Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 11 July 2013, Loch Sween, Scotland

A visit to the mainland lochs of Argyll

Motoring in flat calm

Who would have thought we'd need the awnings?
Fishing boat coming in with fresh catch

No wind again. The forecast was for variable Force 2-3, seas smooth, visibility moderate to poor, occasionally very poor in patchy fog – for the next three days!  We’re all motor boats with masts out here going this way and that.  Once again it’s shocking hot as we weigh anchor and make our way north.

Hazy entrance to Loch Sween. 
The East side of Islay didn’t have many suitable harbours for our draft so we decided to cross over the Sound to visit the mainland lochs on the way up to our planned meeting with the Ocean Cruising Club fleet in Craobh (pronounced ‘Croove’).  The entrance to Loch Sween was strewn with islets and rocks that we had to pick our way through, then it opened up into a lovely wide sea loch. Castle Sween on its eastern shore stands as a major ruin worthy of Game of Thrones.  The Castle Sween grounds were solidly packed with motor homes and trailer park, with tiny boats and kayaks strewn along the shore.  Alex kept saying what lucky people to have access to such a beautiful spot.  The high hills were otherwise devoid of homes and animals, unlike the Irish coast which is covered in sheep and cattle and homesteads everywhere. Plus the Irish hills are bright green, here it seemed more rocky and barren, with the occasional sprinkling of trees.
Castle Sween
Trailer park on Castle Sween grounds

The inner harbour at Tayvallich
The village of Tayvallich, pronounced ‘Tay-vee-al-ich’, a favoured haven for water craft as it sits on sheltered Loch a' Bhealaich, lies on the northern shore way at the head of Loch Sween. We may our way up the deep loch and dropped anchor in the sheltered cove just outside the inner harbour.  It looked so familiar yet so different from Ireland, but I couldn't put my finger on why. Then it hit me. Trees! The hills were covered with dense forest reminiscent of the Adirondacks, a favourite spot of ours in New York State.  In fact, it looked much like the lakes in the Adirondack National Forest except we got here by sea. It was so dark green, lush and peaceful.  Birds gliding up high, including a falcon or eagle calling from somewhere above. The smell was fresh and clean with the faint scent of pine instead of sea.  

Tayvallich Inn with pub and restaurant 
Aleria anchored by Loch  a' Bhealaich
We were the only boat in the anchorage but the inner harbour was chock full of vessels of every size including one bigger than ours. There wasn’t a mooring, a slip or a space to anchor. Full up (£5 overnight for a dinghy, £15 mooring, £20 slip). So we drove in by dinghy and took a walk around ‘town’.  

Tayvallich village
It is clearly a holiday town, the main street lined with neat cottages for rent, with a small but tidy caravan ground and camping area, a village shop and post office, and the Tayvallich Inn which serves as the local pub, meeting place, and restaurant. The food was excellent! We had an early dinner of fish and chips and the fish special, another local Scottish ale, and watched the traffic buzz by and the people collect here and there. This hot weather had brought everyone out. People swimming, walking boating, conversing, and driving like maniacs on these tiny twisty roads!

Heading home with their dog in the front seat
Back on the boat, we enjoyed the long remaining hours of sunlight reading in the cockpit – and NO MIDGES!  We had come armed with 50% deet and lots of other anti-midge control stuff, having been warned of their voracious appetite for sailors in particular. But there seemed to be none. Maybe they were taking siestas in the sun or maybe they migrated north with the whales. We lit the citronella candles just in case as darkness fell and we brought out the reading lights. It's not often in these northern latitudes that it remains warm enough to sit outside in shorts and T-shirts till midnight!

People sat on benches along the shore watching the activity in the harbour.  Lots of small craft headed home by water after dinner, people waterskied until the late hours, and others just headed out for a sunset cruise. All midge free. 
A serenely beautiful loch anchorage and no midges!

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