Thursday, 16 July 2015

Gartmorn (slight return)

Our story starts here in 1694.

No. Wait. Over a bit. There, that’s better.


 Alloa Tower. erstwhile home of Sir John Erskine, who “entertained” Mary Queen of Scots here. (nudge, nudge). Now, as some of you may be aware, entertaining young queens doesn’t come cheap and Sir John was skint. One day, while out serf-hunting with the dogs, he noticed Mr. and Mrs. McBaldrick scraping black shiny stones out of the ground and setting fire to them to amuse their 28 children.
Soon the estate’s entire peasantry was busy 28 hours a day digging the black shiny stones out of the ground and transporting them to the nearby Alloa docks for onward shipment to people who had a use for them.

As the holes got deeper, so they filled with water and children were being drowned at a faster rate than their parents could replace them. Sir John called in a Welsh mining engineer who decided that the best way to deal with the water was …….with water ! A local burn was dammed and a system of water driven pumps was set up. When more effective drainage systems became available, the water from the dam was still used by several local mills (including a snuff mill) and a distillery. The outflow ended up at Alloa docks where, at one time, it was collected in large cisterns and released at low tide to flush the silt out of the harbour.

The dam wall was raised several times and a weir was built on the river Black Devon with a lade supplying top up water. At one time it was said to be the largest man-made water feature in Europe.


Overgrown lade

At various times it has been used as a hydro-electric scheme and as a drinking water reservoir. Currently it’s a country park and recreation facility.


 Filter beds from drinking water incarnation – now a sunken garden.

 The remains of Sherrifyard colliery – in production up until 1921.


The line of the old railway to Alloa.


I believe that, in a previous post, I told you ‘bout the swans (that they live in the park)


Good walk – about 4 miles bus stop to bus stop – negligible up. A stroll in the park, really


Sunday, 28 June 2015

.....Let's see if it's true"

The shitstorm of indifference which greeted my previous post notwithstanding, I feel honour bound (“Not too tight there, Honour”)  to complete the account of my little holiday in Morvern. It will, however, be a truncated account – a trilogyof two parts, or an example of what could be called Austerity Blogging.



Day2 and it’s up the “old road” beside the loch to Ardtornish estate and gardens.


Just past the ferry terminal is the Lochaline sand mine where high quality silica sand is tunnelled out from beneath the overlying basalt.


Supposedly the highest quality in the world, the sand is shipped out to Pilkingtons at St.Helens to make precision optical equipment



Ardtornish House is a typical Victorian pile at the head of the sea loch. The gardens are well established and typical of the classic Argyll form, with lots of rhodos and azaleas. Not, however, in the top league in my humble opinion

Kinlochaline Castle. Restored mediaeval tower house.


Another smashing day. Easy terrain, perfect midgieless walking weather and about 8 miles, including walking round the garden, according to the Viewranger thingy on my portable telephone.


Day the Third and it was time to head West.

Firstly to visit Keil Church. This was one of the first mainland outposts of the Columban monks.


Ruins of the pre-reformation church

 The famous 14th century disc-headed cross carved in the style of the Iona school.


The little shed on the right is the session house which contains several 14-15 century carved tombstones brought in from the churchyard for safe keeping.


One day I may claim my inheritance.

I continued westward along the coast road to Drimmin, and here is where I had a Road to Drimmin moment.At this point, about 20 metres in front of me, a full on Scottish wildcat walked calmly across the road and into the trees. Even with my impaired eyesight it was unmistakable, although, over the years, I had previously only had “possible” sightings in the headlights at night. I subsequently discovered that the Wildcat Protection Zone, where quite calm and only slightly annoyed pussies are being ethnically cleansed to preserve the purity of their really wild cousins, has been extended from Ardnamurchan into Morvern.

 I ended up at the Community Woodland where lunch was taken. As I sat looking down this ride, with no sight or sound of human activity, I got the notion that, if I sat quietly for long enough,  something magical would happen. A deer might emerge cautiously from the trees. Or a platoon of the Japanese army. Or Alan Whicker. As darkness fell on the third night, I had to abandon this notion.

So that’s about it really.


There’s a wee Davie Broon for Alan R. Clean up the terminals and flush the fuel system and it might even start.

A good time was had by all. Ibiza next year , I think

Thanks to Hank for this


Monday, 15 June 2015

"We're going where the sun shines brightly. We're going where the sea is blue. "


So there I was on a warm sunny afternoon in Lochaline, after an eight hour, 5 bus, one ferry journey. Why ? Ah well…

Some time ago I was contacted by an organisation about doing some training in the Morvern area. I had dealt with these people before, without having been greatly impressed, but went along with it to see how it would pan out. Sure enough, a couple of weeks before the planned date, it all fell apart, and I was left with a paid-for reservation for four nights in a rather attractive sounding B&B and a renewed determination never to do business with dickheads again. I had recently spent three weeks looking after the fish while Mrs. OM roamed the world, so I was due a wee break. And here I was.


Ssshh. Can you hear it ? Yes, it’s the Sound of Mull from my bedroom window.


I started Tuesday with smoked haddock and poached egg, what I think of as the “full Scottish” breakfast, and then embarked for Mull on the ferry.I had allowed time for a wander round the Fishnish peninsula from the ferry terminal, a walk I had found on the Walkhighlands  website. Although mainly on forestry rides with occasional views across the sound to Morvern, this proved a joy and a treasure as the weather was perfect for walking – warm but with a mere zephyr (or was it a zodiac ?) to keep the midgies away. The smells were enticing and the wee burdies were gaun their dingers.


I was back at the terminal (ok – shed) in time for a bacon butty and coffee before the bus for Tobermory arrived. I was a tad surprised when this turned out to be The Tobermory Topper, an open top charabanc such as one sees conveying tourists around our ancient cities. I was about to seek  a seat on the covered lower deck when I was overcome by one of these “You only live once” moments and diverted up the stairs to join the poor huddled masses on the upper storey.


Now, as bad decisions go, this ranks up there with Hitler’s to invade Russia and Decca’s to not sign the Beatles.The bus set off at 50mph on the 40minute journey along the coast road and up over some high moorland. Glasses and hat were quickly removed and stashed and there followed a Casting of the Colours re-enactment as I managed to unpack then put on my Montane wind shirt ( £6 pre-loved on E bay). Softies started retreating below deck, and by the time we reached the suburbs of Tobermory, only myself and some Japanese tourists, who were obviously in training for one of their game shows, had manned it out.


Tobermory was refreshingly static. Among the usual tourist tat there were some interesting shops and a museum. I pondered the choice between handmade soap and handmade chocolate for Mrs. OM – a no-win situation so I bought both. I also found an interesting shop called Books and Tackle, but, as I am well provided with both, I did not make a purchase.

The return journey to the ferry was by conventional  type bus, and I fear my next encounter with an open top version will be as one edges its way down Easter Road through a sea of green and white.

All in all, one of the good days


Don’t go away – we’ll be right back with Wednesday’s adventure after this  word from our sponsor.