Kildalton Cross, Mull of Oa, Laphroig Distillery and Islay Woollen Mill

11/05/2019 by

The last full day on Islay has arrived and we were lucky enough to get rising air pressure and sun bathing us in warm rays most of the day.

Our first objective was to visit the Kildalton Cross and Port Mor first. The Cross dats back to the late 8th century and is really well preserved to enable us to see the carvings of David killing the lion, a peacock, Cain slaying Abel, the sacrifice of Isaac, the Virgin and child, four lions and a snake. The church is alsou home to many ancient grave slabs well worth a visit.

The Kildalton Cross

Decorative Grave Slabs in Kildalton Church

Following the visit to the church we walked the short way down to Port Mor through lovely wind shaped oak trees to the Loch in bright sunshine.

Having seen books in the local shops of Kilted Yoga, and the various ‘calendar girls’ genre of publications, the ladies thought of publishing a lobster pot ladies calendar using Islay scenery – not sure it works though – what do you think?

Lobster Pot Ladies Calendar?

‘Hieland Coos’ look on over the Mull of Oa

The American Memorial – Oa Peninsula

Walking over the soft turf of the Oa peninsular is delightful. Wild goats and Highland cattle ignore us as we make our way up to the American Monument. A monument built by the American Red Cross to honour the men from two ships sunk just off the coast in 1918 with a tragic loss of lives. The Tuscania was a passenger liner, on its way from New Jersey to the coast of France with 2,000 American soldiers and a crew of more than 300. At Halifax, Nova Scotia, they joined a convoy and entered British waters between Islay and Northern Ireland on 5 February. The convoy was followed by a UB77 German submarine which torpedoed the Tuscania. The direct hit resulted in heavy damage and the Tuscania sank 7 miles off the Oa Peninsula. An estimated 230 lives were lost.

Eight months later, on October 6, another tragedy occurred only a few miles from the same place. The HMS Otranto was carrying troops from New York to Glasgow when it collided with the steamship HMS Kashmir during a heavy storm. Over 400 lives were lost. Many of the victims were buried at a military cemetery at Kilchoman near Bruichaladdich.

Cliffs on the Oa Peninsula

After lunch near the memorial, we walked back along the stunning headland back to the minibus to head into one of the three nearby distilleries for some sampling and shopping.

We chose the Laphroig whisky distillery at the head of Loch Laphroig on the south coast of Islay. Established in 1815 it is the only whisky to carry the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales, which was awarded during a visit in 1994.

The pier head at Laphroig

We then headed to the Islay Woollen Mill at Bridgend to see how the mill still uses Victorian looms and machinery to produce world class yarns and tweeds for many high class tailors in Saville Row, London. The Mill is run by Gordon Covell and the tweeds are much in demand from the Hollywood film industry, having featured in Braveheart with Mel Gibson, Forrest Gump with Tom Hanks and Rob Roy with Liam Neeson.

Our day and trip were finally celebrated with a delicious dinner at Lochside in Bowmore before heading home to our accommodation. Tomorrow we take the ferry away from Islay to the mainland no doubt with a hint of regret but also with a love of the South West Highlands and Islands.

It’s been a wonderful week with some lovely people and a pleasure to guide them on behalf of About Argyll Walking Tours in Scotland

Advertisements

Port Charlotte, Ardnave and whisky galore!

09/05/2019 by

Another rainless day promised for a day of coastal exploration although the northerly wind is still very fresh at times.

We headed to Port Charlotte first today to visit the Islay Life museum which really does have a lot of very interesting artefacts and information regarding life on Islay and it’s local history.

Cross depicting sword and vine leaves c6th Century

There are some fascinating stone crosses from the 5-8 century along with some Bronze Age burial cists, ceremonial pots and implements found locally.

We then headed to Ardnave Loch and started our walk along the sand dunes adjacent to Loch Gruinart. Beautiful sandy coves and lots of oyster catchers, sandpipers, choughs, lapwings, skylarks, guillemots, and herons around us. The area around Ardnave Point is particularly striking with the dunes compared to the rocky shores we’ve been seeing elsewhere this week.

In the dunes at Ardnave Point

Stratified rock – Loch Gruinart

There were a couple of seals in the bay as we lunched, but they soon disappeared for more attractive seal food than we had to offer them. Continuing our walk back to Ardnave Loch across the point was gentle under foot and very dry – reminding us of how little rainfall Islay has had this winter and spring.

