Getting up for the second time on the morning of the solstice observed
, we set off for Campbeltown. But first we stopped at Saddell Abbey, a ruined abbey - two part walls in a pleasantly overgrown graveyard - in the care of Historic Scotland (though their care, as D. points out, does not extend to removing the sycamore seedlings from the masonry). But a small stone shed at the entrance shelters a collection of magnificent carved stones, full length effigies, decorative foliage, even a small mermaid. We saw more of these throughout our holiday, but these were our first, and we were greatly impressed.
I liked Campbeltown itself, too. My Lonely Planet
guide describes it as 'blue collar' and suffering from the decline of its whisky and mining industries, but it has some fine old buildings: the cinema was undergoing restoration, and hidden behind boarding, but the Christian Institute (now council offices) was splendid, and the museum even better. Elegant houses front onto a little green, and cliff-like tenements have a classical severity.
That 'decline' has spared the town the invasion of the High Street chains, and there are some entertaining independents. We had arrived at Ferryman's Cottage to be greeted by a note from the housekeeper: "Sorry, your predecessors broke the kitchen scissors, and I don't have any in store," which was an excuse to visit Nickels'n'Dimes on the harbour front, where I bought a card of three pairs of scissors, a small knife and a lifetime supply of emery boards. A variety of kitchen wares were available in a choice of colours: we could have bought colour-coded kettles, toasters, cafetieres, breadbins, one for each member of the party, including valydiarosada
's special pink. We resisted, and we didn't buy a CD player in the shape of an electric guitar, either.
On the advice of the Tourist Office ("I'm not allowed to make recommendations, but I can give you pointers") we lunched at the Bluebell Café. Despite the 'Business for Sale' sign, it was very busy (much busier than on our second visit two days later) and good. Also at the Tourist Office, I had picked up an irresistible (free) booklet about the museum: serious money had clearly gone into preparing this, and it contained excellent photographs of selected items (Hooray! It's available online!
). Some of these had been chosen by the public at an open evening, and the descriptions included the remarks of local schoolchildren: a piece of rose quartz was "bling", and a penny-farthing bicycle was "very old" - this in a collection which included a neolithic jet necklace, and a beautifully polished axe-head in pale grey stone striped as if with a wood grain. One or two items from the booklet were mysteriously not on display, and I was sorry not to see the metal tags handed out to beggars in the nineteenth century, each bearing an identifying number which allowed the bearer to beg on one specified day of the week.
Behind the museum is a little garden, part of the original design of the building but now renamed the Lady Linda Macartney Memorial Garden. (We discussed that 'Lady Linda' but came to no conclusion*.) The bedding plants had obviously just been removed, presumably to be replaced with something else, and the statue of Linda sat a little forlorn among the bare earth beds. At the gate, a lady from the American tour group was asking their local driver, "Angus, has that song about the Mull of Kintyre been recorded?"
We drove on to the very south of the peninsula, to Southend, where the rocks are apparently popular with seals, though we only saw two, and where Saint Columba left his footprint in the rock, helped by a nineteenth century stone carver. Then round, on a narrow and winding road, to the Mull of Kintyre itself, the rocky headland from where we had views across to Antrim, and to Rathlin Island (been there! there were puffins!) and to the lighthouse, a mile down the steep road below us.
*It's right, apparently: he was knighted in '97, she died in '98.