Friday, 19 February 2010

Argyll odyssey

I've just returned from a couple of invigorating days in Kidnapped country. The first time I read Robert Louis Stevenson's novel was forty-odd years ago, when I was about ten, but the last was less than a year ago, and the passage of time hadn't made any sort of dent in my enjoyment of the book. It's one of the ultimate adventure stories and about time someone made a decent film of it (with apologies to Michael Caine, the ultimate Cockney highlander). At its heart is the Appin murder, and it was to Port Appin in Argyll that we headed on Wednesday, undaunted by severe weather warnings and promises of blizzards.

Kidnapped is also a brilliant travelogue, cataloguing Scotland's wild places with vivid imagery as David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart make their way from Mull to Edinburgh through the Highlands and the Trossachs. I'd always been captivated by those descriptions and I recalled them as we travelled north and west, through Callander and Balquhidder, Lochearnhead and Crianlarich and on, by the pass of Brander, with every turn producing a view to take your breath away and fill your head with words like 'majestic' and 'grandeur' and snow covered peaks with unpronounceable names passing by like enormous milestones marking the way.

Port Appin started out as just a speck on a map, but I doubt I'll ever forget the 48 hours we spent there, much of it staring out over the Lynn of Lorn towards the golden Isle of Lismore and beyond to the sunlit, white-capped vastness of the Morvern and Ardnamurchan peninsulas. We had a room at the Pierhouse Hotel, built around the old ferrymaster's cottage; the kind of place where, if you're fortunate, you can look out of your window and watch a cormorant drying his wings on an old buoy or see a seal playing in the shallows. The oysters came daily from beds around the island fifteen minutes away over the sea, and if you fancied lobster you could choose it from the creel dangling off the end of the pier. Bridge of Allan, where I live, is hardly a bustling metropolis, but walk the Appin woods and you experience a silence that's almost spiritual; a stillness that has the potential to either drive you mad or seduce you into staying forever.

This year was always going to be a holiday at home kind of year, but I now realise it won't be a hardship, just the opposite.

4 comments:

Gabriele C. said...

Oh, that brings back memories. I've been in the area last summer: Oban, Kilmartin Glen, Mull ... I had a sea-facing room in a small, Victorian house B&B in Oban. Lovely, and the light simply incredible. You don't get a night sky like that in Germany.

Doug said...

Fantastic pictures Gabriele, it's a magical part of the world. I was in Kilmartin a couple of years ago, an incredible amount of history in one small place

Gabriele C. said...

Thank you. Lol, sunsets, Roman daggers and a bunch of castles is pretty much what my blog is about. :)

Kilmartin Glen is a fascinating place. I had some luck with the weather as well, there were only 2 rainy days in two weeks, and several days with real sunshine. But the midges .... bloody, damn vampires. ;)

Gabriele C. said...

Lovely pics you added there.