Rothesay to Sound of Shuna / Islay, Jura, Arran


The hire carWe hired a silver Toyota for this trip and set off for Scotland on a busy summer Saturday.

The M6 was horrendous and we by-passed the Preston by-pass through the centre of Preston! After a stop in a layby at Hamilton to watch the F1 qualifying on Ali’s portable TV, we reached Wemyss Bay in time to catch the 6.15 ferry.

We left home with clear blue skies and passed through rain on the border but by the time we ‘proceeded to sea’ the skies were clearing again and we had good views of the horrible power station chimney at Hunstanton and of Toward lighthouse.

Leaving Wemyss MV Juno in  Rothesay

Half way to Rothesay we passed the returning CalMac ferry and after a 35-minute trip we arrived on Bute.

Caledonian MacBrayne operate a fleet of car ferries in the west of Scotland, serving over 20 islands. The Company was formed in 1973 from the amalgamation of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company and David MacBrayne, the main provider of cargo and passenger services in the Western Isles.


BUTESHIRE

Buteshire consists of many islands, the main ones being Bute, Arran and the Cumbraes. All are formed of ancient crystalline rocks and most are mountainous.


Bute signThe Island of Bute is only 15 miles long by 5 miles wide; it has a very mild climate due to the Gulf Stream and is a favourite holiday resort for Glaswegians.

It is thought that Mesolithic Man first settled here 8,000 years ago and the first Scottish cotton mill was established in 1788. The Highland Fault Line passes through the middle of Bute, where the freshwater Loch Fad almost splits the island in two, the central part of Bute consists of fertile hills, lochs and sea bays. The southern half is made up of farmland, the north is hilly and mostly uninhabited.


Rothesay


RothesayFirst impressions of Rothesay were of a tired resort and the funfair by the pier did nothing to improve its appearance. Just outside of town our small hotel at Ardbeg was nice and had a fine view over the Firth of Clyde. The hotel is often frequented by Lord Attenborough, who owns a farmhouse on the island. After an excellent meal we walked to Ardbeg Point, nosing through the guest house windows and wondering where all the inhabitants had gone.

Victorian toiletsThis is a Victorian town, often called the Southend of Glasgow, and is the place where the old Clyde steamers used to discharge visitors. Although it is now way past its prime it has some interesting features, like the ornate Victorian toilets built in 1899 – entry fee 10p and worth the visit.

Rothesay castleWe went to the castle and entered the gatehouse by a bridge across the moat, still full of water. The Vikings – notably Magnus Barelegs who dragged his boat across Kintyre - twice captured this 12th century red sandstone castle.

Rothesay castleThe present building dates to the early 13th century and seized by Vikings, but after the final defeat of the King of Norway in 1266 the island was formally declared part of Scotland under the Treaty of Perth.

In 1685 the castle was caught up in a revolt that led to it being burned, but the Marquis of Bute began work to restore it.

Serpentine RoadThe castle passed to the State in 1961.

From the top of the existing drum tower there is an excellent view of Serpentine Road which climbs through 13 tight hairpins. Driving up this road was interesting to say the least, especially meeting another vehicle on its way down.

It's much more impressive than the famous Lombard Street in San Francisco.

Canada HillAt the top, the zigzags become a country lane leading to a golf course and we took a short stroll to a viewpoint at Canada Hill, over the whole island.

Victorian ferneryWe went to Ardencraig Garden but found it closed, so went on to a splendid fernery at Asgog Hall where Mr. Fyfe told us all about its reclamation with the help of York University.

Built in 1870 this has a splendid sunken Victorian fernery with glassed iron roof.


Mount Stuart


Mount StuartWe arrived at the entrance to the grounds to find people hiring bikes to ride to the mansion. Preparing ourselves for a mile hike we were impressed by the arrival of a ‘bus’. This vehicle was a tractor with a covered trailer, and we were played an informative audiotape en route.

Mount StuartThe property was opened to the public in 1995, having once been home to the very wealthy Marquess of Bute. It was only built 100 years ago and is a fanciful gothic building dripping in marble and stained glass.

