The Lismore Diaries
Day 1: June 11th 2011
As the first part of my diaries will be full of journey, packing etc., in the true tradition of the lazy diarist/blogger, I am bullet pointing so you get the jist!
- · Packed to the gunnels
- · Me in back surrounded by bags but with top tunes on the IPod
- · Sainsbury’s for vitals, more squashing in of stuff into boot of car
- · Topped up the Irn Bru levels and sugar rush with macaroon!
- · Glasgow to Oban
- · Stunning scenery via Loch Lomond, Tarbert, Crianlarich, Taynuilt etc.
- · Sunday drivers, Lochs and Glens tour buses, death defying motorcyclists, eejits who think they know the road and us
- · Me singing badly to Journey, Altered Images and Simple Minds
- · The do we don’t we need a loo stop
- · The traditional getting into Oban traffic jam
- · Almost running out of time to make the ferry
- · Fran’s jog to the ticket office only to find out they had our tickets on the ferry.
The M.V. Eigg
So we arrive in Oban to catch the 2.15pm Oban to Lismore ferry. Having refused the ferry guys kind offer to take the car on, Maggie skilfully managed to reverse the car on board with only a slight scrape to the bumper. Her sisters of course helping by giggling at every manoeuvre as well as taking photos, well we might have needed them for the insurance. So three Coleman girls were now ready to brave the ocean waves, the waters of Oban Bay beckoned and we were bound for the Lynn of Lorne. Did I pack my eye patch? Perhaps we should have brought the budgie as our parrot? Now at this point I have to admit that the Coleman’s are not renowned sailors however the M.V Eigg is a great little ferry and she carried us safely and steadily through relatively calm waters, assisted by liberal doses of travel sickness tablets. It was a stunning journey, the sun shone on us all the way as we watched the rain in the distance passing over Mull. Our sea voyage took 50 minutes and I have to say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The sheer pleasure of being able to look out over the water, across to the panorama of islands, the peaks of their hills and mountains black against the backdrop of grey cloudy skies. It takes your breath away as the sun breaks through to show off the craggy cliffs, the white sails of a passing yacht dazzling against the greys and browns of the rocks. It brought back memories of ferry journeys to Rothesay, when our entire family would decant doon the water for a fortnight. I always get a tremendous sense of peace when I am travelling for ‘pleasure’, whether I am up in a plane, sitting on a train or in this case on a tiny wee open two car ferry.
The little ferry took a wee left turn into Achnacroish; Maggie got into the car and started up the engine whilst the ferry guy lowered the tail gate. Now this time would there be a scrape or a bump? Her sisters again took up the supportive role and turned away as she powered her way up the jetty! We did give a slight wince when the front bumper scraped on the concrete. The little jetty was full of waiting cars and people, some folks returning home, others, like us, starting their holiday. Fran spoke to the ferry guy to warn him that on Monday, Mum would be travelling over so to look out for a confused looking white haired old lady, then we piled back into the car to head for the house we had rented for the week. Lismore has one single track road running the length of the island, it twists and turns its way passed farmhouses, crofts, the kirk and the one shop on the island eventually passing the Heritage Centre. We were a bit early to get into the house we had rented, so we stopped off for a cuppa and a cake, then sun was so warm we sat outside on the decking tucking into scrummy chocolate cake and strawberry slices. The Heritage Centre also has a shop so my retail fix of nice things is also assured.
We finally had to shift ourselves from our sunny spot and drove the rest of the way towards Achuaran House. Passing gorgeous little houses, more stunning views and sheep, loads and loads of sheep! Eventually turning a corner to be greeted by a driveway with two gateposts and a rusty old gate. This was going to be home for the next week, Achueran House! The house is over 100 years old, we think possibly built around 1873 ish, it is very deceiving because it actually looks quite small till you get inside then you realise, it is huge! I felt like a child going from room to room, exploring this amazing old house. From the porch to the back door, there was something to be found in every room. It even has the old laundry with the original brick boiler and sinks. It is full of old furniture that suits the house so well, fishing rods hanging on a wall, old pictures hung in the hallway and an amazing old ‘Narnia’ style wardrobe on the top landing. All of the rooms at the front of the house look out across the Lynn of Lorne, with the ever changing sky filling the windows with picture postcard scenery. This house has history; you can feel it the minute you walk in. I keep expecting a lady in long skirts to come swishing down the stairs. The whole place has calmness about it, there is no rush, no necessity to get things done, no lists, and no to do’s … nothing but peace, quiet and sky.
