Monday, 3 October 2016

Dunoon. The Holy Loch. Strone Point Views.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
The next outing after the post last week was a bike trip to Dunoon, probably because during the kayak day paddling around Gourock I was always looking across at it and thinking "not been over there for a while- must go again." So on my next free day off I loaded the bike into the car and drove down to Gorouck but this time just by-passed the seafront car park with its stupid three hour only restrictions ( see previous post on Gourock) and made straight for the esplanade nearest the ferry. For bikes the red western ferry seemed best to me although that drops you off at Hunter's Quay 2.5km from Dunoon's town centre but I was intending to cycle around the nearby Holy Loch first anyway.
Above is a photo of Dunoon's splendid little castle which has a museum in it and is surrounded by ornamental gardens, seen here, covering a delightfully arranged rocky slope in the centre of town.
Next to the castle is a small landscaped hill and viewpoint over the town and surrounding Firth of Clyde with a network of nicely laid out paths snaking through the gardens below then up the hillside via steps. Robert Burn's Highland Mary is the obvious statue in this photo, on the far left, looking out to sea, presumably awaiting his return (although maybe looking out at her own grave) as she is buried on a similar hilltop in Greenock cemetery. They met and had a very brief affair in his native Ayrshire which nowadays might be called a 'holiday romance' which may have left her pregnant. Although the Cowal peninsula is part of the mainland it does feel like an island in many ways as it's surrounded and cut off by sea lochs. Burn's 'sweetheart' was probably an exotic and foreign dish/ interlude for him as she spoke Gaelic and no doubt thought differently about the world compared to the rural customs of his native lowland Ayrshire. She grew up in Dunoon but moved around Scotland as a servant during her brief life then died aged 23 in Greenock of an illness so a brush with fame didn't do her any favours apart from immortality and remembrance. A 'romantic tragedy' or a naive young girl used and cast aside by a married man and known womanizer who just happened to write poetry. Take your pick. Her grave in Greenock is located in beautiful woodland surroundings  though so it is a fitting resting place and she is 'Queen Bee' on the summit along with 'King' James Watt. For me this modest mound here is the finest natural feature within Dunoon as I always love urban areas with hills and history within them. It may be tiny but views are brilliant from the summit and young children still love exploring geological features like this one that stimulate their inherent sense of wonder and imagination.
I'm still enjoying that sensation 50 odd years later within myself and get a kick of pleasure even now when I come across interesting twisting paths like this one. It was nice to see some young enthusiastic children climbing up here, free of gadgets, with their parents following behind, guiding and encouraging them to the top, as they will soon be locked into their own desperate modern race towards computer games, smart phones, and the modern educational grind to spend their entire existence in study, constant upgrades, and staring into screens twelve inches or three inches across. Technology and computers can be helpful and interesting in many ways but they can also gradually dominate every aspect of thought and impulse with addictive and corrosive results. A recent report highlighted the fact that almost a quarter of all teenagers had feelings of depression, suicide, mental health problems and low self esteem, particularly among girls. Although these feelings can be a normal part of growing up, which is in itself a confusing time, it's no surprise under a constant bombardment of mainly negative or conflicting media information 24/7, internet peer pressures and restrictive society goalposts to squeeze between, standards of behaviour mainly dreamed up by idiots, porn stars and celebrities... is it any wonder they are ****** up?