As you enter the grand hall and see the pillars, star-painted ceiling and staircase the only reaction is to gasp. Described as ‘the dark and mysterious heart of Mount Stuart’ this hall of rare Italian marble soars to a height of eighty feet. Themes from astrology and astronomy form the design of the vaulted ceiling complete with ‘the stars in their courses’ - and the remarkable zodiacal windows.

grand hallAt the time of construction stories were rife as to the mystical nature of the design of Mount Stuart - Lord Rosebery, a future Prime Minister, commenting in 1885: ‘Rumours point to it as something beyond the Arabian nights.’

monumentThis man was also responsible for Cardiff Castle and the fanciful Castell Koch in Wales and we could see the resemblance.

The Stewarts were an Anglo-Norman family came to Scotland in the 11th century and were in possession of the Lordship of Bute by 1200. In 1298 Sir John Stewart and his Brandanes (the men of Bute) were annihilated, fighting alongside Sir William Wallace at the battle of Falkirk.

kitchen gardenThe gardens are equally impressive and on our return, we took a footpath past the monument and kitchen garden.

Back at the car, an excellent TV signal allowed us to see Swerving Irvine win the French GP.

One thing the visitor to Bute should pay attention to is the lack of petrol stations. There are two - both in the backstreets of Rothesay; we found this out when we had to return there to fill up!



Kilchattan Bay


Kilchattan BayThis has one of the island's most beautiful beaches and is a favourite holiday retreat. We drove down to the quay and had a look at the hotel we had almost booked. There were quite a number of visitors walking around but the village is pretty uninspiring really.

St.Blane's ChurchThe drive to the southern tip of Bute is in open countryside and gradually leads uphill to St.Blane's Church. We parked and climbed about half a mile to the 12th century ruined chapel, with its well and graveyard. Built on the site of an earlier Christian foundation, it is one of a number of monastic settlements in the west. In the 6th Century St Catan, uncle to the local-born St Blane, was active in establishing Christianity on the island.

There are fabulous views of the Isle of Arran over The Kyles of Bute from here.

stone circleReturning to the road to drive up the west of the island, we stopped to see the small stone circle that consists of three reddish stones in a clearing in a VERY dark wood. The place had a spooky atmosphere but was in someway very restful and calming - probably as it was deserted and remote.



Scalpsie Bay


Scalpsie BayOn the southwestern tip near Ardscalpsie Point is the beautiful Scalpsie Bay. We stopped at a viewpoint overlooking the sands to take a picture and were joined by the Bute tourist bus. There are stunning views out to the uninhabited island of Inchmarnock, a place where alcoholics were said to be banished in the 18th Century!

MV Loch Dunvegan at RhubodachFurther north we stopped to see a chapel ruin overlooking St. Ninian's Point but failed to find it. The road took us across the narrowest part of the island, back to the east coast at Kames Bay and on up to Rhubodach on the northern tip, where there is a ferry to the mainland.

The journey across the Kyles to Colintraive only takes 5 minutes. Before the car ferry was introduced, cattle used to swim the crossing and the rocks seem very close.


ARGYLLSHIRE

This is a huge county and we returned to it several times. It consists of the large islands of Mull, Islay and Jura, as well as the Kintyre Peninsula and a large chunk of mainland stretching past Fort William.



Strone PointBack on the Cowal Peninsula we made a short detour down to Strone Point where the view over the Kyles was pretty but not much else was happening, apart from a bowls tournament at Colintraive. Bronze age settlers left evidence of their occupancy with a cairn at Colintraive.

We continued north along the eastern shore of Loch Riddon, fighting with several ordnance survey maps at once to see a continuous road. Why is it that the place you want is always on the join of the map?

Bridge over the River RuelJust south of Glendaruel two rivers empty into a muddy estuary and we drove over a small bridge over the River Ruel.

Kyles of ButeThe road climbs up and up, and at the top there is a dramatic viewpoint over the Kyles of Bute.

Sailing boats were taking advantage of the beautiful summer evening and we could see the ferry making its relentless journey back and forth to Rhubodach.



Tighnabruaich


TighnabruaichOn to the third map in ten minutes, we drove down to a hotel on the water's edge of the peaceful loch-side village of Tighnabruaich. A spectacular mountainous landscape surrounds the village that grew up in the 1850's when a resort developed as a result of the steamer traffic.

