A cloudy day on Mull

Contrary to what the title of this post suggests, we actually started yesterday in Oban with a short visit to Dunollie lighthouse. This little lighthouse, made up of a stone tower and lantern with gallery placed on top of it, is quite understated and that’s one of the things I like about it. I also like the fact that it’s still standing as actually, close up, it looks like it’s just made of a big pile of rocks – the sort of thing my 6-year-old might make, just on a larger scale. But standing it is and it has been for over 100 years.

Dunollie lighthouse

Joe the Drone had a little flight around the area.

Dunollie lighthouse from the seaward side

Meanwhile I spent a while at the nearby War Memorial to mark an early 2-minute silence for Remembrance Sunday.

War Memorial at Dunollie

We had a little time before we had to be at the ferry and I mentioned the old Northern Lighthouse Board houses on Pulpit Hill so we took a drive up to find them. I took a guess at which they were and the series of 5 large buildings with four front doors each seemed most likely. This has since been confirmed by my former keeper friend Ian. He actually stayed in one of them while off duty during his time serving on Skerryvore.

The old Northern Lighthouse Board buildings on Pulpit Hill

The houses were built to house the families of those keepers (and the keepers themselves when off duty) while they were based at some of the major rock stations off the west coast.

After taking a look at the buildings I contacted Ian again as I wasn’t sure how it had worked with the families. I knew the families of the keepers on Skerryvore, Dubh Artach, Barra Head and Hyskeir lived there, but I wasn’t sure if there were any others. Ian explained that initially each block was for each lighthouse, so Dubh Artach, Skerryvore, Ushenish, Barra Head and Lismore. The families of the Hyskeir keepers stayed in a separate house (Glenmore House) which is still on the other side of Pulpit Hill.

It changed when Lismore was automated in 1965 though and the Hyskeir families moved to the blocks. He added though that, as time passed and more of the lights were automated, the blocks began to house families and keepers from other lighthouses. Ian himself stayed in one of them while off duty from Pladda, for example. It was good to see these buildings and Ian has said before that it was quite a community up there with, I imagine, anything up to 20 families there at any one time.

It was time to hop on the ferry to Mull, which was thankfully very quiet. The sailing to Mull (or in fact a lot of sailings out of Oban) are always enjoyable as you pass a number of lights including Dunollie followed by Lismore and Lady Rock. It was good to see Lismore with the main island in the background thinking “I was there yesterday” and then looking over to Lady Rock thinking “I landed there last year”!

Lismore lighthouse with the island of Lismore to the right
Lismore lighthouse
Lady Rock lighthouse

Almost immediately Duart Point was next to us and to this one I thought “I’ll be there shortly – hopefully”. We weren’t sure how easy it would be to get to as we knew there was a big craggy Rock behind it and it wasn’t clear how easily we would get around that. There was only one way to find out.

We headed straight for Duart Castle, which is currently closed, but the car park is a good starting point for the walk to the Point. Bob had managed to find some directions on his GPS device for reaching a geocache very close to the lighthouse and this was a great help. I will try to include them as best I can here for anyone wanting to walk out to it.

The view from the approach road to Duart Castle

Walking back along the road we found the gate on the left just after a row of trees. Once through the gate (remembering to leave it as we found it, of course) I spotted another gate on the skyline at the top of the field as the instructions suggested.

Setting off for Duart Point
This gate marks the starting point from the road
Looking back at the second gate

Passing through that gate we turned left immediately and followed the fence and wall along. There are rough paths through the vegetation and I would actually recommend this time of year to visit if you can as the ferns have all died back exposing the grassy paths. I imagine they would be harder to see in Spring/Summer.

The landscape begins to open up – you want to head just to the right of the tree and then onwards between the two raised sections of ground

Where the wall ends the landscape opens up and we headed “straight on to the left” as Bob calls it (which basically means somewhere between straight on and left!) This route zigzags as you go downhill and once you are on a flatter section you have two options, you can either stay up high and view the tower from above first or continue around and down to the right. The tower is tucked away just to the left of the trees at the coast. As you go down you should then spot the tower as you follow the grassy track down.