The only surprise should be how the other three quarters are still able to cope as anytime I get buses or drive around these days humans under 40, especially girls/ women rarely look at the world around them anymore but just focus intently on hand held devices/ machines/addictions instead to gain dubious levels of reward/ advice/ companionship/sex/security/or enlightenment. We don't need to worry about the 'age of robots' waiting around the corner in the very near future as it's already here by the back door. Implants will surely come next with chips inside our bodies so that we can't switch off- a marketing person/ retail seller/ state government/ law enforcement's dream. They already know our interests, work, friend and family connections, political affiliations, where we go to on holiday, where we live,who we meet and correspond with in great detail anyway so that's just the next logical step.
A timber yard on the edge of the Holy Loch. There is a terrific and very scenic cycle ride from Dunoon around the Holy Loch past Strone Point to Ardentinny then up over Glen Finnart to Loch Eck, returning to Dunoon on the A 815 then the A 885. It's a route using mainly low traffic minor roads, although like everywhere else in the last five years I've noticed an increase in cars even here, especially large square tanks with black tinted windows that are increasing popular around the world as you really need huge 4 by 4 off road hummer style vehicles to drive along on miles of smooth quiet tarmac and through city streets.
Lazaretto Point and Dunselma lodge sticking up behind on the hillside.
Dunselma used to be the Coats family sailing lodge and is built in a grand elaborate Scottish style. This family dynasty earned their fortune in the town of Paisley, through thread manufacture in the 1800s, at first local then expanding world wide and they also donated many fine buildings, including a hilltop observatory in that town. Dunselma also had a spell as a youth hostel until the 1960s. It was built by the original founder's grandson who had a real passion for sailing around the Firth of Clyde and Scottish waters in general and owned many fine large yachts not just one- like a billionaires classic car collection today. Although the Firth of Clyde boasts many beautiful buildings, castles and elaborate properties this is the jewel in the crown and my personal favourite.
Typical Firth of Clyde properties built in an age before airline travel when trips overseas took weeks instead of hours and stay at home holidays for one or two brief periods a year off work was still a novel privilege and experience for many. Here the rich and privileged could build grand mansions and escape the grime and squalor of the cities and towns, especially nearby Glasgow, Paisley and Dumbarton. It is still a stunning location today even if it is punctuated at times with massive 4 by 4s blasting out rap music from an unseen blacked out interior driving along the seafront road.
To get well away from this modern irritation disturbing my enchanted realm I turned off the main coastal road at Ardnadam and cycled uphill through a beautiful manicured estate, seen here, filled in its upper reaches with holiday timeshare style wooden chalets and caravans. I wasn't sure if I could get through here but at least it was quiet and peaceful, away from the annoying increase in road traffic below at the seafront in what I assume was a former grand estate as I could see a castle buried in the woods. It was also a new area to explore I hadn't been to yet and there's always a great delight/thrill involved in finding new places and possibly unknown interesting features. It was a complete off grid mystery tour for me and I was fully prepared to turn back if asked but I was in luck this time following the tarmac ribbon up past the chalet reception area then turning left of that building to continue on through empty mature woodland on a broad track and when that ended getting off to roll my bike along a narrow trail through yet deeper woodland until I came out at a green on the edge of a golf course. As a veteran of these mystery tours into unknown territory on the edge of populated zones I knew to trust my instincts and just follow the most used trail running in the general direction I wanted to go as however faint or overgrown they must lead somewhere if locals used them as shortcuts. There is a tendency nowadays to signpost everything to death and make trails obvious and popular but I for one enjoy the anticipation of exploring rarely frequented new ground and having mini adventures where the outcome of a journey is never certain. On this occasion I almost turned back here but another faint path skirted the edge of the green then seemed to continue downhill again in the direction of distant houses where I could perceive a small gap. Most of these unofficial trails are generations old, not down on any map, but are still maintained by local children's feet or dog-walkers and I much prefer them to routes like the official Bishop's Glen mountain bike circuit a few miles above Dunoon through monotonous pine woodlands  popular with tourists but shunned by contrary folk like me. I don't like it too easy all the time and don't mind thrashing through forests, across swamps, or lifting the bike over fences if I eventually get to where I'm going. It's all part of the fun.

I ended up coming out in a beguiling Dunoon suburb I'd never explored before but recognized the district name from an old Victorian sign pointing uphill on the esplanade that I'd observed on previous trips and thought worth investigating at a later date, which in turn led me into a switchback canyon land of elegant grand mansions half hidden by large tree adorned gardens that were still well kept in many cases but spoke of a different golden age. This was a part of Dunoon I was completely unfamiliar with until now and I really enjoyed exploring  this sprawling network of hillside properties draped over a high rolling landscape that must have been owned by the elite of Victorian and Edwardian society but were now showing signs of age and wear and tear- and no doubt their owners were aging inside as well as half the buildings up here looked as if serious money and maintenance was required but not always forthcoming. A money pit situation well known around the planet where large substantial properties needing constant attention and grooming collide with reduced incomes and advanced years. It had that feel about it but was still very impressive. Faded radiance in all its glory. A Scottish Xanadu I suppose. The above photo is from the castle mound viewpoint looking in the direction of Dunoon's residential suburbs climbing the outlying slopes and roughly the area I was cycling through. Many unexpected and interesting things to see up here in the back streets of the town that only locals and postal workers know about. Although Dunoon is only a short ferry ride away from Gourock and Greenock... reached by car on the road network it sits isolated on a sizable peninsula of land and off the main traffic route north from the central belt so it's probably less connected now than it was during the age of frequent paddle steamers and deliveries by sea.

