Monday, 2 May 2011

A Fyne day for a Royal wedding

The day of the Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was forecast to be a fine sunny day with a fresh to strong easterly wind - far too good to be sat in front of a television!

I planned a two day paddle down Loch Fyne and across to the Isle of Bute, hopefully going through the Kyles of Bute to the west side of the island.  I knew I'd have shelter from the easterly wind until I got into lower Loch Fyne, then I'd probably be exposed to it.

There's a good launch site in the village of Strachur near the head of Loch Fyne and I set out in very warm weather.  The wind was funnelling down the loch and gave me a good push.

Below Strachur, the lands on the east shore of Fyne are known as Strathlachlan.  It's a pleasant mix of wooded shore with pasture and moorland above.  After about 10 kilometers Kilbride Island is reached; above the shore on a small headland with views up and down the loch is a ruined chapel.  The name "Kilbride" suggests that an early monk may have used this place (the prefix Kil or Cill normally indicates a monks cell).  What is certain is that in the 12th century land and money were granted by the chief of Clan Lachlan to a group of friars in order to establish a chapel here.  As well as the main building, there are traces of other outbuildings visible on the ground.

A few kilometers further on, the ruin of Castle Lachlan occupies a rocky knoll next to a sheltered bay.  There has been a castle of one form or another here since the 12 century, with this building probably dating from the 13th century.  It was the seat of Clan Lachlan (or MacLachlan) who claimed ancestry from Irish princes (a Royal connection!).  The clan received land from Robert I of Scotland in the 12 century and were related to Clan Neill of Barra and Clan Sween - both clans noted sea raiders.

The castle is unusual in that within the square keep wall are linked tenement buildings and vaulted arches.  this was meant as a dwelling as well as being an impressive statement of power.  Today the south facing ivy-grown wall was a suntrap for visitors.

12 kilometers futher down the loch is Otter Ferry.  The name has nothing to do with the aquatic mammal, but derives from An Oitir (the spit), a sand bar which extends half way across the loch from here.  The ferry operated from the 18th century until 1948, and an anti-submarine boom was placed across the loch during World War 2.

The most significant building here now, especially for thirsty sea-kayakers, is the Oystercatcher.  A fine location for a sea kayaking pub, it also has the advantage of serving very fine Fyne ales.  I felt duty bound to drink a toast to the happy couple.....

The afternoon was turning to evening, but I had another couple of hours to go before finding a great camping spot on the shore.  I had great sightings of an Otter and a Fox on this stretch, the fox eading down the shore almost level with me.  At one point he stopped and sat down in a very dog-like manner to watch me pass.  So far I'd been sheltered from the wind, but during the last hour it had been increasingly turning against me and I knew that the following day would be hard.  It was time for an early night.

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