Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The Iron Man of Saddell Bay

After leaving Campbeltown Loch we turned north to head up the eastern side of the Kintyre peninsula. A minor road threads a way up this coast but for most of the way it's out of sight and sound and the shoreline is wooded for long stretches.  The rain had gradually faded to leave low cloud hanging above the shore; there was no sign of the island of Arran across the Kilbrannan Sound.

Our destination for the night was Saddell Bay, a south facing bay with a sand and shingle beach backed by a grassy area.  The castle here is often occupied, as is the large house owned by the Landmark Trust, so we intended to camp at the far end of the beach where our camp wouldn't intrude on the privacy of the residents.

As we approached the shore we could make out a figure, tall and straight, staring out to sea.  As we got closer we could see that the figure was a striking sculpture - we landed to take a closer look.

The figure is one of a series of five sculptures by the prolific artist and sculptor Sir Antony Gormley entitled "Land", each installed at a Landmark Trust site.  Each of the figures is different and conceived in response to the individual setting.  The theme explores what it is to be human in a landscape - and all are connected to the water.  Four of the life size iron figures are located looking out to sea from the coast, the fifth is in Staffordshire and stares down into a canal lock.  To me, this sculpture at Saddell Bay seems to have a relationship to the standing stones which stud the Argyll landscape.  Some people don't like the figures, some find them a wonderful addition to the site (myself included).  The whole series was commissioned and installed as a temporary installation and each will be removed during 2016; if you want to see the Saddell Bay sculpture....be quick!

A Man of Iron at Saddell Bay, and a sculpture by Sir Antony Gormley.

We'd sited our camp as far from the castle and house as possible (well farther back than in this image) and weren't visible from either - fully in line with the guidance on wild camping in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.  Despite this we were disturbed in the pre-dawn by a 4WD vehicle being driven between and around our tents, just a couple of feet away from each tent.  This was presumably one of the estate staff checking our camp, but the proximity of the vehicle was unneccessary.  No matter, if the dawn "drive by" was intended to alarm or intimidate us it was singularly unsuccessful; we went back to sleep for an hour or two and woke to a sunny morning.


  1. Gormley's figures are wonderful, Ian, it would be nice if they could be left. There's a place for such art that connects the human spirit with the landscape. Warm wishes.

  2. I really like the piece too Duncan, I think it may go on display elesewhere once removed from Saddell Bay :o)

    Warm wishes

  3. Not an area I know very well. I've seen his statues on the Water of Leith at Edinburgh but I still think the ones at Crosby Beach near Liverpool work best in that open, wide scale empty setting they have there and also The Angel of the North. Art is like music though- everyone has different tastes and opinions.

    1. The figures of "Another Place" at Crosby are one of my favourite modern sculptures Bob - they're also well worth seeing from the Mersey, set against the low beach

      Kind regards