Sunday, 10 June 2018

Eriska. Saint Conon's Kirk. Port Appin Memories.

                                            ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
After climbing Beinn Mheadhonach in the Benderloch District and getting this lovely summit view of Ben Starav, 1078metres, and Loch Etive we headed a short distance further west in Alex's car to the heavily wooded island of Eriska.
Alex wanted to bag the high-point on the island but he knew I would like this extra excursion as well. In the past, like the majority of hill-walkers I've met, he could be very single minded about gaining summits whereas I soon deviated and took the slacker route, after doing the Munros, as I already knew inside I would never have the same drive to complete the Corbetts. I like interesting hills, jaggy summits and odd features and have never fully embraced the concept of climbing a featureless boring slope just because its on some list somewhere. Beiinn Mheadhonach was an enjoyable hill with various landscape zones to climb through from low level fields and vivid garden edges...

then up through small mixed woodlands, onto open meadows then the upper windy ridges and craggy summit views but many other hills are of the head down plod up variety with nothing much to see or photograph from top to bottom. Every place I've visited on holidays or trips here or abroad I've enjoyed the hills I've climbed but a part of me has always wanted to do other things as well, like visiting new towns and cities nearby, interesting beaches, places I've heard about or tourist haunts. I've always been that way, wanting to visit everywhere at once, with a competing range of interests to pursue so its always been a gentle battle of wills with others to combine both. Sometimes I win but most times no interest wins the day and I give up in disgust. In previous holidays I've been lucky enough to climb and walk in the Italian Dolomites and France but have always had a real effort to persuade my reluctant companions to go sightseeing around Italian and French towns and cities, just sightseeing in itself,  which I also enjoy with equal relish.
" Rimini- Wow- poly sexual sleaze capital of western Europe it says here in this guidebook and we are only 30 mins away guys. We've got to have a night out there. Look at that photograph of the main street. Where's your spirit of adventure?!There's a bus stop at the Youth Hostel. C'mon. " ( no takers in that instance due to an early rise next morning heading for ten days in the jaggy mountains and no enthusiasm at all for visual urban decadence either apparently :o(  Obviously you have to be fairly single minded to work your way through any list of summits so its always been something of a compromise going with other people to interesting places although I always like the company but Alex now is also more flexible and thinks " need to find something to interest Bob while still pleasing myself." This post probably comes under that heading.
Conal Bridge with the Falls of Lora just starting, on this occasion seawater/tide flowing back into Loch Etive over a rugged shallow rock shelf leading to the deeper loch behind. It gets more spectacular than this feeble effort given the right conditions.
Barcaldine Castle on the minor road in - now a private residence I believe.
Eriska. A small island sandwiched between the Lynn of Lorn and Loch Creran which seems nowadays to be heavily geared towards the upmarket island hotel plus holiday accommodation market judging by the number of small discreet wooden chalets we passed heading to the summit. It certainly didn't feel like the usual remote and normally empty highland outpost we are used to seeing on our travels, although scenic enough.
Being summer it was also very lush and green. As a largely wooded island it was hard to get any real sense of being on an island at all as very little water was visible until the highest point.
Ben Cruachan, 1126 metres, viewed from the 155 foot spot height on Eriska. I was using my old OS red one inch to one mile 44pence paper map from the 1970s for this area. Decades ago I kayaked round Eriska, Eilean Dubh, and the Lismore cluster of islands in nearby Loch Linnhe using this same map where, being out on the water, you get a far better sense of Eriska as an island as you can paddle around it.
Also spotted from here was the ferry from Port Appin to the island of Lismore which brought back some memories. In my teenage years I had a Glasgow fair fortnight mid July holiday here with my parents. My Mum liked the Scottish highlands, my Dad less so, even though he was in the Black Watch during WWII and wore a kilt in time honoured fashion. It was a caravan stuck in a remote field I remember a few km from the village itself and the milk for breakfast cornflakes came straight from the local cow's udders into recycled bottles without pasteurized lids for safety. A very different time. The numerous midges and summer flies haven't changed that much though or the humid weather of July with frequent downpours, thunderstorms, and often sweaty heat.
Due to the pestering effects of the flies and midges inland I spent a lot of the ten day holiday here exploring the rocky shoreline alone, playing music on a small portable hand held machine I carried everywhere at that time. Not loud as it was close to my ear in an age before i pods. Teenage years are strange ones anyway with so many conflicting emotions/hormones sweeping through mind and body where everything feels much more intense as its all fresh and raw seen for the first time. If it's true that our mental state often veers from madness to sanity over the course of any lifetime and is not fixed to one precise spot I think its fair to say I was more of a yoyo during my teens and twenties than at any other age. In what would now be termed a Goth stage I liked melancholy music and  morbid subject matter and found plenty of gloomy dark places here to mope around in but also found a certain weird happiness in sadness and solitude as well. I found numerous bats flying at night close by, a few lone otters playing in the shallow coves.... and seals in numbers would often stick their heads up and come closer when I played music to them, especially long folk ballads, or me yowling and singing softly back to them trying to find the best notes and drawn out sounds they liked, Irish pipes, and violins mainly got the biggest 'seal of approval', so I had loads of interest without other children my own age to play with and could escape into my own imagination instead. At night in the caravan I had a series of recurring weird dreams of lying under the stars on the grass surrounded by local sleeping donkeys with gleeful little vampire bats hopping across the field to feast on our blood each evening as I got thinner and thinner. This turned me into an infected emaciated ghoul who crawled out at night to dine on the village locals. On one occasion the bats had human faces of my various teenage friends left back in Glasgow shrunk down to miniature size. This notion came from a well known Sci- Fi postcard of the time I'd seen as a child that fascinated me for years afterwards so at least I knew the source. Ants in that instance with human faces. I was a strange boy who probably troubled his parents but I came out all right in the end.
After Eriska Alex had another wee detour planned to visit "the Rosslyn Chapel of the Highlands"
Saint Conon's Kirk on the shores of Loch Awe.
This was a real surprise as I'd motored past this modest building many times but it never occurred to me to go in. A fragment of Robert the Bruce ( a small bone from his body) is reputed to lie below this beautifully carved representation of the King of Scots.
Completed by a local landowner with a real flair for architecture its an outstanding achievement
and as we visited an hour before closing time (6:00pm shut) we had the place to ourselves apart from a few late stragglers.
Constructed in a range of different styles, even using two old warships for the oak beams, it manages to be both simple yet elegant with some lovely touches and flourishes many of which are not immediately obvious. Loads of little half hidden animals and features provide additional decoration both inside and out.
It's well worth a visit.
Stained Radiance.
A nice extra highlight to end the trip. And its free entry as well.
And the best news is........ I'm still completely mad... just not fully captured yet.

