A long weekend on the scenic Argyll coast

A few weekends ago, we took our tiny caravan west for the first time and met my parents in theirs.

The five days we spent just south of the Lynn of Lorn National Scenic Area — a protected and picturesque part of Scotland — passed in a haze. Beach walks, stove meals, sunsets, chemical waste disposal points, conversations together, sitting under all sorts of skies, and one morning of solid rain.

I took a notebook with me that long weekend, but it sat on a shelf in the caravan, unopened. Instead it was my camera, salt crystals still in its viewfinder from a boat trip many years ago, that captured places, faces, moments.

If I could send you each photograph like a postcard, a paragraph of text washed out in a handwritten scrawl on the reverse — an exhale between other moments — this is what I would say.

Sunset on the first night — waves of blue cloud melting into scaled pastel above the hill. Dinner, chores, or spring sea fog often get in the way of catching the sunset at home on the east coast of Scotland, so enjoying this one felt special.

Signs of spring along the nearby cycle path, National Cycle Network Route 78. We walked both north and south along the old railway line during the weekend, under old bridges, and beside bluebells, blossom, beaches and rabbits.

A favourite section of beach near the campsite, where we’d play as kids. Seaweed, basalt, beach, and a big house in the distance. Just below the house is its own private shoreline, which ironically isn’t as pleasant as the one I was standing on taking this photo.

Approaching Clach Tholl, a sea arch southwest of Port Appin, formed by coastal erosion around 12,000 years ago. There’s a short but beautiful walk around the peninsula here too which takes in some of Scotland’s rare temperate rainforest, lichens and liverworts.

A quiet moment I remember well: standing at the shoreline south of Port Appin, listening to the waves whisper between the seaweed and over fragments of shell. In pockets, pastel-hued whelks and perfect pebbles; in the distance, smirr approaching the isle of Eilean Dubh.

The Connel Bridge, a childhood memory from Easter holidays in the caravan with my parents and brother. The dynamics between us close then distant, always moving, like the tides.

Wandering through the gorse beside Oban airfield in the bank holiday sun. The three of us ducking down, pointlessly, as a plane came into land. Thick pockets of heat and that sweet coconut scent which always reminds me of lockdown and a similar — though far less scenic — path near home in Fife.

Seeing the hills and coastline of the west again, I feel as if I’m recognising something intensely familiar — nostalgic, close, enviable. There are many differences between here and Fife but the two bridges create a strange mirror. Yet where the Forth Bridge towers over the Fife landscape like the mountains we’re missing, the Connel Bridge is a squat imitation of the hills on Mull.

What has changed since I last stayed here over a decade ago? The tarmac cycle path that’s so well used now: couples pushing prams, day walkers, retired holidaymakers, us. The size and colour of the caravans have transformed from rounded, nineties beige to huge rectangles in bright white or fashionable grey.

Then there’s us. Grey strands above my ears, red fingertips, the stir of a line on my forehead. Dad’s stance, Mum’s hair. Only the rocks on the beach — lumps of basalt, shaped by lava and water aeons ago — change so slowly that to us, living outside of deep time, they appear immutable, anchored, the one certainty of this beautiful place.

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2 responses to “A long weekend on the scenic Argyll coast”

  1. Beautiful photos Laura. I think photos have become too normalised with all of our social media platforms, but I still find them a treasure of a moment, and possibly a diary of its own. I escape to words, but sometimes I have no words to describe that feeling which the photo captures. So going hand in hand, words with photos are the best possible thing.

  2. Your yellow gorse by the airfield shot would make a nice card, I think. What an impact Connel bridge has on the landscape. Such a pity the railway to Ballachulish was closed. I think it would have been very popular today.

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