Campbeltown and Tarbet on the far flung Kintyre peninsula are two further centres of civilization up the serrated western seaboard of Scotland that were just as easy to reach from Glasgow 100 years ago... maybe more so. For instance, I've only visited Dunoon by road on four occasions over the last 40 years as the ferry just seems an easier, faster and cheaper option.Around eight ferries operate in the Firth now but it used to be close to one hundred in its heyday if you include steamers, passenger carrying puffers and cluthas. Practically every dot of habitation had its own pier.

A large US navy Polaris submarine base used to be stationed near here in the Holy Loch and provided a great deal of employment and income for the town but that's been gone since the early 1990s and any tourist income generated is a fraction of that wealth. You can see that loss of income around Dunoon today with a still busy high street but like most urban UK towns it has several closed up shops and offices with to let signs above them. The Queen's Hall complex is lying empty at the moment, awaiting major refurbishment, and several sets of reinforced concrete steps leading down to the beach are blocked off due to storm damage tearing them apart like cardboard. On my visit the local church near the castle had several holes in the roof patched up with blue tarpaulin as the upper level took a direct hit in a recent lightning storm. Like everywhere else extreme weather events seem to be on the increase. Despite this I still had a cracking time here.. as I always do.
The Gantocks light just offshore from the pier at Dunoon, highlighting this flat rock shipping hazard which would be completely submerged and invisible during wild weather conditions otherwise. The home of seabirds, including gulls, eider ducks, cormorants, and shags.
And a last one of the pier with the surrounding hills behind. Incidentally, to give you a better idea of my bike route imagine yours truly cycling up this hill behind the pier on the left of the photo then skirting the golf course in a secretive manner, carrying the bike when necessary, to come down again into another suburban area on the extreme right of the picture. Different hill and golf course above Dunoon of course but you get the general idea of my bike/hike earlier.

Very interesting article. Also enlightening is the 'Syrian refugees said they wanted to leave' inside this item as most papers are only interested in selling copy in a very cut throat business and usually have their own agenda and spin to put out.

An excellent video today giving you a real idea of what the best of Scotland's mountains look like, including Torridon and Glencoe.  Well worth watching full screen. Stunning drone compilation.


Linda W. said...

I love the thrill of discovery when exploring new places. Enjoyed following along on your latest bike ride. Great video too, makes me want to book a plane ticket right now and check it out.

Anabel Marsh said...

Not been to Rothesay in years, possibly 20. I should go! As children, we used to like getting our photos taken to look as though Highlamd Mary was held on our hands.

Carol said...

Isn't that the area they kindly re-housed those Syrian 'refugees' to and they're doing nothing but moan about it? Everyone in Britain is jealous as they'd love to live somewhere nice and peaceful like that but they're moaning there's nothing to do!

" I've noticed an increase in cars even here, especially large square tanks with black tinted windows that are increasing popular around the world as you really need huge 4 by 4 off road hummer style vehicles to drive along on miles of smooth quiet tarmac and through city streets."

we have those all around us in the country too - people somehow assume they need a yuppie jeep as soon as they move to the country. They don't look at us true country folk and see that we just drive any old beat-up vehicle - whatever we can afford - and manage perfectly well! It's not like any of the 4x4 drivers can actually drive anyway - they just use them like tanks to bulldoze others out of the way and so that they come off best when they screw it up and cause accidents.

I also think it's the sooty, yuppie diesel-powered jeeps which have seen to my lungs (COPD :-( ) - put it this way, I've never smoked and it's not hereditary so that only leaves air pollution.

Rant over anyway - that old youth hostel looks spectacular - wish I'd stayed in it when I used to hostel with my parents as a kid!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda W,
Glad you liked it and the video as well. It really gives you a good idea of what hill-walking in Scotland is all about. Sea level starts, jaggy ridgelines, mists and sunsets.

blueskyscotland said...

