Sunday, September 05, 2010

A gelati and a free crossing to Inveraray for peasants, the blind and pilgrims.

Leaving Inveraray Castle, we drifted down the River Aray and reentered the sea at Loch Shira, a side arm of Loch Fyne. Loch Fyne is a deep indentation of the Firth of Clyde which stretches 137km into the mountains of Argyll from the mouth of the Firth. The delightful town of Inveraray was a planned town built by the 3rd Duke of Argyll in the latter half of the 18th century.

For the first couple of centuries much of Inveraray's communication and transport depended on the sea. There is a maritime museum based at the town's pier.

We paddled towards two of the ships that are current exhibits. In years gone by the pier would have been several thick with Loch Fyne skiffs, which were used to catch herring which were at one time plentiful in the Clyde. My great, great grandfather's brother was a herring fisherman on Loch Fyne but he drowned when his skiff sank in a storm with the loss of all hands. The bodies were never recovered.

This three masted schooner was built in Dublin in 1910 as a lightship called the LV Penguin. She was converted to a sail training ship in 1966 and renamed the Arctic Penguin. She has been at Inveraray since 1995. The smaller ship is the last of the Clyde puffers, the VIC 72 built in 1944. She has been renamed the Vital Spark after the Neil Munro novels about Para Handy, a puffer captain. Her original name was Eilean Easdale and she operated between Ayr harbour and the Isle of Easdale through the Crinan canal. VIC stands for Victualling Inshore Craft. These were designed to go through the Crinan canal and so had to be less than 67 feet long. They had flat bottoms so that they could be beached at communities without a harbour and unloaded when the tide went out.

We now paddled round to the south side of Inveraray's pier and saw another of the town's museums. The solid looking building at the left of this photo is Inveraray courthouse and jail.

It was built in 1820 but closed as a jail in 1889. The courthouse remained in occasional use until 1954 when the Sheriff Court moved to Dunoon. Inveraray's importance to Argyll had declined with the fishing fleet and better road links to other centres.

We decided to land to the south of the pier. We walked up to West Main Street and Mr Pia's ice cream parlour where we purchased some gelati, which we consumed upon the shore of Inveraray.

We looked over Loch Fyne to St Catherine's, whence we had come. There was a regular ferry between the two towns from 1680 until 1963. The steam ship pioneer David Napier put the SS Argyle on the route in 1856. The ferry's charter stated that it should provide free crossing for "peasants, the blind and pilgrims".

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