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..."
Glen Fyne, Loch Fyne and a Fine Dram!
I think we've all experienced the same situation - you've lived in a place for many, many years and yet a part of it remains unknown to you. Well I just found out about an area at the top of Loch Fyne I never knew existed and that's the beautiful Glen Fyne. Well known by walkers, this is a wonderful winding glen which offers all kinds of walking experience. If you're very adventurous you can climb a Munroe - Beinn Bhuidhe (yellow hill)) which separates Glen Fyne from Glen Shira or you can just walk the 4mile road to the beinn.
It's a private road so walking or cycling only and there's a car park at the entrance to the Glen. We had anticipated to have ourselves a good hike but on rounding the first bend we came across this bunch. I don't know if they're "posing like haddies" for the camera or working out the distance between us and them for a charge but they look so beautiful in the warm Autumn sunshine. I decided that it was best to take my photographs and retreat - Highland Cattle are well known for being a bit unpredictable and those horns are somewhat intimidating - so retreat we did with a mental note to try again when the weather was a bit warmer and the days a good deal longer. However all was not lost as, just at the start of the road up Glen Fyne, you pass The Fyne Ales Brewery - our own micro brewery, and an award winner too, sourcing water from a burn above the brewery for their ales - so we stopped off and purchased some of their best and beat a hasty retreat home to the fire.
Loch Fyne, reputed to be the longest and deepest sea loch in Scotland, is fed at its source from hill waters way up past Glen Fyne and into remote Highland areas.
This water which runs through the Glen quickly gets swallowed up into the Loch. Loch Fyne is impossible to photograph in it's entirety because it bends and twists in several huge sweeps. All along its coastline are villages and castles including Inveraray on the west shore and Cairndow at the head of the loch. Here you will find one of the oldest coaching inns in Scotland which boasts visitors such as Queen Victoria, Keats and Dorothy Wordsworth. The waters of Loch Fyne are rich in nutrients and herring shoals were abundant many years ago so fishing was the main industry up and down the loch. Sadly, due mainly to overfishing (by man and beastie !!!), these shoals are depleted and fish farming has taken their place, the produce of which can be sampled at Loch Fyne Oysters in Cairndow - yum !
Now I mentioned a fine dram - well, you may remember about ten years ago when I started writing Letters from Argyll I brought you a tale of MacPhunn and the whisky bearing his name you could only buy in Strachur. Well, when The Creggans Inn was sold in 2000 the MacPhunn disappeared from the shelves and has been unobtainable ever since - but things have changed. Sir Charles Maclean of Strachur Estate, former owner of The Creggans Inn, in collaboration with Loch Fyne Whiskies in Inveraray, have resurrected this particular "water of life" and it has just be re-introduced to the market. Available from Loch Fyne Whiskies, The MacPhunn is very special 18 year old single malt and if I was a whisky drinker I believe this is one I would have on my own shelf.
A thought occurs to me - how about this for the perfect day out. A drive round to Inveraray to purchase a bottle of The MacPhunn, toddle back 11 miles to Cairndow and purchase some victuals from Loch Fyne Oysters Shop. A mere 500 metre dawdle into the car park at the start of Glen Fyne completes the travelling, disembark and start to walk, stopping off at Fyne Ales for a couple of bottles to wash down the lunch. Off you go walking 'till you can go no further, settle down and, with some warm Scottish sunshine on your face, feast on some of the best food and drink anywhere in the world while surrounded by the most fantastic scenery anywhere in the world. You know, as I write, I'm getting itchy feet to try this out - of course one will have to take a teetotal driver - or a tent!
With this cheery thought for a future outing, may I wish you and yours all the very best for 2008.
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/
To stay on Skye, see Kinloch Lodge, the family home of Lord and Lady Macdonald of Macdonald. The hotel has excellent food and also cookery demonstrations.