Our plan was to anchor off St Ninian’s Bay on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. As we approached the wind changed direction. A swell rolled into the Bay from the southwest. If we had chosen to stay this would have meant an uncomfortable night at anchor. We decided not to stop and continued north through the relatively calm waters between the small island of Ichmarnoch and Bute. We hoped to find somewhere to stop in the sheltered waters deeper into the Kyles of Bute. The Kyles of Bute is the name given to the narrow sea straits between the Isle of Bute and the Cowal peninsular on the Scottish mainland. It is an outstandingly beautiful area protected by the Scottish Natural Heritage.
The Kyles are split into the West and East. The West Kyle runs up the sound of Bute to Tighnabruiach village where it turns eastward by Loch Riddon down to Rothsay Bay. Once we were out of the lea of Inchmarnoch Island Shemaron started to roll in the southerly swell. This confirmed our decision not to anchor at our original destination had been a wise one. The rain had stayed away but the skies were heavy as we entered the West Kyle. Here we were surrounded by land on three sides and sheltered from the swell. The uncomfortable rolling motion of the boat settled and we started to think about a place to stop for the night. We turned north towards the pier at Tighnabruiach. The old Victorian pier stretched out over the water. Still and silent, it was an inviting prospect.
Shemaron in Scotland
It was three years since we had been to Scotland and visited Tighnabruiach, it had been a bright and sunny day. I remembered the pier busy with people line fishing. When we arrived three years ago we had to stand off while the Waverly Paddle Steamer picked up passengers. Our arrival this time in the early overcast evening was quiet. There was a lull about the Kyles because of the unsettled weather. Empty moorings bobbed on the water as we slid gently alongside the old steamer pier.
There has been a pier on this site since the 1830’s. In 1885 the pier underwent reconstructive work. It provided an important sea link to this remote village in Scotland. The road from Ormidale to Tighnabruaich was opened in 1969. We ate in the village that evening. When we returned to Shemaron the street lights were on. It was almost a month passed mid summer and the long summer nights were shortening.
A resting place for Shemaron
Fifty years ago Shemaron used this pier as a resting place whilst fishing for herring around the mouth of the Kyles. This night a couple of anglers were fishing, unsuccessfully, from the pier. We offered to move Shemaron out into deeper water so they could try their luck from our deck. It was heavily dusk. Once away from the pier we turned off the engine and drifted silently on the current. Because it was getting so dark we could only stay out a little while. Our guests had no more luck from our deck than on the pier. They disembarked a short time later and not ready to give up stayed well into the night hoping for a bite. My bunk had been calling for a while I eventually lay wearily down and sank blissfully to sleep in the gentle stirrings of the night.
Early the next morning we left Tighnabruiach on a breath of fine Scottish air and entered Loch Riddon. Visibility was fair and there was a scattering of wispy cloud hanging low on the branches of trees along the way. There are times in the land and sea relationship especially in Scotland when the land holds court over the sea, speaking softly to it, soothing it and holding it calm between the deep rocks of its ancient glacial scape. It seemed like such a time when we came to Loch Riddon.
The sea was black as tar and our wake was long, slow and easy. Vegetation ran brightly down to the loch edge covering the sharp rocky shore and reflecting in the water. There was hardly a stir in the air. The hardwood burning on the fo’c’sle stove left a veil of smoke gently rising from the chimney. A faint smell of autumn hung about the damp July day. We thought it might be good to get some pictures of Shemaron away from Campbeltown Harbour wall and Loch Riddon was the closest candidate for a picturesque setting.
A Sobriety in the Atmosphere
Not long after we arrived the rain started again but with no wind to agitate it and without heavy drooping skies, it was a gentle, soft and beautiful thing. It dropped on the loch with delicate splashes, playing in the mirror images of the hills. Sometimes in these places when it is very still there is a sense of more than land and sea. There is a sense of time falling away. Raw emotions soothed over intervening time spans settle and the voices of long lost hearts and souls add a certain sobriety to the atmosphere.
The rain didn’t stop our photo session. Rather, it added the gravity of the atmosphere and a beautiful quality to the pictures. We took photographs from the dinghy. Rowing out onto the silent loch was a pure delight. Nothing moved except when we disturbed two herons on the shore. They took a laboured flight and settled further away on the rocks. The rain eventually grew dense though not heavy and we left the loch in low visibility picking our way across to Tarbert in the mist.