A winter in Argyll – part four

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We 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 the final chapter in next week’s edition.

By Carolyn McKerracher

Thus debilitated, my walking was limited to the ‘flat’.

So, two weeks on, I ventured to Loch Coille-Bharr to look for beavers. Sadly, it wasn’t flat and there were no beavers, but I have it on good authority  – Pete Creech of Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation – that they are at home with their feet up over the winter months, but by spring they will be out and about, gnawing trees and building dams.

In the end, my daily hill walk was replaced with a daily walk along the Crinan Canal, from the canal basin to the vast expanse of the moss by Bellanoch. I walked with the trees and the sea on one side and the canal and the boats on the other. I saw the sun dancing on the surface of the water and the most magnificent rainbow I have ever seen. I saw wind-blown snow making tracks on the frozen canal and stalactites on the gates at lock 15 but, missing the east coast, I hankered for some big waves.

‘Go to Westport, down the Kintyre peninsula,’ advised Colin.

A stunning drive, despite the biggest potholes just outside Ardrishaig, to a long sandy beach bordered by Atlantic breakers. I walked by the surf, collecting multi-coloured rocks and sat at the wooden fort at middle beach to listen to the sounds of the sea. At some point, I dropped my phone. Perhaps every ‘big’ walk was to be peppered with disaster. However, like most things, there’s an App and despite my IT inadequacies, I managed to locate my phone, or at least the signal from it. At 12pm it had been at middle beach. At 5pm it was another mile south.

Either someone had found it, or the tide (or a techno-savvy seal) had carried it away. My only fear was that it ended up in a dolphin’s stomach. Not that I had actually seen any dolphins. Perhaps they too were at home with their flippers up over the winter.

Two days later, a Kintyre surfer got in touch. He had found it, and in true Argyll manner, he returned it to me via his parents, who dropped it in to the Cairnbaan Hotel on their way back to Ford.

‘I know you’re not a community centre,’ I said to the manager, as I explained the situation.

‘You’d be surprised’, he replied, ‘Tourist information, directions, injured wildlife, we get it all. A phone is pretty easy to handle.’

‘I’ve had your halloumi and mushroom burger a few times, it’s excellent,’ I added, in an unnecessary attempt to justify my use of their lost property service.

And so, I got my phone back, with not one grain of sand on the cover. However, there were some mysteriously messy paw prints on it and a large bill for calls to Iceland.

‘But what do you do in the evenings?’ quizzed friends who imagined an existence of freezing isolation.

Well, I wrote. I read. I cooked. I even went out. On Burns Night, I found the resource centre, where the Easy Band, adeptly supported by a young man from Mid-Argyll Pipe Band, hosted an excellent evening of music, song and poetry. They deserved a much larger audience.

I also attended two of the winter talks hosted by Kilmartin Museum.

Dr Annette Anderton fascinated us all with the truths and myths associated with local stones, compounds and gems. Next, Dr Anuschka Miller from the Scottish Association for Marine Science gave a great overview of the work they do at SAMS in Oban.

A trip to their visitor centre is a must for next time.

To be continued.


Beautiful Westport beach, Kintyre. no_a16ShortStory01

‘Stalactites’ on the gates at lock 15 on the Crinan Canal. no_a16ShortStory02