Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Ian MacLachlan

It is with very great sadness that we heard of the death yesterday of Ian MacLachlan. Ian died at his home in Kilmory with his family around him.

The funeral will take place at the parish church at 1.00pm on Friday 2nd December.

Our heartfelt sympathy goes to Chrissie and the family.

St Comghan's Wall Completed

Earlier this month stonemason Damian (left), ably assisted by Richard, were working on the fallen east wall in St Comghan's graveyard, a collapse mainly caused by roots from the pine trees which had grown under and destabilised it. Dave Cash, who owns the surrounding land, had very kindly cut down the trees, but....

....Damian and Richard had to spend some time taking part of the wall down so they could remove the offending roots. The job is now complete.

As part of their work, Damian and Richard have reinstalled the metal posts which run along the top of the wall and which carry wires to discourage domestic animals, particularly the local sheep, some of which are very agile, from jumping the wall. However, the wire won't keep the deer out, of which there are increasing numbers coming down into the croft lands.

The next job is to replace the existing broken, rusty wire. Highland Council, which owns the site, has provided the necessary wire and radisseurs, but it's a job which AHHA, the local heritage society, will have to do. If anyone is prepared to help, please get in touch with me.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Bay

This is the bay below our house, picture taken a couple of days ago in rather mucky weather. It's where we keep our kayaks, tied down at this time of year but....

....ready to launch in minutes in the summer. We once spotted a basking shark in the bay. We were eating supper but we were out paddling with it within eight minutes.

It's also a place where the family goes swimming, the earliest that ever occurred being in April.

It's a lovely little bay marred, perhaps, by being stony, yet we have never known its name - until this morning when we asked someone we should have asked years ago. The answer was pretty obvious: Port na Clachan, the port of stones.

Two Questions

This picture comes from  Kilchoan Early Bird, to whom many thanks.  Two questions: which beach is it, and is this dawn or sunset? It took me some time to work it out, and even now I'm not 100% sure.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Ormsaigbeg Stags

Sunrise across the Sound of Mull, at just after a quarter to nine this morning, coincided with a break in the clouds along the horizon so, as we walked down to the shop, we were bathed in a golden light which....

 ....turned the bracken on the ridge at the back of Ormsaigbeg a deep copper colour.

We thought the animal on the skyline was one of the sheep which winter on the hill but....

....a closer look revealed a group of five red deer stags.

We know that there are deer in Ormsaigbeg. They were caught on the trail camera earlier this year - see blog post here - but we had assumed they spent the day in the woodland at the back of the crofts. Slightly surprisingly, these seemed to be heading out onto the common grazings for the day.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Port Kilmory

For no particular reason, it's a very long time since we last visited Kilmory, one of the tiny crofting townships on Ardnamurchan's beautiful north coast - but we made some amends today by walking down through the houses to visit the bay, Port Kilmory, our arrival being perfectly timed to coincide with that of the sun.

It's a deep bay, protected to west and east by the headlands of Ru na Aird and Ru Ghari Lea - or so they are named on Bald's map of 1806 - and backed by a wide sand beach exposed this morning.... a low tide. The beach was deserted except for six ringed plovers, and one felt a certain guilt in walking across the artistically sculpted ripples left by the falling tide.

On the west side there's a gate through the Estate fence onto Achateny land, from where one can look across the mouth of the bay or.... the back of the bay, where the houses of Kilmory are hardly visible amongst the trees, or....

....south across the fields to Achateny House and the heights of Cathair Mhic Dhiarmaid.

We had been told that there were some stone structures out towards the headland, which we found easily enough, a dozen or so of them - walls and buildings like the one in the foreground of this photo, which might have been a sheep pen or, more likely, some sort of roofed building. Whoever built it tucked it in against the rocks to reduce its exposure but, even so, it wouldn't have been a good place to be in a northerly gale.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Grey Calm

This morning's thick early mist across the Sound broke up as the day advanced, leaving tendrils which moved through the glens, highlighting the tops; a grey day, with hardly a breath of wind. This is the Raasay on her morning sailing from Tobermory, with the hills of Morvern behind.

