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..."
Bridge over the Atlantic
Sounds incredible I know but here it is. Spanning a narrow inlet of the Atlantic Ocean and affording the only road access to Seil island, which is about 16 miles south of Oban, the Bridge was built in 1791 by John Stevenson of Oban. It was commissioned by Lord Bredalbane, MacDougall of Ardencaple and the Easdale Slate Company, the latter having the biggest commercial interest in good simple traffic flow. Being 40ft high with a 70ft span believe me driving over it is rather like a ride on the big dipper and of course its single span so you have to keep your eyes peeled for oncoming traffic on the single track roads leading to it.
The surrounding countryside is beautiful and its hard to believe that since the early 1600's this area was a thriving community mostly involved in mining slate and at one time 10,000 people lived between the three islands of Easdale, Slate and Luing. The slate from these areas can only be hand carved - unlike Welsh slate which can be machined - and I was gobsmacked to learn that at its peak 9 million slates were produced each year by the miners. The slates were exported all over the world, so magnificent was the quality of the product, and this lucrative and very demanding business thrived for over 200 years until on the 23rd November 1881 a huge storm hit the West Coast of Scotland. The flooding that followed completely filled the mines and rendered them unworkable and many homes were also destroyed in that one storm. Attempts were made to continue mining in a very small way but the costs involved were so great production ground to a halt and the population moved away in search of work. However, today these islands have a thriving community of people from all over the world, drawn to their beauty and the total lack of stressful commerce. They have 2 very good museums, one on the harbour at Ellanbeich and the other on the tiny island of Easdale which has no traffic and is reached by a 2 minute boat ride. All in all a great area to spend a full day or stay awhile as there are B&Bs, Hotels and lots of holiday cottages for rent.
Meanwhile, back on the ranch! I promised you a photograph of Cocky and the seed feeder and here it is. The pheasants have been with us all year and there are still about eight which we think are all this year's hatchlings. We have three cocks and five hens and the hens are very much in charge - they actually run towards us every morning when we open the curtains, waiting for the seed which we put out specifically for them. However they seem to prefer the wild bird seed so once they've picked our their favourite bits from the pheasant feed they rush over to the bird table to finish their breakfast. Quite a few of them have worked out the benefits of raiding the seed feeder so that needs to be filled up every day also. Its such a privilege to be able to sit in the cottage and watch these, and all the others, sort out their priorities and get on with the day's tasks. We also have some kind of hawk in the vicinity. We have never yet been able to get a good look at it because its the behaviour of the other birds which draws our attention to danger in the garden and by the time we've realised its the hawk again, tailfeathers disappearing at speed is the only glimpse we have ever had of it. We think its probably a hen harrier or a sparrowhawk but we'll keep watching and let you know once we're sure.
And, lastly, our red and white squirrel. Apparently this kind of albinoism is quite common in squirrels and I think its very attractive. We haven't seen him for some months and we're now down to two red squirrels. One of the cock pheasants is none too pleased with the squirrels and just today he chased them both away from the feeding station, however the squirrels are not the least impressed and within minutes they were back collecting hazelnuts from the bird table and burying them all over the garden. What a great show they give us, its a wonder I ever get any work done, talking of which the light's fading and food for the humans must be my priority.
Hoping you have a great Festive season and that love, peace and prosperity will be with you in 2002.
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/