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Trip Report Scotland: Little trips - Kyles of Bute & Argyll

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Today’s day-trip is by car from Glasgow to my home village of Tighnabruaich in Argyll. It has been close to 15 years since my last visit, I have now no living relatives there. A little bit about my background first as some of what follows might fit in better.

I was born in a very small farm cottage (or croft) located at Ardlamont, around five miles from the village. My father was a sea captain and spent long, long periods away. My mother died when I was 4yo and I was brought up at the cottage by two uncles and my grandmother. My father married again when I was 15yo and we moved from Tighnabruaich to a port town in North Ayrshire. I know that my family has been in this part of Argyll since, at least 1652 (the year of the oldest parish record that we have found) so it’s quite a heritage. If you come along with me on this journey, you’ll read about places that nobody ever visits simply because they don’t know they exist! But, I do.

It’s in two parts.

Journey time outwards: 2hours 50 minutes (allow yourself around 4.5 hours though to get the best of the places visited in this part of the trip report)

PLACES: Loch Lomond, Rest and be Thankful, Loch Fyne, Otter Ferry, Kilfinan, Millhouse, Ardlamont and Kames

My other nephew Murray was the driver today and he did a great job. Once again, we struck it lucky with the weather as we left Glasgow that May morning. It was sunny and clear although still a wee bit cold.

From my home, it is a very easy journey to Loch Lomond. Heading on to the city’s Great Western Road (the A82) we drove past Old Kilpatrick, Bowling and Alexandria (in years gone each town housed enormous number of shipyard and textile workers) and in only 35 minutes or so we had started the journey along the banks of the loch. I need to say that the A82 is an excellent road, busy in parts but well maintained and sign-posted.

LOCH LOMOND: Today it looked magnificent. The hills all around us had a very noticeable blue caste, which I’d never seen before. It was the time of year for the bluebell of course so I think that is what was causing the effect. This is a wonderful drive, the road easy (still the A82) and with it being mid-week reasonably quiet. Soon we arrived in Tarbet and by my reckoning this drive along a large part of the loch took only about 30 minutes.

We took a sharp left at Tarbet onto the A83 arriving in Arrochar around 10 minutes later. Although we were spoiled for scenery driving along Loch Lomond I loved the landscape here as you curve around the head of Loch Long. Staying on the same road I could feel the climb beginning as we continued along the same road, now heading west, towards the Rest and be Thankful.

REST AND BE THANKFUL: For me, this is a must-see. I’ve always loved the views here, many of the hillsides are completely tree covered, the mixture of colours fantastic and small lochs in a few places. I looked down, as I always do, at the old Military Road far below. Started in the mid 1700’s it connected Dumbarton with Inveraray and is still sometimes used as a diversion when the road we are on today is blocked. I now know, thanks to the Internet, that Rest & Be Thankful are the words inscribed on a stone near the junction of the A83 and the B828, placed there by soldiers who built the original military road in 1753.

Site address: https://www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/rest-and-be-thankful-p250101

We turned left at the first junction, around 20 minutes later, onto the A815, the road to Dunoon.

The glorious scenery continues and soon, on our right, we see the head of Loch Fyne. This very old road winds its way down Loch Fyne, but on the opposite side of the loch to Inveraray, which we can clearly see.

This is a bonnie drive down and in around 25 minutes, we reach Strachur and stop for our first coffee-break at the Creggans Inn. It was easy access for me, a wee bit expensive but worth it, just to sit and enjoy the view. From Glasgow to this point has taken us just less than two hours.

We started the journey again, ignored the left hand turn to Dunoon, turning right A886 towards Otter Ferry instead. Again, you’ve loch-side views to the right and 10 minutes or so later we came to another junction. Turning right again me moved onto the B8000 (signpost says Tighnabruaich Coastal Route) and then first left, signposted 'to Kilfinan'. We were now on a narrow road which eventually becomes single-track. Soon we arrive at the very pretty and not too often visited Otter Ferry.

OTTER FERRY: I remember this little hamlet from my very earliest years. It was my grandmother’s favourite picnic spot. Here is the little pier where the ferry across the loch started from, a small tearoom and not a lot else. There is one large restaurant a little further along the beach away from the road. On the pier we had a panoramic view of the loch, hills and mountains.