After returning to the minibus, we travelled to the Bruichladdich distillery where the group were able to sample the four unique spirits of Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte, and Octamore single malt whiskies and The Botanist Islay Dry Gin. The whisky is created from 100% Scottish barley using much of the original Victorian machinery. With the distillery on the waterside, it is claimed that the whiskies breathe the maritime air of Loch Indaal all of their maturing life. As you can see, tasting the whiskies is serious business for the ladies

Sampling the amber peaty liquid takes concentration!

After visiting Bruichladdich, we dropped into Bowmore to see what their whisky was all about too. The consensus was that ‘Laddies’ was the superior but there are 6 other distilleries on this island!!

As if the day hadn’t already yielded enough surprises with the landscape, we were about to experience more when Cynthia, Peggy and me arrived back at our accommodation after leaving Deb, Sue and Beth at theirs just up the road.

Arriving back at Lyrabus Croft, our host Deirdre, asked us if we’d like to look at her bike shed! Well, you can see from the photos that a bike shed it isn’t but we were only too happy to enjoy it with Deirdre and Gibson Campbell who own the guest house.

Inside the bike shed with Peggy, Deirdre and Cynthia

Deirdre then invited us to check her other shed!!

Inside the Grillkota – Barbecue Cabin in Finnish style in Islay complete with reindeer skins!

Deirdre and Peggy discuss the finer points of Brexit!

A full on Grillkota (Finnish BBQ Cabin) complete with reindeer skins! The evening couldn’t have got any better – completely knocked out and surprised. I know exactly where one of these could fit my garden at home 🙊

So after a nightcap or two and pleasant chat with Deirdre and Gibson, and two other guests from Canada, it was time to turn in!

Another great day with About Argyll . Check the website for more information. If you fancy a ‘bike ride’ with Deirdre and Gibson, check out Lyrabus Croft for availability.

Last full day tomorrow before our travel back to Glasgow on Saturday but it’ll be another special one on the Mull of Oa.

Kilmartin Glen, Dunadd Fort, Crinan and Islay all in one day,

08/05/2019 by

Kilmartin Glen is an area in Argyll not far from Kintyre with the most important concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland. There are more than 800 ancient monuments within a six mile radius of the village with 150 of them being prehistoric. Monuments include standing stones, a henge monument, numerous casts, and a linear cemetery with five huge burial cairns.

Temple Wood standing stones

Globe Cairn at Kilmartin Village

The Canadians show the carvings on the standing stone

Temple Wood standing stones and cairn

The remains of the fortress of the Scots at Dunadd, a royal centre of Dal Riata, are located to the south of the Glen. The anointing stone, carvings of a boar and a carved bowl all point towards a fortress of ‘king making’ significance. It’s believed that the new king placed his foot into the footprint at his anointing ceremony.

Beth receives adulation from her subjects on the anointing stone

Debs tries the footprint for fit

Peggy waves to her subjects!

A really interesting weathervane on top of Kilmartin Church shows the importance of the sea to this area

Following our own king making ceremonies, we travelled down the Crinan Canal to Crinan for lunch before heading to Tarbert enroute to the Islay ferry.

We arrived in Islay around 2000 and made our way north to our accommodation for the next two days.

Sue’s sprained ankle is making good progress and is certainly not stopping her from enjoying the walking – lots of ice is necessitating the requirement for the ladies to find a local hostelry (purely for medical recuperation) to ensure adequate supply!

No doubt there’ll be much debate about how much (if any) ice will be required to aid the libation of the amber peaty liquid over the next two days!

For details on how you can enjoy guided walks in Scotland, see About Argyll for some excellent options to suit you.

Glen Nant, Bonawe Furnace, and Inverawe Smokery, Argyll

07/05/2019 by

Today we took a step back into the 18th century within this amazing landscape to see one of the most remarkable monuments of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. A company in the Lake District who already owned Duddon Estuary Furnace decided in 1753 to exploit the plentiful source of woodland in Glen Nant to provide charcoal before coke became the ‘new technology’.

Bonawe Furnace remained in blast for an astonishing 120 years producing good quality iron at competitive prices thanks to the readily available charcoal from the wooded hills of Argyll and Glen Nant in particular. Once pig iron was produced, there was ready access to transport from Lorn Quay onto Loch Etive and past the Falls of Lora at the mouth of the Loch.

For those of us from the Lake District, it is easy to recognise the red sandstone slabs from West Cumbria, and the grey-green slate covering the storage sheds – despite the slate islands just off the coast at Oban – but then I’m biased when I say that Westmorland green slate is the best in the world which is why it covers the Houses of Parliament in Westminster!