View from hotelThere is a small village and a few houses nestling in the hillside, sailing boats in the loch and a scattering of tourists. The village is home to a sailing school which offers courses from beginners to advanced.

our hotelThe hotel was reasonably comfortable and the fluorescent paint and disfunct telephone in our room was far overshadowed by the absolutely amazing food. I can honestly say that we had the best dinner we have ever eaten - and breakfast.

Afterwards, we went onto the terrace and had an amusing time with 'Darren from Essex' trying to get a mobile phone signal. Vodaphone works but Cellnet dosen't.

Ardlamont PointThe next morning we went south, taking a narrow road along the side of the water to Kames and on to Ardlamont Point. There is a hotel and a sandy bay at Kames and a caravan site at Ardlamont.

KamesThe B8000 continues north through Millhouse where black gunpowder was manufactured on a large scale between 1839 and 1921. Most of the Mill buildings now lie in ruins but in a private garden is the ornate Time Bell, which once signalled the daily starting and stopping times. The bell is still in working order and is rung at Hogmanay to herald the New Year.

Several explosions took place during the lifetime of the mill and the shock waves damaged houses in Kames and Tighnabruaich. The large quantities of charcoal, saltpetre and sulphur were shipped in at Kames and the mill magazine, where the completed gunpowder were stored, still stands on the hill above.



Otter Ferry


There are no roads along the southwestern coast of Cowal except the small spurs to Portavadie and Kilfinan and we were returning to Portavadie later to catch a ferry.

Kilfinan has an ancient history, in Gaelic 'Kil' means church and Finan was a monk from Iona, who established his church around 650 AD. The present church was built in 1759 on the same site as Finan's and is next door to the Kilfinan Hotel. It has a burial vault for the Clan Lamont, containing ancient stones.

Otter Ferry shingle spitOtter Ferry, overlooking Loch Fyne, is named after the Gaelic 'oitir', meaning sandbank and there is a shingle spit reaching half way across the loch and exposed at low tide. You can see the green beacon, which marks the end of the shingle bank.

Otter Ferry harbourThere was a ferry across the Loch many years ago, so it is easy to see how the place got its name. It is a pretty place with a small pebbly beach, a small harbour and an inn called the Oystercatcher, serving fresh seafood and oysters.

 



Castle Lachlan


Cafe at Lachlan BayThe shore of the loch is rocky and the twisty road leads to Lachlan Bay. We stopped for coffee at an idyllic spot overlooking the ruin of Castle Lachlan on a promontory overlooking the loch. The sun shone and the water was completely still.

Castle LachlanWe got chatting to 'Jimmy' from Glasgow - he is in a band that had just returned from a folk festival on Barra and he told us that the castle had belonged to Lachlan McClachlan, chief of the Clan McClachlan - quite a mouthful!.

In 1745 there was a Jacobite rebellion and the poor chief was on the losing side, he left his castle unguarded and it was destroyed. The family now lives in a rather fine new pad a little further inland!



Portavadie


PortavadieWe continued north along the Loch Fyne coast with the view of Inverary on the opposite bank. At Strachur we arrived at the point that we had reached on the last trip.

We needed to reach west Kintyre and Knapdale so to use our island hopscotch ticket the most interesting way was to return to Portavadie and catch the summer ferry to Tarbert.

MV Isle of Cumbrae at PortavadiePortavadie was once the site for an oil construction yard developed in the days of North Sea oil exploration. The yard never came about, so the housing for the workers lies empty and several attempts to convert it into timeshares seem to have foundered.

TarbertThe harbour is now used by the Cal Mac ferry to Tarbert. There is a fish farm near to the jetty and the water was remarkably blue and clear.

Only one van and a motorcycle made the crossing with us, but Tarbert was buzzing. We went to a restaurant for lunch and sat next to a window overlooking the harbour.

View of JuraLater on we took the narrow, twisty road around West Loch Tarbert at the south of the Knapdale Forest. Eventually we emerged from the trees and rounded the southwestern point to fine views of the mountains of Jura and this sight continued as we drove along the coastal road for about 15 miles.