- · Unpacked
- · Lots drawn for who gets the front rooms
- · Coffee and tea made
My sister Maggie has many skills that I admire and one of them is the ability to light a good fire. She has the patience to set layer on layer of wood, coal and paper whereas I would get fed up and chuck petrol on it. Maggie set to work to light a fire in the drawing room, (I am giving it, its proper name because the house deserves it). She had forgotten to bring firelighters so it was definitely a start from spark job. Fran and I helped by providing moral support from our armchairs. There was smoke there was hissing but no flames yet!
The Beach Walk
After pasta and wine, we all needed some fresh air and as the house is bought a stone’s throw from the beach we booted up and set off. It’s a rocky beach but the first thing you notice is the smell of the seaweed followed by the amazing array of shells. Loads of big empty scallop shells, the beautiful blue purple of empty mussels and the odd cockle or two. Their colours standing out against the wet stones and seaweed. Time to feel like a kid again, rooting around trying to find the biggest shell, shouting out ‘look what I have found’ whilst trying not to break your neck on the slippery rocks. Breathing in that pure ozone smell and feeling the city disappear with every breath. We carried on along the beach as far as we could and then headed up onto the road to walk towards Point where the foot ferry leaves to go to Port Appin. The little single track road surrounded on one side by sea and sky and on the other tree. The side of road filled with all sorts of wild flowers, and fuchsia bushes! There are fuchsia bushes everywhere as well as stunning yellow wild irises. As we turned to head back to the house a welcoming sight, there was smoke coming out of our chimney! Maggie’s fire was going strong and the drawing room was warm!
The Leather Arm Chair
In the front room there is an old leather arm chair, from the first moment I sat in it, I fell in love. It has been recovered but there is something about that makes me want to write! I am sat here looking out of the window at the Lynn of Lorne, watching the ever changing sky, the water as it reacts to Port Appin ferry cross over carrying foot passengers back and forth. I want to write poetically about the mountains I can see, partly covered in cloud, turning every shade of green, grey and black and the setting sun changes the light and shadow. It is quarter past ten and still light outside, the tide is coming in and I sit here watching it reacher closer and closer to the rocks we walked on just a short while ago. In the distance I can see the smoke from the chimneys of the houses in Port Appin, the smoke trailing ribbons of white across the green of the trees, two yachts on the water gently bobbing up and down as the tide moves in. It is so still outside; it is like the world has stopped with only the cry of a seabird breaking the silence. The fire in the sitting room is dying out, fading to a glow, just like the sky outside. So maybe it is time to leave the leather armchair and head to bed. A sleep fuelled by fresh air, cake and Lismore!
Day 2 June 12th 2011
Awake at my usual 6.30am! Today is my birthday and I am 48 years old.
Age has never bothered but funnily enough as I head towards 50, it has been on my mind. I don’t feel my age, I never have. Yes the face creams on my dressing table give the game away as do the laugh lines and bags under the eyes but that is experience. Every one of those lines has a memory or a lesson learned attached to them and I would not change them for the world, she said slapping on the eye cream. I love birthdays, they are a celebration of ‘that is it I have survived another year where the bastards didn’t get me down’, and I kept the bank manager happy and managed not to ruin my liver too much with too many Cosmo’s. This morning I wake up 48 years wiser (yeh right), sitting drinking my coffee facing out onto an ever changing skyline. Clouds down low over the mountains in the distance, shimmering grey water that is only disturbed by the birds diving for fish or the little ferry going backwards and forwards. Peace only disturbed by the bare necessities of life, kind of sums it up, and I am still happy with it, 48 years on!