VisitScotland has a page about the large restaurant and it’s worth checking out because there are a good few photographs of the hamlet itself:

https://www.visitscotland.com/info/food-drink/the-oystercatcher-otter-ferry-p1188231

After wheeling me back from the pier, we drove the steep hill out of Otter Ferry, continued on the B8000, heading for the old village of Kilfinan, the parish administrative centre in days gone by.

KILFINAN: A very pretty little place, a few shops and somewhere refreshments. The 13th century church here has some very ancient stones in its cemetery and it also houses the Lamont Vault.

If you have an hour to spare then perhaps I can suggest a small detour to somewhere few people know about. It’s called Clady House (Tigh-Cladaich), and is a ruined settlement that sits at the loch-side.

TIGH-CLADAICH: I only know about Clady House because of my grandmother’s interest and a family connection. You cannot see it from the road and it is not signposted anywhere. The little houses were exclusively used by herring fishermen and their families. I do know from official records found when I did our family tree that I had some ancestors here, all herring fishermen, almost all of whom died before they were 40yo due to what was described as ‘water in the lung’, which I think is possibly pneumonia. I understand the little cottages were built in the early 1800’s but now you can only see the outline of each. To see it, drive through Kilfinan village and at the first turning right you will see a signpost that says Otter Estates. Walk down the road (about 15 minutes) and keep on it until you get to the sea. Look around just above the sandy beach and you will find the ruins.

Today, we pass the access road to Clady House and I see for the first time in years a small loch on the left hand side. It’s called Melldalloch and in the middle of it is a small island. On it is an ancient round-house built between the mid-7th and early 6th centuries BC. When I was at school we were taken here a few times.

Again, here are some details:

https://canmore.org.uk/site/139150/melldalloch-island

We continued on, through the little village of Millhouse and soon, on the left, we look along almost the length of the Island of Arran. The road is high at this point and the views fantastic. We are now looking down onto the roofs of Ardlamont House.

ARDLAMONT: The road winds first through the service areas of Ardlamont House, the home of the Lamont family for centuries then along past the mansion itself including its little schoolhouse. Ardlamont Estate was a major employer of local folks, from servants to farm workers and many in my family worked for them. They were a hugely influential family.

Details are here: https://canmore.org.uk/site/98691/ardlamont-house

Continuing on you come to a junction. If you turn right, you will be taken to Point Farm. Just past the farm are two very large rocks where you’ll find ancient cup and ring marks. Public access is allowed.

We turned left at the junction and got the first view of the family croft. Sadly, it now is roofless and around it is completely overgrown. I hope someday it will be bought and renovated because it deserves to be turned into a happy home again. We spent a good bit of time here then headed towards Kames village.

Driving along this single-track road we passed first the farm called KIldavaig and then another called Carry. This was a farm when I was young but now it has been converted into the offices of a sailing school, has a small shop and tea and coffee is available. They also now have in two of the fields large wooden chalets but they do seem to blend in with the surroundings.

ACHADACHOUN: Just after the farm, there are trees on either side of the road and only a few yards further on I could see a stream on the left hand side. I can’t now do this but know that if you follow that stream up the steep hill (there is no footpath and this is not signposted) you will come to another ‘secret’ place, a ruined hamlet. Inhabited until about 1915 what is there now is the outline ruins of five or six small homesteads. I’d family here too and the last time I’ve been able to find any of them living there was the 1911 census. You have wonderful uninterrupted views from the hilltop towards Bute and the settlement has atmosphere, that’s for sure.

Continuing along the road (still on the B8000) we pass Blairs ferry then the large tank-landing area built during WW2 (This whole stretch of the coast was taken over by the government at that time and used for DDay landing practice exercises).

We now start climbing up into Kames Village, which has some of the best views of the area, and in a few minutes, we will arrive in Tighnabruaich. There are not any things of note in Kames and its hub is the Kames Hotel. When I was young, the hotel bar was known as the glue pot. Once in, you were stuck and just couldn’t leave. Mind, there wasn’t a lot else to do in the evenings there when there was no television and scarcely a radio signal!

Next: Tighnabruaich, Ormidale, Colintraive, Rothesay, Wemyss Bay and Glasgow

Bill

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