Sunday, 15 January 2017

Fascadale in the Drizzle

On a day of persistent low cloud and blown drizzle, we drove to the north shore of the peninsula, to Achateny, the site of one of Ardnamurchan's clachans which was cleared in the mid-nineteenth century to make way for a sheep farm - the picture shows the farm buildings and the two houses, left, both of which are available to rent from Ardnamurchan Estate. There's a history of Achateny on the new Heritage Ardnamurchan site here.

It not being a day for the hills, we walked along the road which winds its way westwards from Achateny to Fascadale. For most of its distance it runs through birch woodland with, to the right.... extensive area of flat land between it and the sea cliffs, from where a small group of hinds watched us, and....

....the hills to the left, their summits lost in low cloud.

It's a pretty walk even in the rain, with the burns in spate - we've had 25mm of rain in the last twenty-four hours - and plenty to notice, like the witch's broom hanging in the trees.

Fascadale too used to be the site of a clachan and, after it was cleared, the site of a large salmon fishing operation. Today, the place is deserted except for three Estate letting houses - this one, emerging out of the mist, is Fascadale Cottage.

Beyond the cottage is Fascadale bay. We walked to a small headland near the cottage which has an unusually well-built cairn on it, from where one can....

....look into the bay. At the back of the beach is the ice house once used to keep the salmon fresh until they could be transported to market, beyond which are the other two Estate houses. This was as far as we had intended to walk so we were about to turn back when, looking down....

....we saw an otter below us with a large crab in its mouth.

The Ardnamurchan Estate website is here.

Saturday, 14 January 2017


I was phoned this morning by an eminent member of the Portuairk community to inform me that the sun had just risen at the centre of the universe for the first time this year. It was, he admitted, two days late, as it usually first rises there on the day of the old new year, 12th January, but the event had been delayed by low cloud and snow.

I feel that an apology is due as it had been my expressed opinion that the centre of the universe spent several months of its winter in utter darkness, unlike Ormsaigbeg which has the privilege of watching superb sunrises like this morning's on almost every day of the year.

A little later, the Newry fishing boat Havilah N200, as always in the company of the Stephanie M, came up the Sound through the low-angled light, passing the lighthouse at Rubha nan Gall.

We spent part of the morning sitting on the end of the small headland below the house in the hope of seeing otters, sea eagles and dolphins in the still waters of the bay but had to make do with....

....a friendly dunnock and....

....a very chatty house sparrow.

Spotting the unusual is very exciting but there are times when it's good to remind oneself that there is also great beauty in the very ordinary.

Friday, 13 January 2017

A Walk Through the Village

We walked through the village this morning in conditions which varied from snow through to hail and then sunshine, but were very relieved to find that Hughie's pigs were tucked up warmly in a particularly heavy snow shower.

Vehicles from the KN Group were parked by the Sanna turn, we think working on the broadband cables. The company - here - is working with BT on the roll-out of next generation broadband which, we hope, means that we might get our superfast broadband by the new target date, March, the project having slipped from its original date of September of last year.

We walked past the houses in Pier Road with bright sunshine picking out the colours in the landscape, on our way to.....

....the CalMac pier from where there was a fine view of Mingary Castle and Beinn na h-Urchrach behind it.

This picture, courtesy Dave Brown, comes from the other side of the peninsula, looking north from Portuairk towards the snow-covered hills of Rum, with low-lying Muck in the middle distance, Eigg to the right and, along the horizon beyond Eigg, the Cuillins on Skye.

Many thanks to Dave for the photo.

Lysblink Seaways Update

Usually, ships proceeding north up the Sound of Mull have a waypoint near the Red Rocks Buoy where they make a turn to port to exit the northern Sound of Mull. Mid-afternoon yesterday, we had a sudden reminder of the Lysblink Seaways when the Eastern Vanquish failed to make the turn and continued towards Maclean's Nose.

In fact she seems to have been seeking shelter for the night from what has been a fairly strong northerly, and she remains anchored under the lee of Ben Hiant this morning. She's a British general cargo ship, 2,281grt, launched in 2012 and en route to Eikefet in Norway, where she's due today. She's in ballast, so it may be that her master is waiting to round the north of Scotland, where conditions are poor, but it's unusual for a modern ship to waste time like this.

This picture shows the Lysblink Seaways as she was towed away to the breakers yard in February 2015. Many thanks to Iain McAllister - website here - for keeping us up-to-date with her continuing sad saga. At present she's being broken up in the Donny Bruce boatyard at Rosneath - picture here - but Iain also reports that last year a young man who shouldn't have been aboard fell into the hold and died from his injuries - report here.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

East of the Millburn

With a much reduced northwester bringing in heavy clouds threatening a day of snow and hail showers, I walked from the road down the east bank of the Millburn - happily without any diesel floating in it - and was thrilled to spot....

....the dipper which always seems to be working this stretch first thing in the morning. I watched it for some time as it dived under the water, then sat a little longer to follow the progress of two sea eagles along the coast, harried by the gulls, which seem to enjoy the fun of it.

We had hail and snow and temperatures as low as 1C overnight, so the hills are white and the roads slippery, but it was much easier walking around the back of Kilchoan Bay. This is an area of sand and shingle when exposed by low tides, a place for shellfish and wading birds, and a safe anchorage for those courageous souls who are still working the wilks at this miserable time of year.

The local flocks of sheep are fed sugar beet pellets throughout the winter, and Hughie was down with his animals. They spend their lives enjoying the grass and seaweed around the bay. Two of his ewes were missing, a blackface which seems to spurn the extra feed, and a prized cheviot cross. We searched the back of the bay for them, the blackface being found quite happily by itself but, sadly, the cheviot was lying dead in some marsh grass with no sign of the reason for its early demise.

As long as the two burns which drain directly into the bay, the Allt Darach and the Abhiann Glac na h-Eaglais, aren't carrying too much water, it's possible to work one's way all round the bay towards Glas Eilean. Kilchoan township's land ends against this 18th century stone wall, the land to the left belonging to Ardnamurchan Estate.

From the far side of the bay there's a panoramic view of the three townships in the village. This is a view of the four houses and three crofts of Orsmaigmore, with Beinn na h-Imeilte behind.

Then the clouds suddenly drew aside and bright sunshine lit the landscape. In the foreground is the small group of Kilchoan township croft houses near the Sanna turn, while....

....this view looks across to Meall mo Chridhe and the 12th century St Comghan's church.