Spent most of this morning having a lazy time, chilling out sitting on the porch with a cuppa. Superb brekkie cooked by Maggie and Fran. It is such a pleasure sitting on the porch watching all sorts of boats sail buy, every so often you hear a car but they are few and far between. We decided that after another cuppa, we would head off for a walk to Port Ramsay on the other side if the island.
The walk to Port Ramsay is only about a mile there and back. It is a gentle walk along a single track road. The roadside is full of all sorts of wild flowers, some I have never seen before. We met a lovely couple with two nice dogs, stopped to chat for a while then we headed off down the hill. Port Ramsay is on the west side of Lismore and is a lovely bay onto Loch Linnhe. The mountains on the other side of it are very steep and dramatic, rising quite sharply from the water’s edge. It is a sheltered little bay with a scattering of tiny wee islands. It has a charming wee row of what I assume were once fisherman’s cottages, each with a wee garden across the track from their front door. We wandered along the track to the end of the row and climbed a small hill to look at the view. I am running out of words to describe what we are seeing every day, the drama, the colours, the ever changing sky, there just are not enough words. Our walk back was out of the wind so it was actually quite warm, even Fran had to take her jacket off. As we reached the house we notice a yacht anchored just off the beach and there in water a few feet away from it, the bobbing head of our first seal. A short glimpse but one to gladden the heart. Time for home for a cup of tea and mackerel pate on toast, yummy!
One of the presents I got for my birthday is a large shawl from Maggie. She bought it from Calzeat Home, a shop in Peebles and it is the most beautiful colour of green with a blue tinge. I have it wrapped round me as I type and it is so cosy. The house gets quite cold at times when the sun goes behind the clouds so my new shawl is a little blessing. I am a very lucky girl, everyone has been so thoughtful and kind on my birthday and I even managed not to open my cards till today. Blessings in the shape of a new shawl and good family and friends.
After a quick afternoon power nap we went for a stroll along the beach outside the house. Again the hunt for the biggest shell, the most unusual shaped stone! On our way back we heard a great of commotion in the sky above us. There circling above the house was a large bird of prey, definitely not a buzzard, it was too big but because of its position in the sky it was very hard to tell what it was. How exciting if it turns out to be an eagle!
Lasagne, wine and salad in the dining room, discussions on what tomorrow would bring and perhaps more importantly how we fit a visit to the Heritage Centre into our day. Oh and we better remember to pick up Mum!
Late walk on beach
The tide was quite a way out tonight so Fran and I decided that some fresh air about half past ten was in order. Still in daylight we wandered down to the beach to look for hidden treasure in amongst the seaweed. Fran found the tiniest crab I think I have ever seen.
In the distance a red sky towards the top of Loch Linnhe, sign of a sunny day tomorrow? Who knows?
Day 3 June 13th 2011
Well my red sky prediction was wrong; this morning is dreich and damp! Cloud hangs over Port Appin and the hills and mountains beyond, a morning for your imagination to run wild and convince yourself there are dark deeds being done in the mist on the Lynn of Lorne. It is the perfect morning for the smugglers ship to appear out of the gloom, to hide their contraband in a cove somewhere on the far side of the island. Only returning to retrieve it at night under cover of darkness before heading out to sea! I think I might have watched one too many Pirates of the Caribbean or I need more coffee. The only Pirate arriving today is Mum with her contraband of firelighters and all the other things we forgot.
On a rainy morning like this, how about some facts about Lismore …
- · Lismore is just 12 miles long and only 1.5 miles at the widest point.
- · Lismore comes from the Gaelic lios-mor meaning Great Garden
- · Its population is around 160 and still has many Gaelic speakers.
- · It is situated between Loch Linnhe and the Lynn of Lorne, with the Firth of Lorne at is head.
- · It can be reached by small car ferry from Oban or on foot ferry from Port Appin.
Facts over for this morning as I need more coffee!