The Kilberry Stones


Kilberry StonesAt Kilberry there is a pretty inn (we had it earmarked as a choice of hotel and it did look nice). We turned off along a private road towards Kilberry Head to visit the Celtic crosses that are displayed in a small covered area.

Kilberry StonesThese are late-medieval sculptured stones gathered from the Kilberry estate.

We saw no one except the Oban Express Parcel van, whom we passed several times.



Point of Knap


Point of KnapArriving at Achohoish we were hoping to drive to the Point of Knap but signs told us there was no way through by car. To the west is St Columba’s Cave, supposed to have been used by the saint on his crusade from Ireland.

To reach Kilmory, Castle Sween and Tayvallich would mean a 25 mile detour around Loch Sween via Bellanoch so this visit was deferred. Kilmory has a ruined 13th century chapel with medieval warrior graves, and outside stands the 8-ft MacMillan’s cross with carvings of the crucifixion and hunting scenes. Castle Sween is the earliest stone castle in Scotland, now a ruin, with 40-ft curtain walls.



Crinan


Cairnbaan locksThe direct route to Oban took us past Lochgilphead and we followed the 9-mile Crinan Canal back to the coast. There is a concentration of locks (15 in all) near Cairnbaan. We parked to take a look and saw a yacht stuck in one of them, and someone being rescued from the water. Downstream the peaty water was overflowing the sluice gates.

In 1816 Thomas Telford was called in to take charge of the numerous faults that were made when building the canal.

CrinanAt the western end is the picturesque fishing port of Crinan with a small village beside the busy marina. It used to be called 'The Kings Port' and has only come to be known as Crinan since the arrival of the canal. There is a pier and a collection of craft, all overlooked by a line of cottages.

CrinanThere is a chandlery and boatyard and a large car park near to where the canal enters Loch Crinan. We wandered around beside the lock gates taking photos.

Overlooking Loch Crinan the hotel has magnificent views but is rather pricey. We would have graced them with our presence if they had bothered to answer the phone when we rang to book! It was full of boaty people and we had no regrets on reaching our hotel at Arduaine.



Kilmartin


Bridge at BellanochCrossing the pretty bridge at Bellanoch, we cut across the Moine Mhor nature reserve to regain the A83 at Kilmartin.

Close by is an area containing a large concentration of standing stones, cairns and stone circles dating back to 3000BC.  At Temple Wood we walked to two stone circles built within pebble cairns.  One stone has a spiral motif somehow connected with sun worship. 

Temple Wood Temple Wood

Carnasserie CastleAbout a mile north of the village is Carnasserie Castle. This is the ruin of a 16th century tower house perched high on a hillside to the west of the main road. It is now in the care of Historic Scotland.

It was built for John Carswell, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles. He is famous for producing the first book published in Gaelic, a translation of the Book of Common Prayer. Carswell had earlier occupied Kilmartin Castle, on the northern edge of the village. This is a smaller tower house that spent much of the last few hundred years as a ruin but was restored as a private residence.



Arduaine


Asknish BayWe arrived at Asknish Bay in the early evening. Situated right next door to a National Trust garden, the Loch Melfort Hotel is in a prime position with amazing views over the neighbouring islands.

View from balconyOur room had a balcony and we sat with a wee dram (or two) in the glorious evening sun before dinner. We could see Shuna, Luing, Scarba and the northern tip of Jura in the distance.

Loch Melfort HotelAt dinner we had our cutlery rearranged for us several times but the meal was superb. Afterwards we climbed over the rocks in the light of a full moon. We rated this the best hotel of the week.

Next morning we couldn’t believe the beautiful sunshine and walked around Arduaine Garden before leaving. Full of rhododendrons with hillside paths this must be quite a sight in June.

Arduaine gardenThe story behind Arduaine began in 1897 when James Arthur Campbell purchased three farms on the peninsula. Work began on the garden in August 1898 together with a less robustly constructed house that had to be demolished and rebuilt part way through.

Arthur Campbell continued to develop Arduaine Garden until his death in 1929 and it remained in the family until 1971. It is now being looked after by the National Trust for Scotland.



The Atlantic Bridge at Clachan


Atlantic BridgeFrom the main Oban road we headed west to a small group of islands called the Garvellachs. The most northerly is Seil, which is separated from the mainland by a wafer thin sea channel.