Looking back up at the zig zag section
The final approach to the lighthouse

It was raining today so it was quite wet underfoot and a lot of the ground was covered in leaves, understandable as Autumn draws to a close. It was great to spot the tower through the threes and craggy rocks though. It’s a beautiful tower, originally built as a memorial of the Scottish author William Black who died in 1898 and always enjoyed Duart Point. The cost of the tower was partially covered by Black’s family and friends and there is a lovely plaque above the door explaining this.

Duart Point lighthouse

The only real indications of this being a lighthouse are the Northern Lighthouse Board plaque on the door and the modern little light and solar panel on top of the tower. There is a little platform nearby that looked like it may once have accommodated some sort of derrick.

The platform in front of the tower

The tower has enough variety in its shape to make pictures from every angle look quite different. My favourite view was of the lighthouse in the foreground with the big rock behind it.

A picturesque angle on Duart Point lighthouse

Another great angle was from the fence around the trees. This angle gave you a view of the Duart Point tower with Lismore to its left and Lady Rock to its right. It’s not often you get that kind of view.

A view of three lighthouses: Lismore in the distance, Duart Point and Lady Rock

Joe the Drone had come along and, although it was slightly wet, Bob thought he’d give him a fly anyway and he got a few great shots.

Duart Point from above
One of Joe’s great shots of Duart Point

Following the path back up we then wandered along to the top of the craggy rock to look down on the tower. This is an excellent angle on it, particularly if you want to get a better view of the lighting equipment. The viewpoint allowed us to get some Joe-type images without needing to use Joe. I would highly recommend including a stop here in your walk if you go (just be careful near the edge).

Duart Point lighthouse as seen from the top of the craggy rock
The lighting equipment on top of the William Black memorial

Annoyingly the weather started to clear up as we walked back, but we’d still enjoyed the visit to the light and the nice walk to get to it.

With no ferry leaving the island until after 4pm we had a few hours to kill. Unfortunately we didn’t have long enough for Bob to do a hill or for the walk out to Rubha nan Gall so we went for a drive. Mull seemed very unfamiliar to me, particularly the southern part, and it’s no surprise really as I worked out I’d only been once before (if you exclude the quick stop off at Ardmore Point from a chartered boat last year). It was beautiful to see it though, especially with the clearing skies and the sun eventually deciding to make an appearance.

A lone sheep on the banks of Loch na Keal on the west coast of Mull
The change on weather conditions was evident at a number of points
Looking back at Loch na Keal

After a fair wait at the terminal at Fishnish we boarded the ferry for the short crossing to Lochaline. By this point it was beginning to get dark and so I enjoyed the outline of the landscape as Bob drove us along to Corran. I always find Corran lighthouse just seems to suddenly appear when you aren’t expecting it and that was exactly what happened yesterday evening as we arrived suddenly at the Corran ferry at Ardgour. The joy of seeing lighthouses at night is, of course, seeing them in action. Corran is a good one as it has the red and green sectors which make for a more colourful view. This was another one I could look at and think “I was at the top of that tower last year”.

Corran lighthouse

Across the water I could also see the little Corran Narrows light flashing away and I remembered the unnecessarily tricky walk down to that one!

After crossing the channel on the Corran ferry we began the journey northwards and home. It had been great to get another weekend away this year, while we could. Who knows what the coming weeks and months will bring. Stay safe everyone and, if I don’t manage another post then have a restful Christmas time. Let’s hope 2021 can be an improvement upon this year. 🙂

A Bute-iful day!

It’s not often I use a pun in the titles of these posts, but it was too good an opportunity to miss today. It really has been a beautiful day and a good portion of our lighthouse antics took place on the Isle of Bute.

