Monday, November 23, 2009

Isle of Bute: Blackpark Stone Circle

Incredibly atmospheric and well worth a visit (we loved discovering them!), these three standing stones are all that remain of the original seven. They are surrounded by forestry plantation and composed mainly of quartz which explains their glittery appearance when seen at close quarters. One of the stones has been split by frost.

They aren't difficult to find: not far from the village of Kingarth, drive south along the A844, soon turning left onto a B road which runs down the centre of the peninsula. Continue along here until you see a signpost on the left pointing towards a forest track (it's possible to park here at the side of the road). The stones are found a short distance along here on the right on the edge of the Blackpark Plantation (hence the name of the stones).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dunoon: Sandbank and Holy Loch

Ardnadam is part of Sandbank and has the longest pier around the Firth of Clyde (200 ft/60m long), not shown to its best advantage in my photo above, unfortunately (click to see larger). Built in 1858, it was used as a steamer pier. Prior to the First World War, there was actually a regular daily service of 15-20 pleasure steamers which called at Ardnadam Pier for the benefit of locals and tourists! During World War Two the loch was used by the Royal Navy for exercises and a submarine base. From 1961 (amid great controversy) it was used by the US Navy for various vessels and as home to the Polaris nuclear submarines until it was decommissioned in 1992. (At the bottom there are links to web pages where more detailed information can be found)

Along the shore road is Lazaretto Point and the beautiful 35 ft high circular memorial to the dead of both world wars. It was designed by architects from Greenock and the work carried out by a Dunoon builder. The opening ceremony took place in 1922. The memorial includes a later plaque which commemorates the six submarines which left from the Holy Loch which, like its men on board, never returned.

The view at Lazaretto Point across Ardnadam Bay and the Holy Loch is really superb. The point takes its name from the quarantine station built in 1807 during the Napoleonic wars.

There was once a ferry which ran from here across the Holy Loch to Kilmun on the opposite bank. Unfortunately, it was discontinued in the 1970s

Geoffrey enjoying some welcome sunshine!

An interesting fact about this bench is that the wood was taken from the mast of the racing ship, Valkyrie 2, which sank in 1894 (killing a member of the crew) after a collision with another yacht. Later, she was recovered and broken up, the mast being used for many years as a flagpole at the Royal Marine Hotel. It was later removed for safety reasons and turned into benches around the memorial tower!

View across the water from the bench towards Kilmun and Strone on the opposite bank

Below: Near the tower, almost on the shore, are three metal benches in a row which commemorate three young people from the area who tragically died in a boating accident in 2005. The benches bear symbols of their combined interests including music and sailing.

My photos show only two of the benches; the third has musical notes set into the back

Below: Some hoverflies alighting on wild flowers beside the shore

A short video showing the Holy Loch from Lazaretto Point

I'm greatly indebted to a local resident, Robert Diamond, who, when he realised my interest, actually insisted on giving me three brand new books on the area, though we had only just met! I recommend all three:

Sandbank, Life and Times by Ann Galliard
Sandbank, War and Peace by Ann Galliard
Sandbank "Our Village", produced by Sandbank Community Council

I ought to add that, although I have included this blog for convenience under the heading of 'Dunoon' - as it is less than three miles away - Sandbank has always been very much a separate village in its own right.

There's more information about the Holy Loch on the Wikipedia page here and a page about the US Navy in the area here

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Loch Eck

Six miles north of Dunoon, this beautiful loch is part of the Argyll Forest Park and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. It is a narrow loch, seven miles long, which is surrounded by steeply banked forests and rugged mountain scenery. It has supplied Dunoon with its drinking water since the 1970s.

The rowan trees along the banks were laden with vivid berries when we were there last

I was fascinated to read that Loch Eck was once joined to the Clyde (via the Holy Loch) 14,000 years ago!

My photos were all taken at Jubilee Point beside the A815.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dunoon: Around the Town

Various photos taken in one of our favourite towns!

Argyll Street - a great little shopping centre

Bells of Dunoon - a fantastic clothes and souvenir shop! Website here

The Argyll Hotel is opposite the pier, and is one of Dunoon's distinctive landmarks.
The hotel website is here

Hillfoot Street and Argyll Vintners - the only place in the town (owing to new licencing laws) where you can buy gift packs of alcohol to take home (miniatures in tartan boxes etc).

Tourist Information Centre along
Alexandra Parade - a great place for books, maps, gifts and good helpful advice

The Castle House Museum details the history of Cowal to the present day, the history of the Clyde steamers, the wartime years and the American Naval base at the nearby Holy Loch. It is one of Dunoon’s most historic buildings set in beautiful gardens - unfortunately I have not had time to go inside yet!

On the hill opposite Dunoon Pier and erected in 1896, the statue of Robert Burns' 'Highland Mary' Campbell stares sadly across the water. You can read the full story here

The Yachtsman Cafe - probably the best place to eat, such good food and so reasonably priced too!

Geoffrey listening to those lovely Clyde waves (they sound nicer than any other kind!!)

Below, the beach near the cafe - swans, gulls and the odd crow

Below: looking south from the same spot, and the road to Innellan...

...and across the water to the Cloch Lighthouse

There's much more information about Dunoon here

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ardrossan 2

Just a few extra photos of the harbour and the new flats around the edge

My original blog and photos are here