|11/04/2011||Filled under Kintyre, Scotland|
The lump of rock that is Davaar Island is neatly placed in the entrance to Campbeltown Loch, some fifteen miles to the south of Carradale, creating a natural harbour within the Loch itself, something the Admiralty has not been slow to take advantage of. The island’s shape has been likened to a large wave on the sea, steep on one side and sloping on the other, but its origins are in fact volcanic. There are many former volcanoes like this in the Highlands, where all that is left is the solidified core, surrounding material having eroded away leaving a convenient plug which serves to prevent the innards of the earth escaping.
Naturally enough Davaar island now has its own website, maintained in part to promote the delights of three holiday cottages tucked away just out of sight around the corner on the left of this picture. During the summer months the island’s resident population of two may even swell into double figures when these cottages are occupied. When it comes to visitors, however, since 1887 Davaar has had an attraction many a resort would die for for this was when a local art teacher at Campbeltown Grammar School painted the image of Christ on the cross which later became so famous. When we visited the damp cave in which it lies the low sun was streaming in casting a yellow light on the green algae covering the walls, giving the image an ethereal quality. Since 1935 when the artist died it seems to have been within the job description of the Head of Art at Campbeltown school to maintain the work, and if necessary repaint the rock entirely so that the island loses none of its visitor appeal. Hardly surprisingly the whole community was enraged when in 2006 the painting was vandalised, the body being covered with the image of Che Guevara but thankfully the skills of the art department put things back as they should be again.
Most people visiting the island do so via a narrow causeway which allows access several hours either side of low water, feet pleasantly dry. With Kate insisting on us taking a short cut across the sand our feet were far from dry for our visit but we know enough about walking in Scotland not to ever expect dry socks for very long. And having viewed the cave, most people will then return the same way, re-crossing the tidal boulders to reach the causeway before it becomes submerged. This is, of course, the sensible thing to do. To set off on a circumnavigation of the island, clambering over loose boulders which in a matter of hours would be once again beneath the sea would never be the recommended thing to do, so naturally this is what we felt inspired to do. Was it worth it? Most definitely yes for it gave us views of the island few will ever get to appreciate. Davaar’s eastern shore is best known to the goats which inhabit the cliffs, the otters (which we just missed seeing) and to seabirds like the peregrine falcon which hunts for prey from high above the cliffs. Having gained the safety of the lighthouse cottages we met the caretaker who, in his own words, has “the job of looking after the place for the summer – can’t be bad eh?”, before setting off along the causeway again for the mainland. The tide was rushing in but enough of the stony ridge was still exposed so we could return safely, even stopping en route to pick up some shells on the way.
Back in Campbeltown the sailing club was having its annual launching extravaganza, yachts on trailers arriving on the harbour wall to be craned up and placed back in their natural element, the sea. Having recently bumped into Jim, an incomer like us and a sailor too, at Carradale’s doctor’s surgery, at the harbour Kate and I were both introduced to the club’s leading lights, names being showered on us like confetti. They are clearly a friendly lot, these sailors, who we hope will forgive us for not remembering everybody we met there.