For the history of the Island please visit www.IsleOfLismore.com
After sausage sandwiches it was time to face the day. First stop would need to be the only shop on the island as we needed to stock up on one or two things however as we were in the car we decided to drive as far down the island as we could. The landscape dramatically changes depending on high you are. Some of the sheltered parts are very green with tall deciduous trees and others almost moor like with scrub grass and the odd tree battered by the wind. It must be quite hard to make a living here but there seems to be a thriving community spread right across the island. Maggie drove the car as far down the single track road as we could go, we then turned back past Fiart Loch towards Lismore’s highest point at Barr Mor (417m) heading for the shop and Post Office. Now on a small island like this you would expect the shop to have the bare essentials, but not this one. It was well stocked with a drinks section that any West End deli would be proud of. My favourite purchase of the day, half a dozen local duck eggs, yum!
Shopping done, time for a cuppa so we drove on towards the Heritage Centre. The café was full of French tourists, all in sheltering from the wind and slight drizzle. We found a corner table and sat down. The smell of food was too much so Fran had soup, I have a toasty and Maggie had chips! Whilst we had been waiting on our food Maggie had been asking one of the volunteers from Lismore Historical Society about the house we are staying in. It seems that it was once very grand with servants coming across the island from Port Ramsay to work in the House. It appears that not much is known about the family other than they came from England. The other thing Maggie did find out was that during the war, the house was used as a Convalescent Home for injured soldiers. It seems to have had a past, this amazing old house! After the purchase of postcards, cards and scones to take away, we drove back to the house for a quick snooze.
The Windy View
After a wee bit of R and R we took a walk along the road towards Point, we had passed a track that seemed to go up into the hill above the road so decided to explore. It was quite muddy and overgrown but when we reached the top, what a view! The fact that we could hardly stand the wind was so strong didn’t matter because we had an almost 360 degree view of the island and the surrounding hills and mountains. We could see the slopes of Ben Nevis in the far distance at the head of Loch Linnhe. Its summit covered in cloud. The range of colours and shapes of the slopes of the mountains around us is indescribable, the colour and shade changing as the clouds pass overhead. We slowly made our way back down to the road and headed home along the beach. There is something so satisfying about having achieved a simple climb. Even up a wee hill, the sense of achievement at hitting the ‘summit’ is great. I guess it is the same in life, sometimes the smallest of hills require the greatest of effort, as time after time the wind tries to blow you back down; you keep struggling to make your goal! Walking back along the road we came across a family of wrens, the tiniest wee birds, with Mummy still feeding the babies. They seemed oblivious to us as we stood watching this little family dart in and out of the long grass and bushes. Quite appropriate really as our own Mum arrives later today.
The 5.15pm Ferry from Oban
Maggie and I drove down to Achnacroish to meet Mum off the ferry. We stood watching the M.V. Eigg as she slowly but skilfully made her way towards the jetty, the metal ramp clattering down onto the concrete. No cars this time just passengers including one white haired lady! One mother safely delivered by Caledonian McBrayne. We headed home for tea, followed by a walk along the beach to show off the view to Mum! A house full of four tired ladies, peace reigns!
Day 4 June 14th 2011
Slept in till 9.40am, I cannot remember that last time I slept in without the aid of a night out!
The phrase I slept like a log is very true in this case; I had such a sound sleep I think I need another one to get over it. Whether it is the clean fresh air or the exercise, I don’t know but I feel so relaxed and chilled out, when I go to sleep it is a good refreshing sleep not one of the ‘set the alarm cos I am up in 6 hours’! No need for alarms on Lismore, if you let them the birds will waken you at dawn. Mother Nature’s own little get up you lazy git, go find worms and feed your weans. To be honest I think I have been needing a good sleep for weeks, when we get caught up in the work, eat sleep cycle, we often don’t become aware of what we are lacking.
I have noticed a few things since we have been here that ‘lack of’ could seriously affect life on the island. Life here is driven by the vital lifeline of the ferries, whether the larger M.V Eigg that carries car and foot traffic or the wee Port Appin foot ferry, each carries the necessities for life. Supplies brought over from the mainland, tourists bringing much needed cash to the support the island economy or schoolchildren travelling back and forth, without these boats island life would grind to a halt. It must be awful when the weather is bad and the ferries can’t run. I guess it must be God bless the deep freeze in that case. Perhaps when you live in an island you need to be a good girl guide and ‘be prepared’ for all instances, there is no nipping down to the local supermarket if you run out of gin, or no let’s just call for a take away. If you choose to live on somewhere like Lismore, you would need to be organised in your lifestyle. There are so many things we city dwellers take for granted that just don’t exist on an island but perhaps that is the very reason why people choose to live here. It is the perfect place to want to be alone, there is peace but not necessarily quiet.