I have been aware of Rubh’an Eun lighthouse on the southern point of Bute for a long time and knew it involved a walk. It wasn’t one I was desperate to get to, but with it being a “proper” little lighthouse of a style I am rather partial to it did hold a fair amount of appeal. I’d heard from my friend John that the path to the lighthouse was a little narrow in places, that he’d seen a cow pat and then almost fallen into a gully. It all sounded a little dramatic and so Bob and I decided to invite him along for round two in the hope that it would make for a more enjoyable and less frightening day!

We had an early start this morning to make sure we could get across to Bute before the ferries got busy. The sun was shining and the sea was so calm that we all wished we were going out on a smaller boat hopping from one island to another. The journey to Kilchattan Bay, the starting point for the walk, was picturesque and when we arrived we began to realise that this wasn’t another one of our remote walks during which we would see no one else.

One of many views from the walk, with Little Cumbrae in the distance

Maybe it was the weather, but the walk was stunning and it was great to take in the surrounding views especially over towards Little Cumbrae. The walk makes up part of the West Island Way and is really varied with easy grassy sections, parts where you need to navigate around or over rocks, some slightly overgrown foliage and muddy stretches especially after the recent period of heavy rain.

One of the interesting natural features on the walk

For most of the walk John had been up front, but as we rounded a corner he hung back and let me go first in order to let me see the lighthouse without others in the way. That first view you get of the lighthouse is beautiful – or it certainly was today anyway. The tower must have undergone a fairly recent makeover as it was nicely painted with the only remnants of its previous rust colour appearing near the very bottom of the tower. John said it was a vast improvement on his first visit when it looked in a poor state and the door was open.

Rubh’an Eun lighthouse comes into view

There were two people near the lighthouse as we approached, but thankfully they wandered off as we approached leaving us with plenty of time to explore before we were disturbed again. It really is a wonderful landscape and one which can only really be described to a certain degree by pictures so here are a few angles – including one from Bob’s drone which buzzed around while we explored.

Rubh’an Eun lighthouse

I won’t be forgetting this visit in a hurry and I’d be more than happy to go back again in future. It well and truly gets my seal of approval and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good walk on a nice path with a hint of being in the middle of nowhere, but not too remote.

One of Bob’s aerial images of Rubh’an Eun lighthouse

Leaving behind this impressive island we made for Ravenrock Point for the second day in a row. We wanted John to see the structure here and give his opinion on whether it was worthy of lighthouse status. I was pleased to have gone back as yesterday I’d been so focussed on the lighthouse that I’d not noticed the nice little cove and beach area just to the north of it. I’ve included a picture of the cove here, but one of the lighthouse can be found in yesterday’s post.

The cove at Ravenrock Point

Having seen Toward lighthouse from various angles and numerous times over the past week it was time to finally pay it a visit. Bob hadn’t been to this one before which was even more reason to go. I really like this tower and I enjoyed seeing it the first time on my 2012 lighthouse tour. It was very interesting to be back there today, eight years later, with the extra knowledge and experience I have gained. I am still fond of it and imagine it is a great little place to live.

Toward lighthouse and foghorn

I paid more attention to the foghorn and its church-like building today than I ever had before. There’s not much to the actual horn itself so the building seems quite oversized – unless, of course, it was used for something else. As we wandered around on the rocks Bob spotted the old jetty that would have been used for servicing the lighthouse.

An aerial view at Toward

Heading north from Toward we had some time to kill before the fish and chip shop in Dunoon opened so we stopped in a small lay-by off of the main road to see the Perch beacon, which we had spotted from the boat last weekend. Bob had intended to send the drone out to get some closer images of the beacon, but the local oystercatchers kicked up a fuss and so that effort was abandoned. A little further up the road we glanced at the beacon on The Gantocks.

