I am spending a week in Argyll, on the west coast of Scotland. It was in another part of Argyll, Morvern on the mainland opposite the Isle of Mull, where my love for the Highlands was born and developed. My parents, for several years, brought us all to the same house there for 2 or 3 weeks in the summer. The house and its surroundings became a second (preferable) home, and walks and trips within that landscape forever ensured it as an irresistible draw when photography became a major interest.
I am staying in a rather isolated village on the west coast of Loch Awe, that long and snaking freshwater loch, probably most famous for chocolate box – or perhaps more often shortbread tin – views of Kilchurn castle at its north end. My hope, as well as photography, was to get some walking and (serious) reading in too. Up to now the weather has been rather too good for reading, but that looks as though it may be changing!
On arrival and after settling in on Saturday, my first foray was to try and catch the sunset looking up the loch. Unfortunately this was somewhat frustrated by the fact that it was rather more difficult to access the shore at promising points than I had hoped. This was partly due to the terrain, but also because of the private ownership of land adjacent to the lochshore.
While Scottish law generally allows peaceable passage through private land, landowners can certainly make it difficult or unpleasant to access for the purposes of photography! The seashore is much less of a problem here, since the foreshore (up to high water mark) is always public property. I eventually found a spot to capture the fading light and the last colour reflected in the clouds, and was then rewarded by spectacular moonlight silhouetting a dilapidated pier (with dilapidated pleasure boat nearby!)
The following morning, Sunday, my attempts to capture the dawn were met with similar problems on the other side of the loch. I eventually found a suitable spot to capture spectacular cloud formations to the north-east. Via some long-exposure experiments at Kilchurn I then treated myself to a tasty breakfast in the Robin’s Nest tea-rooms in Taynuilt – thoroughly recommended – before catching up on some rest! In the evening I made my own proper assault on Kilchurn castle. Having previously photographed it from the standard angle, directly across the loch, I wanted to use the water’s edge as a lead-in to views of the castle against the evening sky.
On Monday, feeling fitter than I have for many years thanks to some time spent in my local gym, I was keen to see if I could manage some serious mountain walking (complete with camera gear) and made the somewhat foolhardy decision to attempt the local massif, Ben Cruachan, by way of its adjacent tops to the east. The reason for the route being that even if I didn’t make it to the top, I would get good views of the main summit along the ridge.
As it was I very nearly aborted before reaching the ridge, but a combination of the re-appearance of the sun, lightening my pack and filling my stomach from eating my lunch and a gradual upward movement to find better photographic angles suddenly led me to believe I could do it and I did! In the end I didn’t reach the main summit, bailing out at the bealach between it and the nearest top to the east, Drochaid Ghlas. I absolutely would not recommend anyone to plan using this route down – it was very steep and rough and looking back at the slope I had managed to bypass some nasty bits of sheer rock. In anything other than perfect visibility it would have been easy to find one’s way to the top of these… We’ll see if I feel up to attempting the main summit directly for completion before the end of the week!