Bridge over a burn in Glen Nant nature reserve

Coppiced trees adorned with lichen and moss add to the verdant colours all around

Bonawe would have required at least 10,000 acres (5,000 football pitches) for sustained operation and ‘coaling’ which burned the wood to create charcoal took place in the woods before being carted by packhorse or clog cart in 12 sacks from one clamp kiln. There is an example of a clamp kiln in Glen Nant.

More details on Bonawe and the history can be found on the website at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk

The sun shone again on us as we launched at the Inverawe Smokery just a short walk from the Bonawe Furnace and gave some of us a chance to sample smoked trout pate with our packed lunches.

Panoramic view from McCaig’s Tower above Oban looking out over Kerrera, Mull, Morvern, and Lismore

McCaig’s Tower on Battery Hill built in 1897 at a cost of ÂŁ5000 GBP

The Tower was built of Bonawe granite taken from quarries on Loch Etive – it has a circumference of 200 metres with two tiers of 94 lancet arches. John McCaig was a philanthropist banker to provide work for local stonemasons during the winter months. He was an admirer of Roman and Greek architecture hence the design based on the Colosseum in Rome. The planned art gallery and museum inside never got completed due to his death in 1902.

In early May, the warm Gulf Stream favours the gardens in Oban and the multitudinous colours of rhododendrons and azaleas make quite a spectacle against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.

The ladies completed their day with another visit to the Manor House Hotel www.manorhouseoban.com on Gallanach Road where afternoon tea has been replaced for the group in favour of a cold Chardonnay or local craft beer and more takes of ‘daring do’ from Eddie the barman.

Last evening in Oban tonight before we head south to Islay via Kilmartin Glen and Crinan.

The adventure continues for these ladies with About Argyll Walking Holidays in Scotland

The Garvellachs and the gulf of Corryvrekkan

06/05/2019 by

This video shows the might of the Corryvrekkan tidal race – close to where we sailed today.

https://www.seafari.co.uk/oban/our-tours/whirlpool-specials/

After a comfortable night and delicious breakfast again at our guesthouse www.hawthornbank.co.uk it was time to head south to our adventure on the water. Hawthorn Bank is a lovely guesthouse in Oban close to the harbour with lovely views out over the bay to Kerrera. Well worth checking the website for a place to call home in Argyll.

The day started meeting our skipper, Duncan and his boat MV Farsain based in the lovely Craobh Haven marina. Our trip today was to sail around the Garvellachs (Islands of the Sea) which are just north of Jura. Our aim (Atlantic swell permitting) was to stop at Eileach an Naoimh (Gaelic for Isle of the Saints).

Captain Duncan and his pirates!

The day’s weather looked good and hopefully it would lend itself well to some nature spotting on the way. It wasn’t long before we came across some common seals sunbathing on the rocks – oblivious to our attentions and noise.

Clearly we weren’t enough of a disturbance to make them all dive into the water although some seemed to be having great fun putting on a diving display for us.

Duncan had only just finished promising us that we would spot Sea Eagles (much larger than the Golden variety) than we rounded a headland and high above the cliff and an eyrie was a golden eagle fighting off the attentions of a lone raven trying to get closer to the nest to snaffle the eaglets).

Cormorants, shags, eider ducks, all made our journey more fulsome as we headed to a leeward slope for a coffee. As we gazed on to the island we suddenly spotted a good number of red deer hinds paying us very close attention due to our voices and no doubt our very pungent human aroma drifting on the wind towards their territory.

Cormorants and seals in abundance

You can just spot the red deer on the skyline!

After coffee we headed to our island destination passing the slate isles where derelict skate quarries reflected the sunshine. These islands were formed in the PreCambrian Age almost one billion years ago. The islands have steeply angled sides when viewed from the north east and present vertical cliffs to the north west. To the landward side they seem to be green islets, full of wildflowers such as primula amongst the pink quartz and limestone boulders.

We moored up on Eilach an Naoimh (Isle of the Saints) and set about exploring the early ecclesiastical buildings of the Celtic church. The 9th century monastery with its ‘beehive’ corbelled stone cells is believed to have originated in 542AD by Irish saint Brendan the Navigator. The original buildings may have been destroyed by the Norse invaders in the 7th century and later rebuilt in the 9th.

Looking towards the beehive cell

The inner wall of the cell

Beth in the prison cell or food storage building!

There’s no easy way to get in Beth!

Eithne’s grave

Our lunch spot

Beth makes the summit for lunch

After lunch, we headed back to the boat and took a route back through the ‘Grey Dogs’ tidal race between Lunga and Scarba. The standing waves and sensation of travelling uphill on an ocean was really something to experience, as was the velocity of the tidal race. The term dogs is presumed to relate to the seal colonies nearby although it’s not certain.