ClachanSpanning it is the Atlantic Bridge, but despite its grand name, is an elegant hump-backed bridge built in 1792 by Thomas Telford. It is wide enough for one vehicle but lends itself to much photography, both of it and from it.

Just over the bridge in Clachan, is the Tigh an Truish Inn. The name means "house of the trousers" and comes from the rebellion when kilts were banned and islanders heading for the mainland swapped their kilts for trousers here.



The Slate Islands


View over Easdale Situated some 15 miles south of Oban, the Slate Islands include Seil, Easdale, Luing, and Belnahua. In the 19th century these were the centre of the Scottish slate industry and over 9 million slates were quarried annually. Many buildings in Scotland are roofed with Easdale slate, Ardmaddy Castle in Lorn, Castle Stalker in Appin, Cawdor Castle in Invernesshire and Glasgow Cathedral.

EllanbeichOn a winter's night in 1881, a stormy sea broke into the slate quarries and ended the industry overnight. The last working closed on Luing in 1965.

Easdale ferryBalvicar is the island's main harbour and as you head west the scenery changes to a much rockier landscape. The main village on Seil is Ellanbeich, where white cottage terraces nestle beneath the imposing cliff of Dùn Mór.

Ellanbeich itself was a small island separated from Seil, but the intervening gap was closed with quarry waste. The village is now full of craft shops and has a large visitor car park, but is quite pretty.

Easdale harbourThe highlight of the day was the visit to Easdale by passenger ferry (very small boat for five minutes). This channel has to be dredged frequently to keep it open. In 1881 the population was 452 but reduced to 7 in 1960. This has increased slightly because the old cottages are being turned into holiday homes and there is a lovely little museum that is worth a visit.

Easdale signThe museum was set up in 1980 and the Curator, Jean Adams MBE is a direct descendent of one of the quarry workers, Duncan McGreggor. With the assistance of local residents and the families of past quarry workers she has collected, collated and arranged displays of photographs and artifacts all of which originated in the locality.

Easdale quarry lagoonThe island’s public library amused us, as it consisted of one bookcase, but there are enough people now to supply a football team!

We followed the footpath around the old workings, now full of wild flowers and blue water, to the top of the 415-ft hill. People were swimming in the lagoons in the remains of the quarries.

Seil cafeReturning to Seil, we called into the cafe for lunch. The smoked salmon salad arrived on a plate that was about 2 ft in diameter. We found a new Scottish mascot in a craft shop and named him Easdale.

CuanAt the southernmost point at a place called Cuan we arrived at the car ferry to Luing Island. The crossing of Cuan Sound can be interesting because the tidal flow at certain times can be fast enough to give the impression of a river running rapidly downhill as it pushes through the narrow sound.

Ferry to LuingSlates from Luing were used to re-roof Iona Cathedral but it is now a lobster fishing centre and famous for the breed of cattle named after it. Luing is larger but considerably more remote than Seil and it has a population of around 200.

Unfortunately our schedule stopped us from crossing this time but we will return soon.



Lorn


Sound of LornLorn is the area centred around Oban. We were hoping for a visit to the Salmon Visitor Centre, but it has been taken over by a museum called 'World in Miniature'. We paid a short visit and were impressed by the skill of the people who had made the exhibits.

Hotel at LeragsOur hotel was hidden amongst the hills at Lerags. It was very nice but totally disorganised as the new owner had only moved in the day before. Surprisingly we found we have a mutual friend!



Oban


Ganavan BayThe ‘Gateway to the Western Isles’. We went into Oban the next morning to buy another ferry ticket and took a little time to drive up to Ganavan Bay where there is a caravan site (good in emergency!) and a sandy beach.

Dunollie Castle behind lighthouseDunollie Castle stands on the hill here, on the site of an old fortress - Dun Ollaigh - a stronghold of the Kings of Scots in middle Dalriada. The oldest part dates from 1150 and was built by Somerled, father of the first MacDougal.

View to KerreraThe tower dates from the early 15th century and has walls up to 10ft thick. It is the property of MacDougal of MacDougal, and is not officially open to the public.