Evening Anabel,
I'm sure as a local you meant to type Dunoon as that's where I got the ferry towards anyway :o) Rothesay is indeed a lovely place and also worth a visit. I don't know why more folk don't visit these places in the modern era as I always enjoy my trips there. If you watch the BBC weather forecast the night before you go and pick a sunny day it's magical. People often say the weather is to blame in Scotland but on day trips that's no excuse. Seven years for me without a raindrop. It's actually ten years following this method just seven documented so far on the blog and its so easy to achieve. Get yer bum over there again. Highland Mary is waiting for a cuddle :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
That was over in Bute, a nearby island in the Firth and it depends what papers you read. With so many different media outlets today it's hard to tell exactly what the truth is anymore. See my added article link at bottom of this post.
For instance Britain acquired it's enormous wealth and industry by stealing and exploiting the riches of poorer undeveloped countries across the globe, using its people as slave labour and killing millions who put up any resistance. That's how anyone gets an empire in the first place and has Great in front as a title.
It's still happening today in the Middle East with various super powers and factions doing shady deals and running covert counter intelligence operations behind the scenes then blaming each other for the chaos that follows while they reap the rewards. Selling weapons to all comers is a huge global industry with no boundaries and many of the bombs blowing the **** out of Syria probably have 'love from England' or the USA stamped on them. Big money is completely without honour and very skilled at telling lies and distorting the truth. Al-Queda and ISIS didn't just appear out of thin air and were supported by various international concerns, including Western Powers for their own ends. The resulting mess and mass migration is a direct result of interfering in other countries, politically and covertly behind the scenes. It's not the fault of the ordinary people escaping although such large numbers with a totally different belief system and culture is bound to change host countries they enter over time... but that's life. As I see it the main danger to the planet is increasing globalization where one percent of a rich elite own ninety nine percent of the world's wealth with the rest of the scum on the bottom rungs fighting each other for the scraps tossed down. That and the fact we have limited resources left on the planet in general and far too big a world population to sustain it for any length of time if we keep on building and buying crap we don't need and a culture built around increasing consumerism that make the poor even poorer and a privileged lucky few very rich indeed.
Here endeth the lecture :o) Kill all the billionaires and save the planet :o)

Carol said...

The trouble is they don't try to fit in with our way of life. If we go abroad (either on holiday or to live), we're expected to fit in and most of us try to. I would prefer that, in the case of genuine refugees from ME conflict, that they live in a safe moslem country and that we send aid to help fund it. Their beliefs are causing a lot of trouble over here.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
I think you'll find the majority of Brits abroad form enclaves and prefer to mix with their own kind and its only a bold few that strike out and integrate fully. During the days of empire they were famous for it and natives were only allowed in as servants or prisoners. Europeans also tried to push Christianity wherever they went and countless millions died at the hands of missionaries bringing disease into previously remote areas.God bless religion :o)
We are instinctively a world of tribes created through millions of years of evolution to be that way so that won't change anytime soon. The Spanish costas as you know are stuffed to the gunnels with Brit bars offering bangers and mash, kippers, and full English breakfasts so if that's integration I'm a Russian.
On a different note it has occurred to me that if the European economy collapses under sheer weight of numbers with an estimated 60 million refugees and economic migrants still wanting to get here the winners will be Russia, America, Canada, Australia and China as there will be far more of the pie and spoils left to go around. Just a happy thought.

Neil said...

I'm glad that I grew up in an era before electronic "toys" became the norm. I wonder if they had been around when I was growing up if I would have developed an interest in hillwalking and the countryside. These gadgets are really addictive and I know people who sit at a computer most of the day just playing games. Helps the brain no doubt but I reckon that my outdoors activities give me a better take on life. But that's maybe just an old f--- speaking!
Great area Dunoon, haven't been this year though. We are so lucky having areas like that, Bute, Cumbrae and Arran on our doorstep.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
Yes, I was thinking about that myself as I never really watched TV or read newspapers/other media until around 13 or 14 as I spent all my free time outdoors so never had the same information bombardment to deal with.
Mind you, when you are young you don't know anything else so today's children will probably look back at these days fondly as their own golden years provided they have a settled family and nice childhood. And if they have children themselves they will probably think much the same as us now :o)

baili said...

bike rids are always so exciting .
i wish i could see the closeup of that beautiful castle.

wandering and exploring the beauty of nature and relating ourselves to it is a gift and one who got this chance must not waste his precious time behind the walls looking at the box called T.V

Linda said...

Wonderful video and what a great tour! Thank you so much for sharing, I really enjoyed it.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda,
It can be a very scenic place in nice weather... or a really grim one if it rains :)