Saturday, February 21, 2015

Island dwellings in Loch Linnhe.

 From Castle Stalker we enjoyed a brisk paddle sail across the Sound of Shuna in the offshore wind.

There are some modern conifer plantations on Shuna which being limestone is much more fertile than many of the west coast islands.

Shuna Castle is barely visible in the trees. It was built about the end of the 16th century by the Stewarts of Appin and used for about 200 years.

Shuna farmhouse which was built in the 1740's was a much more comfortable residence than the old castle.

 We were circumnavigating Shuna clockwise* and made the most...

*see comment from Frank below!

 ...of the SE wind until...

...we fell into the lee of the island which was a wild... with rivulets running down the mossy rocks into the sea.

Near the north of the island we found a sheltered spot out of the SE wind for first luncheon. From here we has a grandstand view right up Loch Linnhe surrounded by the mountains of Ardgour, Appin and and Lochaber. Needless to say the view was enhanced by a dram of Mikes Jura Superstition.

Right in the centre of the view lay little Eilean Balnagowan which we had visited the day before. You can see the new "bothy" which has been built by the island's new owners.

Castle Stalker and the quest for the Holy Grails of Port Appin.

On the fourth day of our winter trip we drove from Ballachuilish to Port Appin further down Loch Linnhe. We got parked right next to the beach access but in summer parking here is not easy.  Port Appin has been the ferry port to the island of Lismore for at least 250 years. The Lismore is the current passenger ferry.

We launched beside the Pier House Hotel. Their Grand Seafood platter for two sells for and eye and mouth watering £85. We decided to dine alfresco rather than order the Holy Grail of sea food platters.

This old boat on the shore has seen better days.

Port Appin was under thick grey cloud but both to the north and south there was a hint of winter  sunshine.

The south going ebb had already started so we decided to paddle north to explore while there was still water,

Our first destination was the Sgeir Bhuidhe light. This is a modern recreation of the original late 19th century light. In 2001 it was planned to replace the old light with a modern rectangular box. Locals were upset that their local Holy Grail of lighthouses would be no more and the old light was painted to look like Mr Blobby in protest. Sense prevailed and this modern light is a passable copy of the...

 ...original, which certainly looks a lot better than a rectangular box. The original light's lantern house is now a museum in the village.

 A little SE breeze got up which helped with the paddle against the ebb tide which was now poring out of ...

...Loch Laich. Standing on an islet in the mouth of the Loch, Castle Stalker enjoyed a near impregnable position.The Gaelic name was Caisteal na Stalcaire. The Gaelic language is very economical with words and so each can have several meanings. Stalcaire means:

A One that hobbles or walks awkwardly.
B Dresser of hooks.
C Starch.
D Blockhead.
E Hunter, fowler, deer-stalker.
F Gazer, starer.
G Arrow-maker.
H Pacing-horse.
I  Bully.
J Robust fellow.
K None of the above.

So take your pick!

Castle Stalker was built by the Stewarts of Appin in the 1440s.

Over the years it changed hands with the Campbells several times and on one occasion changed ownership as a result of a bet. Perhaps Castle Blockhead is the right interpretation!

It was restored by a descendant of the Stewarts between 1965 and 1975. It achieved more recent fame as "Castle Aargh" in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

"Here may be found the last words of Joseph of Arimathea:"

"'He who is valiant and pure of spirit..may find the Holy the Castle of Aaargh."'

The Stalker logo is made from an old fisherman's anchor and chain.

Ian and I could not resist photographing it from a variety of angles.

We made our way up steep slippy rocks to...

...the grass below the castle's two entrance doors.

This is the view from the castle. In 1745 it was held by the Campbells and besieged by the Stewarts. The attackers could not get their cannon close enough  and the cannon balls bounced...

 ...harmlessly off the walls. We made our way up to the main entrance to the castle living accommodation. There is a well worn coat of arms above the door. Whether this was weather worn or scrubbed away by successive owners is not known.

 This is not the original door but is well in keeping with the castle.

 The ground floor door gives access to three cellars and a prison cell.

 Not having found the Holy Grail, we decided to set off from...

...Castle Stalker and continue our voyage...

 ...the Sound of Shuna to Shuna Island.