Another thing I have noticed since we came here is that you become very aware of sounds. The bird song, the noise of the water, the engine of a boat or the wind blowing through the trees, every sound seems to be amplified simply because that is all there is. There is no traffic noise, no children yelling or screaming, and no sounds you hear constantly in towns. The other phenomenon is the echo! Lismore is surrounded by hills on the Lynn of Lorne side and mountains on the Loch Linnhe side. So you can often hear sounds coming from the west side of the island that sound as though they are coming from the east. It is very strange and often disconcerting. When you live in a town you expect loud noises and can usually tell, or expect, where they will come from but out here you hear the hum of a boat and it can be two or three miles away. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest but is just strange how you become aware of it.
Today has been quite a lazy day for us all, we had a late breakfast of French toast made with local duck eggs then all four of us sat around at the front of the house enjoying the sun, watching the world go by on the water. So nice to have nothing to do but gaze out at the view, read your book, chat and snooze! After a cuppa with local scones and jam, we stirred ourselves enough to go for a walk. Maggie and I managed about a mile or so before the ‘call of nature’ made us turn back. Another thing you become very aware of, there are no pubs or cafes every five minutes in which to ‘use the facilities’. Life, like many other things on an island, is most definitely ruled by ‘nature’!
I have been sitting out on the porch typing up today’s entry, and the whole time I have been kept company by a blackbird. He appears to be listening to the noise of my typing and every time I stop he looks up from his worm hunt to check. The colour of his feathers is stunning against the yellow of his beak as he digs deep into the grass below me. I guess it is the necessity again of finding food and surviving that keeps him digging in the same place for the juicy big worm that might feed him and/or his family. Perseverance is definitely the name of the game! Like many who come to the islands looking for the ideal lifestyle, unless you are prepared to work hard and cope with whatever the elements throw at you, you will never find the juicy fat worm of peace and tranquillity that island life can bring. Finally Mr Blackbird has his worm, and quite rightly has flown off to enjoy it all by himself.
Fairy Lights and Lanterns
This afternoon we went for a walk to the nearest post box and back, so we walked in the sun and wind, 3 miles round trip. The poor old legs certainly felt it and the poor old nose certainly shows it. Rudolph has some competition for guiding that sleigh. Mum and Fran couldn’t walk as far as Maggie and me so they reached home first. When Maggie and I finally reached the house the dining room curtains were closed and there was a sign outside the door warning Maggie and I to keep out.
Curiouser and curiouser thought Geraldine!
Mum and Fran had decorated the dining room with fairy lights, Chinese lanterns and flowers. In the middle of the table was various Indian meals brought from Sainsbury’s. The room looked lovely, very colourful, even the photo on the wall of Queen Victoria had a lantern on it. Fran had brought all the bits and pieces from home wrapped up carefully in bags, hidden from Maggie and me. It was such a nice touch and when Fran brought in the chocolate birthday cake with fairy cake candles, it made the evening. The old dining room was full of laughter, good food and drink and perhaps most importantly love! There is something about impromptu ‘parties’ that creates such a good atmosphere and in a stunning setting like this, it is even more special.
Tonight we had one of those moments in life we someone says something and you end up helpless with laughter. I cannot even remember who said what but the next minute Maggie had exploded in helpless giggles, Fran had to run out of the room and I ended up outside breathing fresh air. It is such a good feeling laughter like that; it leaves you helpless and unable to breathe with your face stuck on that wide Joker smile. Your face aches, your tummy hurts but it leaves a smile behind and a happy feeling. You calm down until someone asks the inevitable question “What were we actually laughing at?”