Along Ormsaigbeg the smoke from the house fires rose vertically but the plume from a much larger fire hit an inversion, a layer where the air is slightly warmer and acts like a lid.

A small gaggle of greylags were feeding along the shore and weren't too pleased at being disturbed, rising to fly a couple of hundred yards before settling again.

In the last couple of weeks we've had snow, hail, frost and a gale, but this rose, growing by an abandoned Ormsaigbeg croft house, still offers a reminder of the summer past.


Bandit's mother travelled all the way up from Suffolk to live with us and, at far too young an age, met and had a torrid affair with a rather wild, dark, local tom, by whom she had five kittens, one of which, Bandit, we kept.  Bandit lived with us for eighteen years, a very independent cat who occasionally went missing, disliked strangers, was....

....a fearsome mouser, caught all the wrong birds - like the only goldcrest we'd seen in years - was never ill - she was only taken to the vet once, to be spayed - and was deeply affectionate with the few privileged humans she chose to love.

Bandit died on Thursday as she would have wished to, very quietly, with no fuss, still purring whenever she was stroked. Had she had her way she would have died alone under a bush but was found and brought indoors so she would be with us.

At night, we lie in bed and listen to the mice partying in the roof.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Sunshine & Snow

The Oban-registered trawler Creachan Mhor OB26 is seen working off Mingary, with, from left to right, Maclean's Nose, the low-lying Ardslignish Point, the entrance to Loch Sunart and, behind them, the snow-capped hills of Morvern.

This was taken yesterday afternoon as the fine weather of the last few days began to slip away. Overnight, there were several aurora alerts but, by that time, the sky had clouded over.

McPhees Return

It was very good this afternoon to welcome Darryl and Tracey McPhee to Ormsaigbeg. Darryl and Tracey live in Adelaide, Australia, and are in the UK touring the country - but with a special stop here, at the Twin's House, from where Darryl's family originally came.

The croft which Darrly's family owned must be the smallest in Ormsaigbeg, a postage-stamp of land upon which a family could not hope to survive without some of them going out to work - and Darryl's great-grandfather left home at the tender age of 13 to join the merchant navy, embarking on a voyage to Australia from which he did not return.

Darryl's family story is told on the Diary here.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Tupping Time

It's an exciting time of year for the tups, with the prospect of a field full of ladies to look after over the next few weeks, ladies....

....who have been gathered in from the hills by the crofters, whatever the weather, and confined in a field for the tups' convenience.

Depending on the crofter, and how early in the spring he or she is prepared to risk lambing, some tups are already at work, but....

....others are still in the bachelor fields, where the gentle, matey life of summer has given way to a certain amount of pushing and shoving. However....

....the excitement seems have been too much for one of them.

Many thanks to Sue for the picture of the gathering.


Yesterday's sunrise, looking southeast from our house, and....

....this morning's sunrise. Both days have been warm, with light winds and plenty of sunshine, but followed by very cold nights and a sharp frost....

....which is why this little chap was sitting on the wire as we were eating breakfast complaining that the service was definitely deteriorating, and where was his?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

November Photography

The best months for photography in this part of the world are October and November. There's something very special about the light, about the low sun and rapidly changing conditions, that can produce some magnificent pictures. This is Loch Sunart soon after dawn, a picture which Sue, a regular Ardnamurchan visitor, took last week.

The trouble with November is that the weather is very unpredictable. As a keen camerawoman, the weather during Sue's stay provided her with what might best be described as 'challenges'. Ardnamurchan, usually relatively free of snow, saw its higher hills given a good covering, and this was mixed in with....

....some very stormy conditions. This is Ardnamurchan Point with a hefty westerly blowing.

