Saturday, 5 May 2012

Island Of Rum Trip. Day Three.Kilmory.Castle.Orval.

The morning of Day Three on Rum was a painful one.After our long day on the ridge I didn't fancy going up Orval, a  detached outlying hill to the north west of the main ridge.This was a sub ridge of hills in itself if you include the lower summits of Minishal, Fionchra, Ard Nev,,Ard Mheall and Sron An T Salghdeir.
It was with more an air of grim determination rather than enjoyment that I set off with Alex on the bikes up the excellent land rover track  over to Harris after a quick breakfast.This is where I left Alex at the road junction where the track splits. Alex would cycle to the highpoint on the road ,leave the bike then reach the slopes of  Orval (seen in this picture) over the moor.I would cycle down the track to Kilmory bothy, a place I've always wanted to visit as it was off limits for years due to a long and still ongoing red deer study, one of the longest running of its kind in the world.This is where the popular UK TV team, Autumnwatch, filmed during the red deer rut capturing great scenes of stags fighting for the right to mate with the hinds.
Although now open to the public you still get the lingering feeling of the elite private kingdom this once was as you pass through this  sturdy entry gate blocking the track. It's the only bothy and area on Rum I,d never visited as it was always off limits on previous trips.
I waved a cheery goodbye to Alex, thankful I wasn't pushing my poor old knees up Orval and had only a  few kilometers of easy track to roll down as the soles of my feet were badly blistered.
This happy mood proved short lived however as the track down to Kilmory turned out to be bad. Maybe a skillful,determined mountain biker could complete it on a bike but I found this rutted, stone filled track easier to walk down.A very angry Mike Tyson using your bottom as a punching  bag for a half hour's entertainment  would have the same effect as staying in the saddle down this track.
Although they can no longer keep visitors out they certainly don't roll out the red carpet down here.
I'd heard so much about this place. The Royal Family used to pull in here when they toured the Scottish west coast islands on the Royal Yacht Britannia, landing for picnics on the beach, knowing they would remain undisturbed and secluded away from prying eyes. It's still used for study teams with basic but comfortable sleeping accommodation, a private well equipped bothy and a locked shed/ garage (the old laundry) presumably for land rovers and any other expensive equipment.
There was only one person I could see observing deer, a good distance away on the hillside with what looked like a very large telescopic lens.
I don't normally have a problem getting close up and personal with deer.This one was only ten feet away but it certainly was aware of me and not acting in a natural manner like any study group requires.
Like all former prey species if you don't  look or stare at them directly they don't feel so nervous in your presence, more curious. Now magpies or jays...they are far harder to sneak up on, no matter how quietly you move towards them.
Kilmory itself was a disappointment. An average beach ,an average coastline, nothing really that stood out as spectacular unless you could  count the views out towards a distant Skye and its coastline of cliffs around Talisker Bay. Or maybe it was just a dull morning and I was feeling flat, just like the weather this morning. I don't enjoy grey skies much and my mood has always matched the weather since childhood, hence the Blueskyscotland ambition.

I didn't stay long and was soon on my way back to the main village as Alex, font of all knowledge that he is, had mentioned that a tour of Kinloch Castle was starting in the afternoon. I,d never been in Kinloch Castle before so I didn't want to miss this last opportunity to look around. At £7 quid a head I thought it was good value for money.Takes about an hour.
Kinloch Castle, as a lot of you will know, was the holiday abode of the Bullough Family,wealthy Lancashire industrialists who owned profitable cotton mills down there and also invented several ground breaking applications to speed up the manufacture in cotton mills.These inventions were worth a fortune and no expense was spared in  the  building of this sandstone edifice to Edwardian luxury and extravagance. (They also owned at one time a sporting estate in Perthshire.) It remains one of the best preserved examples of Edwardian splendour anywhere in Britain though the golf course and wonderful attached glasshouses filled with ferns, fruit trees, flying humming birds, ponds full of swimming  alligators, and turtles are long gone. At one time up to 100 staff...drivers,gamekeepers,ballroom musicians, and gardeners were on the payroll for the annual month long holiday when the family and friends would arrive from England to shoot deer, hunt, fish and party in grand style.
Despite being short on roads two Charabangs were delivered and then maintained outside the castle so the guests and the Bulloughs could travel along the few miles of drivable roads to other parts of the island.
Hundreds of hardworking puffers delivered the sandstone to this remote island from quarries on Arran despite having good sandstone aplenty on this island (Sir George liked the colour of  the Arran stone more, despite objections, and he always got his way.)
Builders,roofers,interior designers and landscapers arrived and proceeded to create a lush paradise on this otherwise bleak ,windswept part of Scotland.
Inside, stuffed animals and fish shot and caught locally or from around the world were exhibited on display for the wonder and astonishment of visitors. Before the castle was built  the son ,George Bullough, had been  sent off on a world tour for five years and proceeded to collect or send back items  from Africa,India,China and the far east. It was rumoured he had been discovered sleeping with his father, John's, much younger and attractive second wife so was sent packing with a handsome allowance to get him out the way.
Either he had a passion for the bizarre or he was getting his own back in some way but many of the objects in the castle could fit right in to the comedy TV Addams Family household of vampires,ghouls and oddballs very easily. I think this might be a Thuggee at a guess. Indian robbers and assassins of the 1800,s who strangled people.It's where the word thug comes from. I gave him a full horn as he was missing half of it in reality.