Day 5 June 15th 2011
I have no idea why but last night I had a nightmare. I haven’t had a bad dream for a long time and last nights was a wake up drenched in cold sweat, heart pounding horror story. Basically I was out in my bare feet chasing my walking boots over rocks. They kept making this horrible screeching sound and would then launch themselves over a cliff edge; I was absolutely powerless and had to keep jumping after them. I always landed on soft grass but the pain in my ankles was excruciating. The boots would then start taunting me and start running away again. I woke up covered in sweat and it felt like my heart was about to leap out of my mouth. In situations like this I would normally grab hold of my teddy but he is safe home in Glasgow so what would calm me down, sort out my upset tummy and bring my breath back to normal. The answer lay in my rucksack, a can of Irn Bru. Three sips and a burp later, all was good again and I fell back to sleep. Isn’t it strange the things that comfort us? Whether it is a much loved teddy bear, a blanket, a tot of brandy or a can of Irn Bru, I guess it is the familiar that says there there and strokes our head till we are calm again, the what we know in the strange house on an island.
Burgers, castles and rain!
The main task of today was to visit the shop to restock up on essentials. Food, wine and toilet rolls! The little shop on Lismore sells everything from Hello magazine to green flip top bins. From a 10.99 bottle of wine to stamps toys and paints! It maybe cramped but it is well stocked and seems to be a hive of activity, particularly today since it was half day closing. We had decided that today would also be the official visit to the Heritage Centre.
Isle of Lismore Heritage Centre
This is an amazing facility that the Island is rightly proud of. When you look at the history and artefacts they have, some incredibly old, it is no wonder the Islanders are proud of what they have achieved. It costs £3.50 an adult to go into the Museum but once you have paid that you can come and go all week. They have a well-stocked reference library as well as a wee lending library including one for children. The shop sells a wide variety of gifts, books and cards including pieces by Sarah Campbell, whose trade name Mogwaii www.mogwaiidesign.com is sold is some major stores around the world. All her pieces are hand made in her studio on the island. After chatting for ages to the volunteers we went into the café for lunch. Their menu is full of good filling food with yummy cakes. And, to keep this West Ender happy, they do a pretty good latte. Definitely to be recommended. There is a little cottage beside the centre that has been set up to reflect island living. It is fascinating to see how simple life was with nothing but the bare essentials kept in the home.
Filled with good food and chat, we decided that we would park the car at the Church and try to walk to Castle Coeffin on the west side of the island. Once you walk passed the house with peacocks 9 yes I did say peacocks) the path is pretty good as you are mainly on farm track. It is a bit muddy in places but as long as you have good footgear, it is fine. There is a steep hill that takes you down to a sheltered bay and the ruins of the castle. It is a stunning setting, very sheltered and green. Loch Linnhe is in the background with the dramatic mountains reaching up into the clouds. The castle ruins stand on top of rock, the ivy covered stones proudly facing the elements and down towards where Loch Linnhe meets the Firth of Lorn.
When I stand at look at ruins in this kind of setting, my imagination runs wild, who lived here? What were they like? How on earth did they survive? Who did they have to fend off to keep the Castle safe? The little bay beside the castle is perfect for smuggling or for bands of marauders invading the island. Your imagination really can run wild. There are so many rocks to climb, little bays to explore that if you had kids who enjoy the outdoors this place is perfect. The clouds started to gather so we made our way back up the track. Unfortunately as we reached the top of the hill, we got our first soaking of the holiday. A nice heavy rain shower hit us as made our way back to the car. Fortunately we found a different track to walk back along so we avoided some of the muddier parts of the fields. I have to admit that the rain did feel good on a sunburnt face, the red nose not beaming, more dripping in the rain. No matter what the weather, this wee island still looks damn good!
After another good day, a glass of wine or two, this blogger was feeling just a bit sleepy so early bed. I was just about to drop off when Fran knocked at my bedroom door. The moon was almost full and was shining on the water. It looked absolutely stunning. A bright yellowish moon with little wisps of ‘black’ cloud creeping across it, shining, its light on the dark waves beneath. A think strip of light reaching out across the Lynn of Lorne towards Lismore. Breath-taking!