There is a small ferry to the Isle of Kerrara from the slipway here. Kerrera is a tranquil place, good for walking as the only motor vehicles allowed belong to the islanders.There are some fine views if Mull and Lismore.

ObanOban is the capital of the western seaboard of Scotland. It was a small fishing village until the steamers of the early Victorian era started arriving and became the main point of departure for the Western Isles and a regular stopping-off point for the steamers linking Inverness with Glasgow via the Caledonian and Crinan canals.New ferry terminal

The railway arrived in 1880. It is now the hub of the CalMac ferry operation to the western isles with a new terminal building. The town is a crescent that occupies the hills surrounding Oban Bay with hotels, restaurants, shops and a tourist complex near the ferry terminal. 

We paid a visit to the distillery - naturally - it has been here since 1794 and is situated almost on the waterfront and then drove up to Battery Hill to visit the eccentric McCaig’s Tower that overlooks the town. It was built at the end of the 19th century to provide work for the unemployed stone masons, but was never completed. 

McCaig’s TowerView from McCaig's TowerMcCaig’s Tower

View from Pulpit HillLooking like the Colosseum, it was to be a museum and art gallery but now it encloses a garden in its remains and has a viewing platform overlooking the town and harbour.

The other viewpoint is Pulpit Hill, at 230ft there are excellent views of the whole area. At the viewpoint, there is a direction dial pointing out all the main places of interest.



Firth of Lorn - Dunstaffnage Castle


Dunstaffnage Castle wallsAs we had most of the day before the ferry left, we ventured a little way north of Oban.

We spent some time by the loch at Dunstaffnage Castle with its 10-ft thick outer walls. We walked on top of the walls and had fabulous views over the loch.

Campsite at North LedaigWe could see the campsite at North Ledaig we had used when we visited Kintyre and then drove to Edinburgh and back down the north east coast.

Dunstaffnage CastleThe castle was founded by the MacDougalls and later captured by Robert Bruce. It is an impressive fortification overlooking what was once the most important junction of the sea-lanes on the west coast of Scotland.

Dunstaffnage CastleIn the 600s the Kings of Dalriada who migrated from Ireland, built a stronghold here. It may have been the original keeping place of the Stone of Destiny.

Much of the castle was built by the MacDougalls in the 1200s. It was captured by Robert the Bruce in 1309, then to the first Earl of Argyll in 1470. In 1502 it was passed to his cousin, who became known as Captain of Dunstaffnage, and in whose family ownership of the castle remains.

Dunstaffnage chapelIt also became the temporary prison of Flora MacDonald in 1746 after she was arrested for assisting Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Inside there is a remarkably well preserved dwelling and the nearby chapel in the woods dates from the 13th century.

 



Connel Bridge


Connel Bridge This impressive bridge crosses Loch Etive where it narrows on its approach to the Firth of Lorne. Here, a rocky shelf causes spectacular rapids on certain tides, which can be seen from the bridge and are known as the Falls of Lora.

Falls of LoraA ferry was in operation by the 1600s and a village grew here that became known as Connel Ferry. In 1880 Connel’s railway station was built and it still has a rail service today linking Oban and Glasgow.

Driving over Connel BridgeLater, a branch line to Ballachulish was built that led to the construction of the steel bridge and road vehicles were sometimes carried across on a railway wagon. In 1914 it was converted to be used by both road and rail traffic but the railway was axed in 1966.

Connel itself is an attractive village with the Falls of Lora Hotel and St Oran's Church, that has a collection of stained glass windows. North Connel is home to Connel Airfield that was developed by the RAF during WWII.



Taynuilt


Taynuilt HotelTaynuilt lies near to the south shore of Loch Etive just west of the Pass of Brander. We stayed in the Taynuilt Hotel, which lies on the main road, at a junction with the village just to the north. Muckairn Parish Church was built on a hill near the village in 1829 and includes the ruins of Killespickerill, the seat of the Bishop of Argyll.

Station at TaynuiltBefore the Connel Bridge was fully converted to take road traffic, a regular ferry operated from about 1690 to Bonawe on the north bank of Loch Etive. Taynuilt's history was greatly influenced by the Bonawe Iron Furnace which provided much work in the area.

