - she's been in and out all day today dodging the heavy rain showers. I will leave you with the thought that even in the worst of weathers there's always a bonus - however fleeting - the calm after the storm.
I hope you are all warm and dry, happy and comforted, and looking forward to 2007 with hope.
"Where the magnificence of the scenery is matched only by the beauty of visiting wildlife."
Text and photographs © Pamela Mackinnon.