Archive for the ‘About Argyll’ Category

Port Charlotte, Ardnave and whisky galore!

09/05/2019

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.

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

08/05/2019

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

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

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

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

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


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