A military road was built through the Pass of Brander in 1756 that was later extended to Oban and is now the A85.

Inverawa smokeryJust up the road is the Inverawe Country Park. We followed a very narrow road to visit the Fisheries and Smokery. Here there is an exhibition, café, shop and even an angling school.



Bonawe


Bonawa charcoal shedsFrom 1753 to 1876, Bonawe Iron Furnace produced up to 700 tons of iron per year. The iron came by sea from Furness and was brought to the source of the fuel - charcoal. Argyll contained plentiful woodland and Loch Etive became one of a number of centres to which ore was transported for smelting.

Bonawe iron furnaceWorkers and their families occupied the houses still visible around the site and there were up to 600 tree cutters and charcoal burners employed across the area. The furnace itself was fed with charcoal, iron ore and limestone from Lismore. The iron was then cast into pigs for further processing or made into cannonballs. This continued until the widespread use of coke meant that iron could be made more cheaply elsewhere.

The ruins are now in the care of Historic Scotland and are set on a grassy slope overlooking Loch Etive. You can see the large charcoal stores and the red-stained ore shed. The upper parts of the furnace show what worker's lives would have been like in those days and outside is the pit in which the water wheel sat until 1941.

Ardchattan PrioryChapel ruinArdchattan Priory, a little west of Bonawe, is notable for holding the last Scottish Parliament that was spoken in Gaelic, in 1308.

A garden has existed at Ardchattan since the 13th century, when the Priory was founded by the monks of the Valliscaulian order. Behind the Priory lie the ruins of the chapel, in the care of Historic Scotland.



Cruachan Power Station


Cruachan visitor centreThe "Hollow Mountain" is a major power station that generates power using water transported down from Loch Awe, through a 25 foot diameter pipe, 3 miles long. Opened in 1965 by Her Majesty The Queen, the power station is concealed within the hollowed-out rock of Ben Cruachan. Only the dam at the top of the mountain and the offices and visitor centre can be seen from the road.

The main cavern is the size of a football pitch and you get to via a large tunnel. The machinery is capable of generating 440 MW of electricity. Cruachan’s Visitors’ Centre attracts over 60,000 people each year and we were escorted into the heart of the mountain to the viewing gallery by bus.



Port Appin


Port Appin view The main road cuts across the low lying peninsula of Benderloch en route to Loch Creran. Balcardine Castle overlooks Loch Creran on the north side of the peninsula and provides an interesting landmark. Beyond the castle a private road leads across a short causeway to the Isle of Eriska where there is an exclusive hotel in a converted country house.

Port AppinPort Appin is a small village with a little lighthouse that looks directly across the strip of water called the Lynn of Lorn to the northern tip of the island of Lismore, and across Loch Linnhe to Morvern beyond. By 1850, Port Appin was being visited by steamers en route from Inverness to Glasgow via the Caledonian and Crinan Canals.

Ferry to LismoreThere is a passenger ferry to Lismore that runs from the jetty here, and there is also a private ferry that runs across Loch Linnhe to the Glensanda Quarry, on the Morvern coast. Glensanda started operation in 1986 to provide lining material for the English half of the Channel Tunnel. It employs about 200 people and brings millions of pounds into the local economy. The quarry takes 6 million tonnes of rock from the hills each year and grinds it down, before moving it through a series of conveyors, ready to ship out by sea.



Sound of Shuna


Sound of Shuna Portnacroish is a wind-surfing centre overlooking Shuna Island. Nearby is Castle Stalker, built on its own islet in Loch Laich. The name comes from the Gaelic ‘Caisted an Stalcair’ meaning ‘castle of the hunter’, for it was used as a hunting lodge by James IV.

Castle StalkerCastle Stalker was built in about 1495 by Duncan Stewart of Appin who was granted lands in the area by James for his support in destroying the power of the Lords of the Isles. Legend has it that the Stewart owner swapped it for a Campbell boat.

It was abandoned and roofless by 1830 but it was restored in the 1960s and can be visited in the summer by way of a small boat.



Loch Linnhe


Two mascots Loch Linnhe is the start of our trip around West Scotland.

We went back to Oban to catch the ferry for the islands -

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