It might give some people nightmares staying here. Personally I loved it. So over the top!
This is a  bronze monkey eating eagle perched on a treetop in the great hall.
The little monkey hiding in the branches below. It is a work of art.....just a very vivid and strange one. Tim Burton would love this place.
When his father John died in 1891 George inherited a 221 foot steam yacht, and all his fathers estates.
With an annual income in the millions at today's values it was he who built the castle.Maybe he had amassed so many exotic objects from around the world  on his tour he needed a place to show them all off.
He later married, became a Sir and his high society wife became Lady Monica. Both their portraits hang in the main hall seen in the 4th photo up above. Painted on their 40th birthday,s a year apart.
What she thought of his tastes in sculpture I don't know but her own rooms are decorated in less confrontational style although a naked portrait with her back turned of her sipping tea on a rug hangs outside her bedroom.
Seemingly this was her own in joke. A jibe at the newspapers and tittle tattle of the day.With Rum being strictly off limits then to all but invited guests, and the Bulloughs guarding their privacy ferociously all sorts of rumours and speculation hit the headlines regularly about what they got up to behind the closed doors of this out of bounds hidden kingdom.

Even the outside guttering with its rows of fierce gargoyles looking down seem to dare intruders to enter.
Luckily, I had a clean pair of socks on as you have to take your shoes off to explore inside, walking over polished floors, period carpets, and rugs.They are overhauling the roof at present to make it watertight. Just in time as a few of the upper rooms are showing  signs of  water penetration damage.
The upkeep and maintenance on a remote building of this size, even in Sir George's day is and was an ongoing burden and after the First World War the annual visits became less frequent.The mood of  hedonistic extravagance had altered with the war. It was also harder to get staff to the island as a lot of them never returned from the battlefields. Skilled men in the highlands willing to live on Rum became harder to find.
Sir George died in 1939 aged 69. Understandably, Lady Monica made less frequent visits to the castle after his death although she took over the running of the estate and castle right up until she signed it over to the nature conservancy in 1957. By that time she had failing eyesight and had been worrying about the future of Rum and its castle for years. She died in 1967 at the age of 98 and an era passed away with her.
Alex returned from Orval and we jumped the ferry around 4:00pm.  The weather stayed fair most of the way down the west coast giving us great views of  this very scenic stretch of the Road to the Isles. A sweeping empty ribbon of tarmac and mountains above.
This is the Rois Bheinn group of hills. A great horseshoe ridge of  sharp rocky peaks which gives extensive views over the islands. Well worth doing if you fancy a change from Munro Bagging.
Just in case you think it's all becoming too chocolate box and twee here's a photograph of a part of Fort William that few tourists ever see or visit. High above the neat line of B and B's, churches and shops along the main road sits this council estate where a large percentage of the ordinary punters live and play. I once helped to carry a pram with child inside up five flights of stairs here. Once was enough for me yet that's the only way for folk to get to the main shopping area and amenities in town if you don't have a car  unless you jump a bus or taxi every trip.
I know a few places like this in Scotland, concrete estates built halfway up the sides of hills and living here is not easy.So it's not all scenic delights in the wilds of Scotland and many people who escape to the countryside find it has all the same problems of cities and towns, with teenage gangs, bad behavior, drink, drugs, good folk, bad folk, other social issues...just more isolated.
When we reached Glasgow it was pouring down with rain and hailstones, which pleased us.The west coast islands have been  getting a good spell of weather during the last few weeks. Best weather in the UK recently. Long may it continue. They deserve it up north.


Robert Craig said...

Been enjoying these Rum posts. Bringing back memories. Spent the weekend doing DIY, would far rather have been somewhere like Rum in the sunshine, climbing Orval, Fionchra and Bloodstone Hill!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Robert.
Yes, you cant beat the islands in spring.
I was just thinking though,how little has changed.Anyone with money can still buy remote chunks of Scotland and turn it into a private kingdom,for better or worse.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob been a while since I checked your blog but loved reading about your experiences on Rum! Brought back memories of a visit there with my partner Carole in 2006. We stayed in the Castle and had 4 days of lovely weather in June. Climbed some of the hills, went to Kilmory Bay where a woman was living in the cottage with her cat. Someone told us she was a member of the Guiness brewing family and worked on the deer project. Loved the views over to Skye and spotted lots of wildlife including Sea and Golden eagles. Great memories and reading your blog brought it back.


blueskyscotland said...

Hi Hunter.
Nice to hear from you again.Yes The west coast islands are magical in Spring if you get fine weather.
That would be Fiona.She and her pal gave me a lift many years ago on Rum so she,s been visiting over a long period of time.

Mac and Cas said...

They certainly are Bob...have had good trips to Eigg and Canna in the past and I love the Small isles...Muck the only one still to do! Planning a trip to Knoydart later this year so hope to nip across to Eigg or Rum while we are in the area.

The Glebe Blog said...

A fascinating post Bob, I'm all for Scottish Natural Heritage taking a couple of bob from me to maintain places like Kinloch Castle. You'll know from your visits down this way (and in the central area too) just how many magnificent buildings are on their way to demolition.
Your Fort William picture reminds me of the Bellsbank estate in Dalmellington