But with challenges come opportunities, and the selection of photographs Sue has been kind enough to send the Diary show how they can be seized, even in the rain.

Its variety is one of the joys of this place, so a gale and driving rain can very quickly be followed by brilliant sunshine, in this case lighting up Camas nan Geall and Maclean's Nose, with the remains of the rain in the distance.

At this time of year the last of the autumn leaves and the dead bracken glow once the sun is on them. This is the road out of Kilchoan, where it runs along the edge of Loch Sunart, around the edge of Camas Fearna.

Many thanks to Sue for the pictures.
Sue stayed with the Livetts at The Ruin - link here.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A Retail Opportunity

An Roth, the Mull-based company which is working on behalf of the community of West Ardnamurchan to find a way forward for the Ferry Stores, has published an advert asking for expressions of interest from anyone who might wish to buy the shop or run it on a lease.

This is just one of several avenues actively being explored by An Roth. These will be described when the community meets to discuss the future of the shop on Wednesday 7th December, at 7.00pm in the Community Centre.

Monday, 21 November 2016

A Hard Frost

The sky remained clear all last night, which gave us a fine view of the craters on the moon, which is in its third quarter, but those clear skies....

....brought an unusually hard frost for this area, warmed as it is by the sea. The gritter was in Kilchoan by half past seven this morning but....

....the frost was melting back as soon as the sun touched it.


The Raptor was out walking in the same direction as we were yesterday but he was concentrating on the birds. In this picture he's managed to capture a flock of ten grey herons, a large flock of gulls sitting on the rocks, and another flock of dark birds flying away from him low over the water. That they are flying so low suggests oystercatchers, but the Raptor is fairly certain they're mallard.

If they're not mallard, it may be a flock of lapwings, visible centre right in this picture, which spent....

....much of its time in flight. Lapwings aren't that common here so it was very good to see them.

Meanwhile, as the Raptor puts it, "the Highlander looked out across a vast ocean."

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Mouth of the Achateny Water

Compared to Friday, today we live in a different world, a cheerful place of warm sunshine and light winds. This is the sort of day that anyone with a camera prays for, as the air is crystal clear and the remnants of autumn colours are still bright in the hills.

We walked down the road to Achateny, at the bottom of the wide glen of the Allt an Doire Dharaich which, a bit further downstream, becomes the Achateny Water, with the Small Isles and Skye laid out along the horizon and bright with sunlit snow.

On the other side of the burn is Branault, but the fence just visible in front of the caravan is the Branault boundary, so the three ruins, all once cottars' cottages, lie on Achateny land. They were built to house workmen for Achateny Farm in the days when it was a sheep run.

To the left as one walks down the road lies the long ridge called Cathair Mhic Dhiarmaid, MacDiarmid's Seat, perfectly reflected in the waters of a small pond.

In winter the northerlies howl through this glen, the trees so burned on the up-wind side that they grow away in the downwind direction. At this time their bare branches are populated by....

....redwings, some of which, if it's done slowly, will allow one to approach quite close. Perhaps, in their summer home in Scandinavia, they're not much bothered by humans.

At the bottom of the road, a kilometre back from the coast, are the clustered buildings of what was Achateny Farm, now part of Ardnamurchan Estate. This is Achateny Cottage, available for rent here, with its superb views north across the Minch to the dark form of Eigg and, beyond it, the Cuillins of Skye.

Just past the cottage one can drop down to the Achateny Water and follow it downstream. This picture was taken at the top of one of its many and very pretty falls, with a huge erratic, dumped here during the ice age, to the left and the Isle of Rum in the distance.

Along this section we stopped to watch a pair of dippers chasing each other, flying fast and low just above the water surface, then stopping on a prominent rock to watch us.

This is the mouth of the Achateny Water, with the tide just past high. We found a convenient rock seat where we could sit in the sunshine, drink our coffee, and immerse ourselves in the view.