Glen Nant, Bonawe Furnace, and Inverawe Smokery, Argyll

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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 £5000 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

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