Friday, 23 October 2015

"Flickering embers go higher and higher....."

Once we'd landed and changed from our paddling clothes we decided to take a stroll inland to look at Cara House.

Built in about 1733, Cara House was the residence of the tacksman who held the island who held the island from its proprietors, the MacDonalds of Largie. A "tacksman" was essentially a leaseholder who could sub-let land which he leased from the land owner and this was a common form of land holding at the time.  The house has been renovated and is used as a holiday home by the family who now own Cara.

A large, imposing though not necessarily attractive building, Cara House is two stories with an attic.....

...where the Brownie's room is situated.  It's said that there is often twinkling light seen from this attic and noises heard from within the house.

A little to the east of Cara House lies a ruined chapel.  Hamish Haswell-Smith in his indispensable "The Scottish Islands" states that the chapel is the ruin behind the house (to the west) "which could easily be be mistaken at first for a sheep pen", but from what we could see and from the evidence on the Ordnance Survey map, it seems that the chapel is the ruin to the east.

Dedicated to St Fionnlugh, the chapel probably dates from the late Middle Ages but had ceased to be used for ecclesiastical purposes by the 1770's.

The inshot splayed windows are quite well preserved and dressed with sandstone - similar to the dressing on sites such as Skipness Chapel, though much simpler here.

A grey stone slab propped against the ruin looks to have been shaped for insertion into the ground and may well have been a grave-marker.

On the east side of Cara is a bay called Port na Cille (Port of the (monks) cell) - it's a good landing place and would probably have been the means of access to and from Cara for the monks.

Returning to our camp, we cooked and ate our meal and then lit our fire.  We had plenty of dry driftwood and a quantity of seasoned logs, and used the base of a broken creel washed up on the shore as a windbreak from the breeze.

Sitting back in our camp chairs, we admired a dome of stars washed with a swathe of the Milky Way, spotting several satellites moving across the sky.  Frothing Sports Recovery drinks in hand, we reflected on how fortunate we are to be able to experience all that we had on this and so many other days.

As the fire developed, so did the heat -  "flickering embers going higher and higher" as Paul McCartney wrote nearby.  In fact, of all the fires we've enjoyed, this one was one of the smaller examples, but gave a heat out of all proportion to it's size.  More thermonuclear device than campfire, it was so hot that it changed the properties of the bottom part of Douglas' trouser legs!

We had to wait quite a while for the fire to burn down enough to cook our Sweet Potato and Potato The recipe is simple enough - wrap in strong foil, bake in the embers at "Log Mark 6" for about 40 minutes and serve with a little butter and salt on one of the remaining split logs - more holz cuisine than haute cuisine!

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