A window view on eternity.

and I still have lunch with various creatures on occasion to keep my strength up. (a damselfly here with a tasty takeaway snack) Mine came later of course. A meal inside a meal. Catch one get one free.
And I'm a romantic at heart. But aren't we all secretly......

One of my favourite videos on You Tube. Think Bronte sisters plus brother Branwell... the inner imaginary world they all shared together as children with its own rules and harsh judgements and you're halfway there. People don't change that much as they grow older. I still like sunlight... and obsidian... and bats. :o)




Carol said...

St. Conan's Kirk is ace isn't it - such a conflict and mix of architectures... but I think it really works. We have similar photos and even bought a postcard of it to send to my friend in America who visits the UK sometimes as she was mostly interested in old, historic buildings.

I don't remember any moodiness when I was growing up - I was always a stroppy barsteward but certainly don't think I got any worse in my teens. My brother did though - so much so, he introduced a poltergeist into our house which used to bug me sometimes!

When we were kids out walking with our parents, we used to call by farms to get a cup of milk each - like you say, fresh from the cow and not messed with in any way. We were all fine - nobody got sick. There's just too much hysterical hygiene nowadays - we need good hygiene but not all this sterilisation. No wonder people don't have any immune system now.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Yes, its a cracking building. I was lucky enough to visit Rosslyn Chapel while it was still quiet and unknown which made for a better experience. St Conon's Kirk, on our visit at least, was still like that.
No idea how we ended up in that caravan in North Shian for a holiday as even today, with a comprehensive knowledge of Scotland coast to coast I'd never pick that as a base. It's about as isolated as you can get while still connected to a road system and even in 2018 it,s little known.

Andy said...

Stunning church that - well worth a visit on of those rare Scottish days when it rains! :)

Anabel Marsh said...

Plenty of interest here - not least your weird fantasies!

Ian Johnston said...

You've done it again Bob - St Conon's Kirk is now another place on my "must visit" list! Like you, I've driven past many times with either boots in the car or kayak on top. Next time I'll make sure to stop and explore....thanks for posting

Linda W. said...

Lovely mountains, green hillsides, and an interesting church. Thanks for more great photos!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Andy,
Yep, it's worth a visit.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
I held back on the strangest dreams and activities from that period. I used to be more 'out there' and adventurous in my writing style years ago, more varied subjects away from hills, but the blogging world and society in general teaches you to be more conservative if you want any interest- a bit like a lot of modern music- safe, bland, and non experimental as that's what sells.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Ian.

blueskyscotland said...

Thanks Linda.

Kay G. said...

As always, you have the most beautiful photos!
The stained glass windows are just gorgeous.
The one with the 3 figures...
I have fought a good fight.
I have finished my course.
I have kept the faith.

That has made my day to view that. Thank you.

Kay G. said...

Oh, meant to say, supposedly Robert The Bruce is an ancestor of mine. I know, along with thousands of others! :-)

Neil said...

I've got a visit to Eriska pencilled in for later in the year when the vegetation dies down. I fancy visiting it along with the Slate islands further south. Can you park on Eriska or do you have to leave your car just outside?

Mark said...

This is all unknown to me and looks well worth a visit. The church looks particularly interesting.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
at least Robert the Bruce and the stained glass knight are wearing the right gear for a change. In Braveheart they are all fighting in kilts whereas from what I've read both English and Scots wore similar outfits- without a kilt in sight. Never as clear cut in confusing and complex reality so not even English against Scots some of the time. As anyone sensible might guess kilts are crap at stopping arrows and they were brave men but not suicidal. Not too good in a film though with almost identically dressed armies fighting each other.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
we parked on the island a short distance after the bridge and not as far as the hotel (a wide passing place where we weren't causing an obstruction and were only gone 30 mins total. A small six vehicle car park does exist on the mainland leading to a nature wood just before the bridge onto the island leaving a walk of around an hour or so to the summit. Not steep but we were already knackered after the hill so picked the easiest option.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Mark,
It is. The Benderloch area, Beinn Lora, Lismore, Kerrera and the area around Oban are all real highlights but Eriska itself is not much to look at compared to Loch Etive, Connel, Seil, Easdale or Tayvallich (good campsite, touring base, and pub here)
They are all worth a visit and really scenic.