Thursday, 31 December 2009
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
This wall, at the front of Mull View, one of Steading Holidays' letting cottages, is typical of our local walls - though, as can be clearly seen, the nearer section has had to be rebuilt. The rocks at the base of the wall, often out of sight below ground, tend to be the largest, with the bulk of the wall built of medium sized blocks, while larger stones are placed along the top. The walls defined croft boundaries, and divided the land so the fields could be put to different uses. The walls had to be at least shoulder high: the average highland sheep has little trouble in jumping anything lower.
Many of these old walls have been allowed to fall, replaced by wooden stobs and galvanised wire fencing. Maintaining walls is time-consuming, heavy, and finger-breaking work so, as the population dwindled, the walls died.
Happily, the considerable skills required to build a dry stone wall have not been lost from the village. The wall above, around one of the new houses in Ormsaigbeg, was built by Martin Ellis - though the largest rocks at its base were shifted using a JCB. Watching Martin work is a pleasure, as dry stone wall building is a true craft, with each block individually chosen and moved into its place with care.
Monday, 28 December 2009
Occasionally they leave the water to come inland, often following a stream. We saw one trying to cross the road near Hazelbank about a week ago but he became aware of us and turned back. An otter's eyesight is very poor out of water, but he has an acute sense of hearing, so he probably heard us rather than saw us.
Sunday, 27 December 2009
While some of last week's snow has melted from the lower slopes near the sea, the tops are still thick with it. This view was taken today looking almost east from Ardslignish, up Loch Sunart in the general direction of Strontian. There's no sign of any of the sea lochs freezing - yet.
This view looks north from the Kilmory cross roads, down the valley towards the village of Achateny and the island of Eigg, which has largely lost its snow. In the distance stand the snow-capped mountains of Rhum.
Saturday, 26 December 2009
Friday, 25 December 2009
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Photo courtesy Ben McKeown
I was the last Kilchoan pupil to go to Lochaber High School in Fort William. Before Kilchoan pupils went to Lochaber, they boarded for half a term at a time in Oban, so I considered myself lucky that I was a weekly boarder, only away from early Monday morning until late Friday afternoon.
Winter Mondays were often difficult when I was a resident of Camaghael Hostel. I had to wake up at 5.45am in order to start my two and a half hour school run, by car to Salen then service bus to Lochaber High School. Waking up during the summer wasn’t so difficult as the sun rose early, but the grumps my parents had to endure when I was roused on a pitch black, rainy and windy winter’s morning with a full day’s school ahead must have made a dismal start to their week.
Yet these mornings were a love-hate relationship. Sue Cameron, who had been driving the school run to Salen for years, was always good company, and there were many exciting wildlife sightings over the years: roe deer, foxes, sea eagles, wild cats and pine martens to name some of the best.
To this day when I have to get up before sunrise, I still get the groggy feeling I remember so well from those Monday mornings. However, it was always nice when Sue and I drove out through the village as Christmas approached, with cheerful lights of various colours blinking outside peoples’ houses. That never failed to lift me from my Monday morning blues.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Monday, 21 December 2009
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Saturday, 19 December 2009
Kayaking has become a huge part of my life, and has opened many doors, including making new friends and adventuring in the wilds of Scotland. The flame was first lit in Kilchoan, and it encouraged me back home at the weekends when I boarded weekly at Lochaber High School. From exploring west along the coast from Ormsaigbeg, awed by the towering cliffs and views of the Atlantic horizon, to short but exhilarating trips into Kilchoan Bay when the sea turned choppy, to competing at Ardnamurchan Regatta Day, paddling was quickly becoming my chosen sport.So after about six years of sea kayaking with my parents, I decided to take my hobby further by joining Edinburgh University Canoe Club in my second year. EUCC introduced me to some of my best friends, and to the art of whitewater kayaking. Scotland boasts some amazing whitewater – perhaps there are some little rivers in Ardnamurchan just waiting to be discovered by keen paddlers.
Friday, 18 December 2009
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
The Camerons – Lachlan, John Donald and Bella, all of whom lived in the Ferry House next door to the shop – ran The Ferry Stores from the time it was built in 1912 until soon after Lachlan died in 1949. In 1950 John Donald sold the shop to the Stewarts, who also worked the coalree and the shed which is now the store room. They, with their four children, were the first to live over the shop. It wasn’t an easy life; for example, water had to be brought in each day from a well in front of the Ferry House. Two of the Stewarts’ daughters, Catriona MacMillan and Fiona MacPhail, still live in the village. In 1958 the Stewarts sold the business to the Warners, who only kept it for 18 months before selling it to Margaret and Fred Burgess.
In 1971 John Donald sold Fred Burgess the land to the north of the road which included the coalree and shed. Very soon after acquiring the land, the Burgesses built the existing shop, a prefabricated ‘portal’ construction, on the site of the coalree. At the same time they bought land to the south which included the old petrol station and additional land upon which they erected a wooden structure, called the Wool Shop, from which they sold Hawick woolens and souvenir items. They also improved the house, converting the big room that had been the old shop into a sitting room, and adding a single-storey extension to the eastern end.
When John Donald died all his interests passed to his sister, Mary, who had married Neil MacDonald. Their son, Rev. Ian MacDonald, still owns the Ferry House and is a frequent visitor to the village.
The shopkeepers after the Burgesses were the Fennas and the Moffats. The Moffats built the existing gas compound. After Gill and Jon Haylett bought the shop in 1996 the old petrol station was condemned by Highland Council’s Protective Services Department as it was suspected that one of the underground petrol tanks was leaking. The wooden Wool Shop having already been sold, a new petrol station and office was built on the site.
In early 2006 the Hayletts sold the shop to the present owners, Suzanna and Jonathan Ball.