On the return to the marina, Duncan managed to find us some more seals, red deer stags, hinds and a Sea Eagle near its nest carefully watching over it. It was truly huge with a wingspan of approximately 8 1/2 feet, almost 20% larger than the Golden Eagle.

A 45 minute drive back to Oban remained and a wee dram for the ladies to cap off the day before dinner at EE-USK fish restaurant on the harbour.

A spectacular day with www.aboutargyll.com and it’s only Monday!

Isle of Kerrera, Argyll, Scotland

05/05/2019 by

Sunday 5 May 2019

A dry day greeted us as we waited for the passenger ferry to Kerrera this morning. Everyone in high spirits, no jet lag, and no hangovers to be concerned about except maybe mine for not checking the date imprint on my camera – doh! It should of course be a day later!

The ferry started at 10.35 so by 10.45 we were walking the southern route on the island – lush green fields, sea air, and lovely views at every turn to greet us on this 6 mile walk.

Signs for the Kerrera tea shop were too much to ignore so we made a slight detour for elevenses and scones or rhubarb and custard cake.

The cafe was delightful, with a toilet with a wonderful view and it was even twinned with another in Pakistan!

Walking on further towards Gylen Castle and as we approached the view was amazing. As Kerrera shelters the entrance to Oban Bay, views are everywhere. It is a lovely green island, it’s unsurfaced roads used only by farm vehicles. It’s fertile pastures support sheep, goats and some highland cows. It has fine cliff scenery and at tiny Barr-nam-Boc Bay you can see the jetty remains where cattle herds were brought from Mull were landed on their way to market. The animals then walked the drive road to the east coast where they swam the Sound to Oban!

Gylen castle is perched high on a sheer cliff of conglomerate and was built as a tower house by Duncan MacDougall in 1582. It occupies a narrow promontory, access to which is by a vaulted passage under the main block. It only lasted until 1647 when it was sieved and burnt by Cromwellian troops.

Some latter day visitors from USA still feel the urge to lay siege!

The isle has much to commend it and makes a very pleasant 5 hour walk with stunning views over to Mull with Ben More in the distance.

So it was back to the ferry to end our first day of walking and enjoying the Southwest Highlands & Islands with www.aboutargyll.uk

For more information and to see how you can enjoy Scotland see the website above or email info@aboutargyll.uk

Tomorrow we head off on a 6 hour boat trip to the Garvellachs, uninhabited islands, and the Corryvreckan Whirlpool.

Check in tomorrow for more updates on the journey with Beth from New Zealand, Peggy and Cynthia from New York, and Deborah and Suzanne from Canada.

South West Highlands and Islands

05/05/2019 by

Today we are off to the Island of Kerrera just off the coast of Oban – literally only a 10 minute ferry journey.

On arrival in Oban last evening after a brief pause in Glencoe, we had a delicious seafood dinner in The Fishouse Restaurant on the harbour.

The weather looks dry with a northerly wind so chilly but clear so hopefully some views to share later.

Beth, Peggy, Suzanne, Deborah and Cynthia are all well and eager to start their holiday with About Argyll. Check out the website link below for more details of walking tours in Scotland with About Argyll.

www.aboutargyll.uk

Hadrian’s Wall – Final Day

08/08/2018 by

A straightforward easy walk to Heddon on the Wall and the full team are on the starting blocks (sic!)

The day started well with a good breakfast at the Robin Hood Inn at East Wallhouses. Unfortunately, a minor incident occurred as Tom crushed Joan’s crisps as he loaded her rucksack – see the caption competition below and see if you can guess what Joanie is saying……

We weren’t far into our walk when we stopped at the Great Northern Reservoir to ’twitch’ a while when we heard the cry of ”Hello United States of America” at full voice. Turning round we saw our friends Inge and Miet aka the ’Belgian Bombers’ who we have met every day on the walk. The camaraderie and fun that we’ve had with these two ladies just epitomises long distance walks in the UK. It was lovely meeting these two ’famous Belgians’ and hopefully you had ad much fun as we did when we met up!

Today we were treated to lovely views across the Tyne Valley as we walked in the Roman ditch or alongside the Vallum either side of the wall which is now the military road and covered by asphalt.

The scenery whilst not specific to Hadrians Wall still pleases the eye and spirit and allows you time to appreciate the fact that many parts of the wall are so well preserved in the aftermath of 2000 years of agriculture and mankind’s progress!

Poppies alongside the wheatfields

After a pleasant lunch spot just after Rudchester Fort, we arrived at our destination, the Three Tuns in Heddon on the Wall.