Day 6 June 16th 2011
A good night’s sleep, from 10.30pm right through to 9.30 am. Bliss! That is the thing about this Island, unless you wear a watch, you lose all track of time. Island life definitely goes at its own pace and unless you are hurrying to catch a ferry, there is no need for haste. So when you are on holiday, getting up at 9.30am to have a lazy shower, followed by toast and coffee on the porch, is not a problem.
We had known since arriving here on Saturday, that the Lismore folks are very helpful, but this morning we experienced it first-hand. When we were at the Heritage Centre yesterday, we had mentioned that we were running out of petrol. Due to the Oban traffic making us tight for time to catch the ferry, we hadn’t had a chance to fill up before we came onto the island. One of the volunteers had suggested various people who could help us but we thought nothing more about it. We left a mobile number just in case. This morning when I opened the front door, there on the porch was a two gallon can of petrol. It turned out that it was from David, who owns the shop. Talk about a lifesaver, we probably had enough petrol left to get us to the ferry on Saturday but it meant our wanders round the Island would have to be curtailed. So after lazing about for a wee while the next job was to head for the shop to say thanks.
Tracks, Single and Bumpy to Achnaduin Castle
Lismore has one main road that runs almost the length of the island; it has couple of other roads that run off as well as several tracks, farm and ‘main’. We had got ourselves a pretty decent wee map from the shop on our second day here, it was a local one and showed all the tracks we could drive or walk down. Today we decided we would head for Sailean on the North side of the island. It was once a hub of industry during the limestone quarry days on Lismore as seemed to have some pretty good views and ruins to have a look at. However, life being life, the track we turned down onto was most definitely not for your ordinary salon car. It was more of a track with some decent rough stony bits, so Maggie managed a three point turn and we headed back to the ‘main road’ to find the right turn off. Correct route found we drove on down the wee shingle track road and headed not towards Sailean but Achnaduin where according to the map, after a mile hike there was the ruins of Achnaduin Castle. The walk was pretty good, the usual farm track heading into fields full of sheep. It was another gorgeous day, really warm in the sheltered bits but when you went into the wind, just a tad chilly. As we have come to expect on Lismore, you can be walking along through a field of sheep, surrounded by wee low hills or rocky outcrops, you turn a corner and… Wow … breath-taking scenery. It does not matter how many times you see it, it is still stunning and ever changing. The light, the clouds, the water all add to the drama of the cliffs, the darkness of the mountains, and in the distance the island of Mull. The ruins of the castle are set right on top of a cliff looking up and down Loch Linnhe. It was so clear today that we could see the slopes of Ben Nevis. The ruins are surrounded by rocky outcrops and loads of thistles. It is almost as if they are guarding the ruins. The castle has had quite varied past, once the home of the Clan MacDougall it later became the seat of the Bishopric of Argyll, like most of the ruins on Lismore, there are stories behind what remains. Fascinating stuff! We wound our weary way back towards the car, faces definitely weathered by the wind.
We got back to the house for a cuppa and just before dinner Mum announced that the loo in her room wasn’t working. Both upstairs toilets had those horrible macerator things that seem to constantly block and stop working. Fran called Tina, the lady who lives on Lismore and looks after the house we are staying in. Just after we had finished dinner, Alan, Tina’s husband appeared with his tools to take a look at the loo. As with everyone we have met on the island, he was very friendly and full of stories. He had left Tina outside on the car as she didn’t want to disturb us. That was soon sorted and cups of tea in hand, we chatted in the drawing room while Alan was knee deep in ‘macerator’ upstairs. Alan and Tina’s story is like so many we have met. People who came here on holiday and never left! It was so interesting to hear about the characters that live on the Island, how they manage to make a living and why they stay here. We also got some advice on otter spotting and if it works out, then I shall bore you with all the details tomorrow. But for now, bed, as I need to be up very early tomorrow, camera in hand, down by the seashore. Kate Humble eat your heart out!
Day 7 June 17th 2011 … The Last Full day
Unfortunately word has decided not to save the last few pages, I’ll get them updated as soon as possible