Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2013 - A Picture Review

It seems appropriate that it was January, at the start of the year, which produced some of the most spectacular sunrises.  Of the pictures taken on the same day as this one, January 15th, several could have been used to open this review of the year, and one was on the Diary's desktop until about a month ago.

This is a favourite photograph from February because, as a good picture should, it captures a memory.  We were walking up the boundary fence of the forestry on Ardnamurchan Estate land beyond the big sheds at Caim when we topped a rise and saw this stag with his younger companion.  He must have seen us yet he didn't immediately flee: on the contrary, he posed, almost as if he wanted to give us a moment to admire him.  Minutes later we saw a fox, and he too lingered long enough to give us a picture.

Many will know Ian Ramon from his work at the top of Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse, where he has welcomed and engaged with hundreds of visitors to the most westerly point on the British mainland.  Ian used to be one of the keepers in the days when the Northern Lighthouse Board still employed men to tend its lights, so the experiences he describes are first-hand.  Ian is one of the many people whose warmth makes West Ardnamurchan such a welcoming place in which to stay.

2013 saw the establishment of Ardnamurchan Community Archaeology, a group of both locals and visitors dedicated to recording the rich history of the area.  April's picture shows Plocaig, one of the deserted villages which are scattered across the peninsula and whose walls stand as memorials to the people who have passed.  At present the group is attempting a survey of all historical sites, and has already found a number of hitherto unrecorded sites, including a splendid Neolithic kerb cairn.

Among the thousands of visitors to West Ardnamurchan in 2013 was a pair of little egrets, Egretta garzetta, which stayed for all too short a time in May.  Their arrival may be another sign of the changing climate, yet the bird was once common in Britain.

The local bird life, small and large, has been a source of great enjoyment for us - and, sometimes, of excitement, for example when, in December, we watched a sea eagle being prevented from stealing an otter's lunch by a mob of gulls.

Every year the Diary has to apologise to its readers when it becomes over-excited by the annual show of wild orchids.  This year was remarkable in that the orchids flowered earlier and were, if anything, even more spectacular than in previous years.  Identifying them remains a problem: this one, pictured in June, is recorded in our photo library as being 'unknown'.

It's always a pleasure to watch an otter going about his business along the water's edge, but this one provided several minutes' entertainment to some of the people working on Mingary Castle during July.  2013 will go down in local history as the year this great castle was saved from falling into the sea, and the long task begun of refurbishing it into a habitable building which will earn its keep into the foreseeable future.

By August the swimming and kayaking season was at its height, but it coincided with the arrival of the largest number of lion's mane jellyfish that we can remember.  Lion's manes have an unpleasant sting so, while the family swam in the chill waters off Ormsaigbeg, the Diary was detailed off in a kayak to locate any of these really very beautiful animals and call a warning.

September's picture, taken from the summit of Creag an Airgid, shows the Sanna road as it meanders its way across the peninsula.  It is included to remind those who are absent from this place of the many peculiarities that make staying here such fun.  For example, this may bring back memories of the enjoyable aspects of driving a single-track road, such as the ability to stop at a passing point and chat with the occupants of an oncoming vehicle, as well as the less enjoyable, such as having to back a hundred metres because it is obvious that the driver of the oncoming car has yet to discover reverse gear.

If readers enjoy reading the Diary, then it is on no small part down to the many local people who contribute by sending in pictures and stories, by inviting this blogger to spend time with them at their work, by being very tolerant when the Diary writes about them, and by permitting us to wander across the land which is theirs.  This picture comes from an October visit to Marine Harvest's salmon farm at Camas Glas, one of the most important employers in the area.  To all of you, local residents and visitors, who have helped with the Diary, in any and in however small a way - thank you.

November's picture is a reminder of one of the great privileges of living in this place, the ability to leave the beaten track and strike out across wild country towards its high points, from where one can look out across views which are breathtaking in their magnificence.  This picture was taken from the western slopes of Ben Hiant, and looks southwestwards, with the Sound of Mull on the left and the Ardnamurchan peninsula at right.

We'll remember December 2013 for its unprecedented sequence of gales but, earlier in the month, there were times of mist and calm.  This is the lonely beach to the east of Mingary Castle, a place of otters and eagles.  It is a reminder that taking some time to be alone, quiet, and at peace is one of the great refreshments of life.

To all readers of the Kilchoan Diary, a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.


  1. A wonderful review of the year. And a Happy New Year to you too. Every photo you post is a gem

  2. And a Happy New Year to you Jon, reading your blog helps towards keeping me sane!

    Dave K.

  3. Happy new year to you Jon! I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog and seeing the superb photos as a constant reminder of such a stunning area. Will be planning next holiday to Ardnamurchan soon and can't wait to return!
    Keep up the good work!!