To Rubha nan Gall Lighthouse
To Rubha nan Gall Lighthouse
An essential part of cruising to me is the history of a place and wherever we have been this summer, the west and northwest coasts of Ireland and the islands of western Scotland, there has been plenty to satisfy the curious and interested mind.
I have mentioned our evenings entertainment on board, at the end of a long day, is to watch a couple of programmes from DVD box sets, sometimes a drama followed by a comedy. Brother Robin has loaned us his Onedin Line DVDs so the connection with the Allan’s of the Allan Shipping Line and Aros House was a delight to me.
We don’t often plan a day to any great detail but the morning after the latest instalment of James Onedin’s often inscrutable business dealings we decided to keep the maritime vein going with a visit to the Rubha nan Gall lighthouse, a short and beautiful walk from Tobermory town heading northwards alongside the sound.
This would be followed by lunch out, a big food shop at the Co-op and then a distillery tour of Tobermory Distillery right by the quay and sniffing distance from the marina, booked for 4.00pm. I quite envied the marina visitors who, from Sunday evenings to Friday afternoons, inhale the fumes of the virgin liquor as it is distilled. Goodness in progress.
The weather was calm and blue and the path, muddy in places after all the rain, was being well used. All around was lush green and dripping moisture, in stark contrast to the drought conditions in England’s south. Offshore dozens of yachts left the harbour earlier to take part in a race that took them down the sound towards the mainland, leaving many of the mooring buoys free for newcomers and anchored yachts.
Rubha nan Gall means Strangers’ Point and the lighthouse was built on the flat rock in 1857 to the familiar designs of David and Thomas Stevenson, elders of Robert Louis Stevenson. It is one of only two Scottish lighthouses reached by way of a bridge. Some of you will have noticed we have found the Stevenson family’s strong stalwart lighthouses all over the world, standing against the elements and aiding the safe course of mariners.
Before the lighthouse was fully automated in 1960 the keepers would have valued the smooth topped railings that used to extend all the way along the path and over the bridge to the lighthouse. Something to hold on to in tempestuous conditions and guide them from home to work and back. Just a few of the rails remain to tell of the human struggle in their line of work.
But in the cottages, now privately owned, they will have enjoyed the shelter of the hill behind them, with some of the best views in the area, while tending their vegetables and milking the goat.
Away from any form of agriculture, nature in the area was thriving and the best for me was two different types of bees collecting and feeding on a ‘single thistle head’, try saying that quickly!
Back in McGochans we sat just inside the balcony door to enjoy the view without the chilly breeze that was setting in. Maybe the morning’s walk had sharpened our appetites, but the food was delicious. We lingered over dessert and then dived in to the Coop for some victualling.
After the hollow reception at a previous distillery Alexander was a breath of Scottish fresh air. Totally involved and clearly loving his job he told us all he knew about the place he had only been a part of for three years. It helps when a guide actively imbibes in their product and when they have an engaging personality. Three of us asked lots of questions and it was great to peep in to the 20,000 litre Canadian Cedar vats to see the very active fermentation bubbling, smelling and giving off a surprising amount of heat. The little metal container suspended in the vat contains soap, so that if the fermentation over-erupted, for example as in the recent hot weather, then the soap stops the rising wort in its tracks, unless of course someone forgets to put the soap in place, as the stains around the rim of the vat showed.
The tasting comprised a full dram each of two of their popular whiskies, the 10 year and the 12 year. We walked very carefully back to the sagging dinghy, loaded with bags and not quite sober, we didn’t want to end up in the other kind of ‘drink’!
I cannot imagine a more perfect way to round off the great day we had enjoyed.
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