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The Friends of Inveraray Bell Tower are about to undertake their annual maintenance weekend, writes Ewan Halley.
On Saturday and Sunday March 25 and 26 the caretakers of the bells (the second heaviest set of bells in the world used for change-ringing) will be hard at work painting, oiling, scrubbing and polishing to make the tower and the bells ready for a new season of ringing.
The pure sound of the bells, combined with the unique location of the bell tower in such stunning scenery, make the royal burgh a Mecca for bellringers, who come from far and wide to put the bells through their paces.
The Inveraray Ringing Festival takes place this year from July 28–30, when campanologists from across the UK – and sometimes further afield – come to ring.
The tower is also usually open seasonally (in July, August and September) to the public; as well as the impressive sight of the bells themselves, the battlements give spectacular views over the town up and down Loch Fyne and beyond.
It’s not all hard work, though, despite the ongoing maintenance, and the Inveraray group have recently had their annual bell-ringing outing.
This year’s trip was to tour bell towers in Leicestershire, including a visit to the UK’s last working bell foundry, John Taylor and Co of Loughborough, who manufactured the Inveraray bells just more than a century ago.
Since 1859, the grade II–listed foundry has cast more than 25,000 bells, which are hung in more than 100 countries around the world.
The foundry houses a campanile of 12 bells, which the visitors were excited to ring, although the heaviest bell there at just 305 kg (six cwt) is no match for the mighty tenor bell at Inveraray, which weighs in at more than two tonnes, or 41 cwt.