A winter in Argyll – part three

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Over the next few editions, we will continue the serialisation of a short story by an Edinburgh writer with an enduring love for Mid Argyll. We hope you enjoy it – and look out for another chapter in next week’s edition.

By Carolyn McKerracher

Over my two months in Mid Argyll, I walked in many woods.

Some of them I knew, some were new, and to navigate them all I bought two books: Keith Fergus’s ‘Oban and North Argyll’ and Sharon Webb’s ‘In the Footsteps of Kings’, both available in Lochgilphead bookshop. The former is best for the pocket (size-wise), and the latter for background, history and archaeology.

Archaeology is the bedrock of Kilmartin Glen. According to Dr Webb, there are ‘three hundred and fifty prehistoric and historic monuments within six miles of Kilmartin’.

When I was a child, the excellent museum (and café with another amazing view) did not exist and the monuments had not yet been fully excavated, but still my sister and I loved the strangely carved stones around Kilmartin Church. I have since been amazed at the plethora of sites to visit, the depth of information available and the incongruity of ancient standing stones, surrounded by sheep.

I’ve battled through Kilmartin Glen in a snowstorm, stood with past kings (and queens?) on Dunadd at sunset, laid on the ground (!) at Ormaig in the rain and sunk in mud on the Mòine Mhór. I’ve been awestruck at all the stunning cup and ring marks, including those at Cairnbaan, Kilmichael and Achnabreck.

There are also many fine castles in the area and one beautiful Sunday afternoon, I climbed to the top of Castle Dounie, for the breath-taking view over the Sound of Jura. On the way down, Keith Fergus advises that the path drops steeply and ‘can be slippery after rain’.

Too late.

Despite good boots and a walking pole, I slipped and fell. Badly. So badly, I thought I had fractured something important. Slowly and very painfully, I managed to trudge three miles back to the cottage, spurred on only by memories of tales in the Reader’s Digest of mountaineers crawling miles in the snow with two broken legs, a fractured spine and a dog on their back. If they could do it, so could I.

Two hours later, I made it back home, only to discover that everyone in the surrounding cottages was out. Unable even to bend to get in my car, I longed for the number 22 Lothian bus, 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. Instead, I couldn’t even get hold of a taxi.

I imagined dying alone in agony on the driveway, but ever-resilient, I managed to hobble back to the road and flag down a passing car. They weren’t going my way, but as I began to dissolve, they folded me gently into the front seat and took me to A&E.

Nothing broken. Just a prolapse and nerve damage. They drugged me up and gave me the number for KJ Cars, who promptly arrived and delivered me home with due care and attention.

For two weeks, I could hardly move. I screamed with every forward bend, particularly when trying to put my pants and socks on. The solution to that is obvious, but although pants are quite possibly dispensable up here, socks are most definitely not.

Two pairs required at least. And that’s just in bed.

To be continued.


The incredible rock carving at Achnabreck. no_a15Story_Achnabreck01

Wonderful lichens in Crinan Wood. no_a15Story_CrinanWoods01