A poor quality image of Perch beacon was the best I could get

Arriving back just in time for fish and chips from Anselmo’s – which quite deservedly has great reviews – we made our way to the seafront and ended the day enjoying our dinner from a bench with views across the water to Cloch lighthouse. It’s days like this that you feel very lucky to be able to experience these places and to do so alongside family and friends makes it extra special. 🙂

The little lights of Argyll

Today has been spent exploring some lighthouses in Argyll. With lighthouses being on the coast I’m not so used to being surrounded by trees on my lighthouse adventures, but in Argyll it’s a completely different ball game – the trees are everywhere.

It’s because of these trees that back in 2012 when I did my original lighthouse tour I missed out on seeing Caladh Beacon, just to the north of Tighnabruaich. I remember scouring the coastline there and just not being able to see it. As a result it had remained unvisited, by me at least, ever since. Today was the day I was finally going to see it and so I set off this morning with Bob for the ferry from Gourock to Hunter’s Quay. On the way we passed Cloch lighthouse, which I quickly grabbed a few pictures of as we drove past.

Cloch lighthouse

Once on the other side it was a matter of driving tree lined roads until we reached Tighnabruaich, which actually looks quite a big place with some rather expensive-looking houses. We found a space to park and began our walk to the lighthouse. It follows a clearly marked track (or road really) which follows the coast around the Kyles of Bute.

The track to Caladh Beacon

The path went up and down a little with the occasional waterfall running to the side of and underneath the path. Occasionally it was possible to spot the lighthouse between the trees, but very rarely. It was only once you are almost at the little point on which the lighthouse sits that it really comes into view.

Caladh Beacon through the trees

As we approached we noticed a gate with “private” on it and it was clear that it wouldn’t be possible to go that way. We could see a car behind the gate and so suspected someone must be about – the perils of visiting at peak holiday time. I sent a quick message to my ever-trustworthy pal John to ask what he did when he visited previously and he said he’d skirted around the rocks to avoid the garden. Bob decided to send his drone up to check out the lie of the land and it showed that there was at least another car there and a house just behind the tower. While the drone was up he got some great shots.

Caladh Beacon by drone

Just after he’d taken the drone down a couple of locals appeared with their dogs. Bob asked them about access to the lighthouse and they said that it was private. They also said that a man who works for the owners of the house was working up on the road and to ask him if he could sort something out. We never saw the man they referred to and I left feeling a little disappointed. Bob reminded me that I’d got as close to that one as I had to Dubh Artach (although Caladh Beacon was a shorter tower so it looked further away). We decided we’ll see if we can sort out quick access by boat at some point.

Back from the walk we set off in the direction of Loch Fyne to see what kind of view it was possible to get of Sgeir an Eirionnaich. Finding the car park I had mentioned in my book was easy enough and the shoreline here certainly offered a better view of it than I’d had before. It was still fairly distant though and this is another that needs a chartered boat trip to get a better view.

Sgeir an Eirionnaich, cropped image from the drone

After our viewing of Ravenrock Point from the boat on Saturday, a bit of closer inspection was required, especially as it is so close to the road. Just to the south of Ardentinny we spotted it within the trees and found a lay-by a very short distance away. The structure looked very much as I had expected with the column with lights and radar on top and then a small hut on the landward side which was connected to the light structure only by a series of cables.

Ravenrock Point lighthouse

This sparked a bit of a debate, which I’d already been having in my head anyway, about whether or not it met my lighthouse criteria. I’ll have to think about this one, but it was a nice little tower to visit anyway. It was possible to get down onto the rocks in front of it too with a much clearer path down there than we had experienced at Cnap Point at the weekend!

The ferry back from Hunter’s Quay was certainly busy, probably due to the A83 being closed due to a land slip after all this rain, but we managed to get on and off with enough time to cram in a couple more little lighthouses. Port Glasgow beckoned. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but they are always a joy to see with their checkered towers. My nearly three-year-old calls them the ‘oyster catcher lighthouses’ due to their colour!

The two Port Glasgow lights

The rain had well and truly set in by this point, but it didn’t matter as there were lighthouses to be seen. 🙂