|12/02/2011||Filled under Scotland|
Our train ground to a halt for the fourth time and we sat gazing out of the window as two men in bright orange vests strolled by on the track. Each had a large, long handled hammer slung over his shoulder, not a sight likely to inspire confidence in the rail network and as we waited, and waited, it gradually began to dawn on us that we might still be here when our flight from Bristol took off and flew over us. At last an announcement came, but this filled us with even more gloom as its tone was depressive, predicting as it did no end to the holdups on the line ahead. There were signalling problems on the network, delays on the ‘trunk line’ ahead and no sooner had the words come out when rumours about fallen trees blocking the line began to spread amongst our fellow travellers, which just goes to show how we hear either what we want or what we expect to hear, never what is actually said. So far as we were concerned missing our flight to Glasgow would scythe through our carefully planned timetable, the booked rental car and accommodation, the visits to friends and family on our return journey, as well as being a very costly experience. Our stress levels began bubbling nicely in the quiet of the railway carriage.
Fortunately the train eventually re-started and we did arrive at the airport in time so that little more than an hour later we were driving along the shores of Loch Lomond just as the dying light of the day was lighting up the freshly snow-covered mountain tops. We had been transported from the relative warmth of Somerset into the heart of a Scottish winter with ice crunching beneath the wheels of our hire car the moment the road climbed above sea level. Soon enough though we arrived at our B&B in Inverary and tucked into the tea and biscuits that was laid out for us, putting our travel worries behind us.
By morning there was a crust of ice on the car and the steps from the house we trod carefully, keeping our wits about us ready for the day for we were in Scotland to look at houses, to find a new home for ourselves. Our planned property viewings were lined up, all pre-arranged with the estate agents, so that we would see a different place at roughly hourly intervals throughout the day. This was the start of a new venture, our Scottish adventure into the Highlands of Argyll. Something is pulling us northwards like a magnet, drawing us in to a new life in this beautiful land, an area we have got to know very well over the two years since ceasing full-time employment and a place that is going to suck us in to its welcoming embrace.
When the Scottish winter can produce views like this, how can you resist?
We tramped first around Lochgilphead, a town which nestles snug at the northern end of a long sea loch, before moving along the shore to Ardrishaig where the Crinan Canal emerges from its journey across the land from the west. Here it is possible to live with salt water at the front door and fresh water at the rear as the canal runs close to the sea before it escapes. There were a few neat little properties here that interested us but winking away further south was a fishing village on the eastern shore of Kintyre and we had a rendezvous there at three o’ clock. We drove off south down the peninsula past East Loch Tarbert then turned onto a narrow road, wide enough for a single car with posts marking places where two approaching vehicles could pass. With nothing but a passing tractor to worry us, soon we were dropping down towards the sea, Kilbrannan Sound, and in the near distance the mountains of Arran rose large and dark. The road wound its way on, the surface broken by winter frosts so our tyres crashed and splashed into large black, water-filled holes. Slowly, up and down the hills beside the sea, in and out of gullies and rills, we closed on Carradale where the river Carra drains the Kintyre and where a settlement of some five hundred souls have made their home. Here we found a small house that will soon be our home, for a day later the deal was done, our offer accepted; we are now Scottish property owners. This is not some vast country mansion but nor is it a holiday home to be used just in the summer months. No, this place will soon become a permanent home for us both, within a small, remote village on the edge of the Kintyre peninsula, the sea just five minutes from our door and in every direction, more wilderness than you can throw a stick at.
Perhaps it is Kate’s Scottish ancestry that has brought us here or maybe it is our joint insanity that has pulled us in. Whatever it is we are totally comfortable with the idea of joining the small community of Carradale to begin a new life here. This is not some sudden whim, much though it may seem so through the pages of this blog, but instead it is something we have talked about long and hard between ourselves, sometimes deep into the night. Probably from the moment we sailed out of the Caledonian Canal into Loch Linnhe back in 2009 we began to have the inkling of an idea to get our lives to the point where we could re-locate permanently into the Highlands and we feel that the moment and the opportunity has now arrived. So rather than sit around doing nothing about it we have plunged headlong into action, researching the Internet to come up with a shortlist of affordable houses and taking our very limited funds north to make our choice. We have settled on the village of Carradale not specifically for its remoteness (this is a subjective term anyway) but more for the chance to live in a lively community where a spirit of self-sufficiency is the norm, and surrounded by the most beautiful scenery that this country can offer.