Time then for a celebratory drink with Ritchie from Badger Adventures and who should be lurking in the pub but the Belgian Bombers! So it was a whisky for Tom and a whole cask of ale for Joanie!

Joan settles for a bottle of ’dog’

So it was back to our lodgings at the Robin Hood for a small snooze (Tom), an episode of Tipping Point for Ritchie, no doubt a shower for Joan, and blog writing for me!

Tonight is our celebratory dinner before taking Joan and Tom back to Carlisle so that they can continue their adventure in the Lake District.

Thanks to Joan and Tom for making this a fun trip, thanks to Inge and Miet for their humour along the way, and Ritchie from Badger Adventures for making it all happen in a seamless way.

Bon Voyage and until the next time.

Hadrian’s Wall – day 3

07/08/2018 by

Today’s journey took us from Chollerford to East Wallhouses (15k) and a moderate ascent of 200m over the first half.

As customary, you’ll see the opening photo but with an omission – that omission being Tom! While Joan and I took on the wall, Tom visited Vindolanda and Chesters Forts to brush up on his Roman history.

Joan on Chollerford Bridge

Before we set off we took a detour down to the Roman bridge abutment to discover the symbol of Roman prosperity!

The symbol of Roman wealth and prosperity!!

Walking on to St Oswald’s we took a quick visit to the church and Heavenfield battle site where King Oswald representing ‘Christianity’ defeated the ‘Pageans’, thus setting himself up as a future St Oswald and even has a walk named after him leading to Lindisfarne. The sundial on the wall wasn’t working (due to no sun!), but the Roman Altar was quite impressive as was the pocket sized church organ.

St Oswalds Church

The ‘non’ sundial

Roman Altar

Pocket sized church organ

Panoramic view from St Oswalds looking out towards Carter Bar and North Northumberland

After St Oswalds we followed the ditch line towards Newcastle and some very deep examples of the Vallum. At just about this point, Ritchie and Tom arrived with the bus and Tom joined us for the last couple of km. On arrival at the Robin Hood Inn, Tom was heard to announce that he was ‘pleased to have completed all three days so far’ 🙊

Ditch gets deeper and more impressive.

Tom looks suitably ‘bedraggled’ after his Herculean effort while Joan looks as fresh as a daisy but ready for a local brew of ‘Rivet Catcher’

One more day ahead of us to Heddon on the Wall – check Badger Adventures for your next adventure.

Hadrian’s Wall – day 2

06/08/2018 by

From our hotel in Gilsland we drove back to Steel Rigg car park ready to continue our Badger Adventure .

Joan and Tom ready for day 2.

The weather was forecast to be cooler and our first hour was to climb Peel Crags and Milecastle 39 (Castle Nick) before gaining a view of Crag Lough Sycamore Gap. The Sycamore was made famous as a star in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner.

Joan and Tom aka Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman – and the sycamore tree as himself!

Walking up to the crag we passed the Crag Lough with some stunning views through the crags to the water. No need for a huge wall here with the crag being such a good defense against the marauding barbarians from over the border into Scotland.

View from Steel Rigg to Crag Lough.

A few more ’undulations’ and we traverse Hotbank Crags, Cuddy’s Crags and then Housesteads Crag. Coming along the wall you are greeted by the archeological site of Housesteads Fort. The Fort is one of the most important Roman sites anywhere in Europe with well preserved ruins of the granary, communal latrines, commanders quarters and much more.

Housesteads Fort / home to up to 1000 Roman infantrymen and cavalry.

The next portion of todays 19km walk took us past Busy Gap and the impressive restoration work of John Clayton in the 17th century.

Sewingshields Crag just before Turret 35a and a saxon burial chamber / crypt.

Leaving the crags behind we picked up the ditch on the north side of the wall and the vallum on the south. More sightings of Hen Harriers and a Goshawk kept our journey alive with wildlife.

Soon we arrived at Brocolitia Fort and the Temple of Mithras and the sun God. After a quick prayer we hastened our way onwards to Limestone Corner, the most northernmost point of the Roman Empire.

Temple of Mithras with altar at the far end and two Sun God worshippers!

The last part of our Badger Adventure took us along a relatively flat part of country to Chesters Fort and Roman Baths. Ritchie (Chief Badger) was waiting for us in the bus ready to adjourn to the Crown Inn in Humshaugh for libation of local ale and northern sustenance!

So another great day with Joan and Tom and ready to return to Chesters first thing tomorrow to explore the Fort and Baths before our 15km walk to East Wallhouses.

Why not tailor your Badger Adventure by following the link to the website and see what you can do!

Badger Adventures

See you tomorrow!


%d bloggers like this: