A spin up Loch Long

After the visits to Hestan island and some of the lights on the Rhins of Galloway last weekend, we had a great week in Dumfries and Galloway, including a fishing trip during which my son and I both caught our first fish. We also spent yesterday afternoon on the beach at Southerness. The location, of course, was based on there being a lighthouse there. I’m not sure I’ve spent quite so long at one lighthouse before as we did yesterday, but it was great to see it with the tide out as the previous visit had been at high tide.

Southerness lighthouse

Bob took the opportunity to play with his drone again and got some great images of the lighthouse from above.

Southerness lighthouse from above

We are now based over in Troon, staying with Bob’s mum. There have always been a few tricky lighthouses to get to in the area and so, with childcare on hand, we headed out today from Largs with Sea Clyde. We took along our little boy, Seumas, and my lighthouse friend John. Our destination for today was Loch Long, with a couple of others thrown in on the way there and back.

Regardless of how many times you see a lighthouse from land it is always different seeing it from the sea. After all they were made to be seen from the sea as John pointed out. On the way out today we sailed close to Cloch lighthouse and stopped for a while for some pictures. It looked a popular spot for fishing and it was good to see the foghorn in more detail too as the view is limited from the road. 

Cloch lighthouse

Bob had his first attempt at launching the drone from a boat and landing it back down, which scary and amusing in equal measure. After a slightly stressful first attempt at taking off he then got on fine. Landing it back on the boat was very entertaining with the drone ending up giving John’s arm a firm hug!

An aerial view of Cloch lighthouse

Our next light was Ravenrock Point on the west bank of Loch Long. Due to social distancing guidance, Sea Clyde weren’t able to take along a dinghy to help with landings so we didn’t expect to be able to land at any of the lights today. The crew, John and Dan, took a look at how deep the water was around the lighthouse, but it wasn’t possible for us to land there. However it’s not too bad as this one is next to the road anyway so can be visited by land at another time. It looks like an interesting one to get a closer view of.

Ravenrock Point lighthouse

Further up the loch we stopped at Carraig nan Ron, or Dog Rock, and the water was nice and deep around this small rock which allowed them to get the boat right up to it. It was also dry and covered in barnacles so perfect for stepping onto. Seumas stayed safely in the boat with his camera, taking pictures of us as we visited the light. It was great to be back out and stepping onto these little islands again. There wasn’t much to the lighthouse, just a white column with the light sticking up from the top, but it had a little door and the rock was big enough to get some nice angles on it.

Carraig nan Ron (Dog Rock) lighthouse

We’d sailed past Coulport where nuclear warheads are stored and loaded onto submarines. As we sailed away from Dog Rock, John pointed out that from one particular angle the rock and lighthouse looked a little like a submarine. On the way back down the loch later in the trip we noticed the rock could be accessed from the mainland at low tide – although I wouldn’t want to advise anyone to get to it that way through the huge expanse of forest!

Carraig nan Ron in Loch Long

Our final disembarkation for this trip was Cnap Point, which turned out to be rather an adventure in itself. The easiest place to land was slightly to the south of the lighthouse which meant finding a route through the foliage and undergrowth to get the the lighthouse. Seumas stayed on the boat again this time while the three of us went ashore. Once we were past the rocks we found ourselves having, as I called it, “a nice forest walk”. It’s fair to say that Argyll Forest Park is very much a forest. Bob went off ahead to find a suitable route. At one point we lost track of where he had gone and John suggested we head down towards the coast to assess the route that way rather than continuing through the forest. It turned out to be a very good move as we heard Bob shout out a few times closer to the lighthouse. It turned out he’d walked into a wasp nest on the final approach to the lighthouse and had a battle with the wasps. Avoiding the same fate, John and I took the coastal route and arrived safely at the tower. It’s the same type of structure as Dog Rock, but with even better views around it. This light is the front in a range setup and the rear light – a framework tower with brightly coloured panels – was easy enough to see from a short distance.

Cnap Point lighthouse

The return walk was slightly less dramatic, thankfully, and once back on the boat we sailed further around to see both range lights from the sea. There aren’t many lighthouses you can see surrounded by trees and Argyll is fairly unique in that way, along with the Glenelg area in the Highlands.

The Cnap Point front and rear range lights

On the way back to Largs we passed The Gantocks and The Perch beacons in the Firth of Clyde. Although they are not officially lighthouses in my book, they are still interesting structures.

The Gantocks beacon

Our final lighthouse of the day was Toward Point. I’d only seen this one once previously from the land and so it was good to see it from the sea, even if John did refer to the foghorn as looking like a car exhaust. The foghorn building itself is quite interesting. Although it lacks the majesty of many of the bigger towers, it’s still a nice one.

Toward Point lighthouse

So that was my first boat trip of the year, which is strange to say in August. Normally by now most of my boat trips would have been and gone, but it’s certainly good to be back on the sea again. 🙂

An hour on the Clyde

Blythswood
Blythswood lighthouse

We made it onto the Clyde this morning with Greg and Ian from Seaforce. The purpose of the trip was to take in the four lighthouses between Renfrew and Dumbarton. While the Blythswood (Renfrew) and Donald’s Quay (near the north side of the Erskine Bridge) lights are accessible on foot, there were two less accessible: Dalmuir East and Dumbuck, hence why we chartered Seaforce’s RIB to get us to them.

Bob had suggested taking the kids and his mum with us for their first RIB ride, which seemed like a good idea, if a little more effort for us. Boat trips are very easy when you don’t need to worry about small people. When they come along you’re obviously worrying about their warmth, safety and whether or not they might just kick off at any moment.

The conditions couldn’t have been much better today, taking into consideration the fact that it is November. The river was nice and calm so balancing clinging onto the kids with trying to stay in the boat ourselves wasn’t such a problem. Bob had offered to be photographer as our one-year-old daughter is still hesitant to put me down after our recent periods away from them. While the boat was moving Bob held onto our four-year-old who he could temporarily let go of while the boat was stationary.

Dalmuir East
Dalmuir East lighthouse

The first lighthouse we reached was Blythswood. This light can be seen from the coastal path north of Renfrew, so not so difficult to get to. The river has a plethora of mainly green, but also, red lights and markers. Blythswood is green and is the only one in this section of the Clyde that looks like a traditional lighthouse. It has a band of graffiti on the lower section of the tower, which is a shame, but seems common on the accessible Clyde lights. Not only was the water calm today, but it was a little overcast making it an ideal day for reflections in the water. Blythswood stands on the edge of a tree-lined path and reflections of Autumn trees in water is always beautiful.

We continued on to Dalmuir East. This had been a troublesome one. It is located just at the edge of an industrial area with what appeared to be no access at all to the site. So there was only one way to see it! This one is smaller in size than some of the others along the Clyde, but many of those have external ladder access only whereas Dalmuir East has internal access. The lack of graffiti on it is probably a sign that it’s not possible to reach on foot.

Donald's Quay
Donald’s Quay lighthouse

Donald’s Quay, on the north bank of the Clyde next to the Erskine Bridge, was our third lighthouse of the trip. This one is easy enough to access, but while we were passing we thought it would be rude not to stop. This one is almost identical to the Dalmuir light, except it has a stone base, making it appear slightly more substantial. It was nice to sail under the Erskine Bridge too.

Our final stop of the day was at Dumbuck. Last Thursday we had stopped briefly near Dumbarton Castle to see it from the shore. It offers a distant view, but it is only when close up to the tower that you see that the structure is much larger than it’s various neighbouring lights and markers. On the upper stone section you can see the old windows, the majority of which are now broken. Greg informed us that there was previously a lantern on top, but this collapsed around the year 2001. There is a picture of the collapsed lantern here. We were pleased it was high tide while we were out as it meant we could get closer to the lights than we would otherwise have been able to. It’s a shame that the light has fallen into disrepair, but that is the often the problem with these structures located in or close to the sea that are so open to the elements.

Dumbuck
Dumbuck lighthouse

That was it for our hour on the Clyde today. We are looking to organise a trip with Seaforce next year to head out to Loch Long and Loch Fyne to see a few of the inaccessible by land lights out there. They were really helpful guys and weren’t fazed at all by the kids coming along (they both came along as a result of us taking children – it may have just been one of them if it had just been the two of us). The kids were well-behaved thankfully. The youngest fell asleep and the eldest really enjoyed the “fast boat”.

So, this may well be the last post of the year, which isn’t bad going seeing as it’s already November. This has been the longest “bagging season” since 2012 and absolutely the best year so far. I’ve seen lighthouses I had been waiting a long time to see, discovered plenty of new places and met some wonderful people and new friends through my more active involvement with the Association of Lighthouse Keepers.

Plans are already afoot for some very exciting trips next year already, the thought of which should keep me going through the winter. For now though it’s time for me to go into hibernation in terms of visiting lighthouses, and save some money too (for next year’s trips, so the boss says). Thank you so much to those of you who continue or have started to follow my blog this year. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. If it has helped, inspired or encouraged you in any way then it is doing exactly what I intend it to. Until next year… 🙂