Friday, November 29, 2013

The Isle of Kerrera...solitude, tranquility, and an anniversary "gourmet" experience.

Gylen Castle...our destination.
With a wedding anniversary coming up in a few days, I was determined to plan something rather special to mark this 41st celebration. But what to do? In the past, dining "out" had always gone very well. Fine dining requires, after all, an imaginative menu, high quality food, an excellent overall dining experience, and a unique and special atmosphere. I felt equal to the task at hand.

The mission was to prepare a gourmet lunch experience, ensuring that all of the above-mentioned variables were met or exceeded. The location would be ocean view and secluded. (I was sure that Joan wouldn't mind the fact that the only way to this special venue would be by foot, around 13 kilometres. There would also be some 400 metres of elevation gain over the route, but, no worries, it would serve nicely to enhance appetites.) It would be perfect.

There was just one tiny matter to be resolved. The plan was "hatched" rather late in the day and it was going to be very difficult to secretly prepare and pack the meal in advance.  

The following morning, knowing only that we were going "out to lunch" and that it would take a couple of hours to get to the destination (by foot) Joan prepared her day pack...while I discreetly "dealt" with the actual luncheon menu. A quick run to Tesco, the nearby supermarket, was required. Thankfully, it opens early, at 0600. Exiting the morning darkness into the warmth and brightly lit interior, I was one of their first customers. An efficient 30 minutes later, the shopping and preparations were complete. Following a relaxed bowl of porridge with marmalade (prepared by Joan), we were ready to catch the 0840 ferry from Oban (Gallanach) to Kerrera, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides, for the 10 minute ride across the Sound.

Joining fellow passengers, at Gallenach, for the crossing.
Arriving, the small island immediately feels very special and very remote. There are less than 50 residents. Vehicles are not permitted, except for the use of those who live is very quiet with only the sounds of nature filling the air. For a small island, the landscape feels vast and diverse - a scenic and rugged coastline, secluded beaches, cliffs, caves, heathland, high hills, and sufficient bog to make one appreciate the expense of waterproof hiking boots.

Not much has changed on the island.
And why should it.
On Kerrera, there are lots of sheep, wild (feral) goats...

and a bird rescue centre, The Island Parrot Sanctuary, where these exotic birds are given needed care and attention for life. It is clearly a labour of love.

A parrot whistled at Joan as we passed by...and again 
when we placed a donation in a little container on the fence.
There are beaches that must have so many stories to tell...

Looking more like a painting, this image is untouched.
and then there are the ruins of an old castle...Gylen Castle.

Beyond the bracken and the grassy banks, the castle ruins.
As magical as it appears, the castle had a violent history and a very short lifespan. Built around 1582 by the Clan McDougall, it was only occupied for about 65 years, before being besieged and subsequently burned by General Leslie during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

Just to Joan's left, sea stacks on the raised sea bed.
Many thousands of years ago, the sea raged around them.
Exploring the ruins is, as we so often discover here, like "time travel".

Entrance to the castle interior.
The ground under foot, on which the castle is built, is a "raised seafloor", once the actual seabed. After the glaciers retreated, the land "rose". Sea stacks and caves, created by the erosive power of ocean waves now stand very high and dry! It's a "dynamic" world we live in. Change is always the norm on this amazing planet.

An arch was carved by the sea,
and then the land rose when the Ice Age glaciers melted.
Framed by the arch, created by the sea.
After spending time inside the castle, and allowing imaginations to run free, it was getting close to lunch time. I was, admittedly, a tiny bit anxious about my choice of menu for this special occasion. There hadn't, after all, been much time to prepare and I'm not much of a shopper. But after 41 years of marriage, I was confident that Joan would be very pleased. After all, it's the thought that matters most. And I was 100 percent confident that the "venue" would make up for any real or perceived shortfalls in the actual meal.

Leaving the castle ruins, I kept an eye out for the perfect spot for our pre-anniversary meal together. Twenty minutes later...there it was, the ideal location by the shore, above the crashing waves and looking over to the mainland of Scotland. Indeed. It stirred the heart which was most appropriate. This was, after all, a wedding anniversary celebration.

I needn't have worried. Joan seemed most pleasantly surprised at what was on the menu: Tomato Tortellini Templada (room temperature), pink lady apples, and a bottle each of sparkling Highland spring water. A granola bar was served for dessert. Rather impressive, I would say. :)

She looked pretty pleased, indeed!

The dining spot at NM 797 266, looking across
to the mainland of Scotland - the perfect venue!
Having both worked up a serious appetite, we dug was all simply delicious!

Thank you, Tesco.
Who would have thought that such a simple lunch could be such a special gourmet experience? Ah, but that's the nature of love.

Soon, it was time to finish the circuit on Kerrera. The sun was scheduled to set at 1554 hrs, and there was a ferry to catch. Well sustained, we climbed up and over the island.

The second half of the 13 km circuit,
and not another soul on the trail.
Somehow, whatever the weather here, the atmosphere fills simultaneously with sun and rain, and almost always offers a visual spectacle.

The spectral colours near Craignure, on the Isle of Mull.
After a short wait, the ferryman returned.

The return ferry ride back to Gallenach.
Our route around the southern end of Kerrera.
The Isle of Kerrera offers solitude, tranquility, adventure, and an amazing journey through geological and human history. And Tesco offers some very handy cans of pasta! Being outdoors makes even the simplest menu, a most elegant feast, every time. ;)

Total distance of circuit: 13.4km
Total ascent: 369m
"Gourmet" lunches enjoyed: 1


  1. Here's to 41 more! Beautiful pics...that castle picture..mind blowing. Love following this adventure Duncan. Absolutely wonderful.

  2. Haha! Thanks for your kind words, Lee. 41 more "dining outs" will require some serious thought about subsequent menus! Warm wishes to you from us both. Duncan.


    Duncan, you did a super job of lunch!!
    Joan has a winner with YOU!

  4. Your words are very affirming, Marg. Admittedly, I came out a bit "thin" in the area of culinary expertise. Oh well, that's why when we go out for a meal, we go "out"side - an appetite is pretty much guaranteed! Besides, there's never any lineups or waiting. :) Nice to hear from you. Duncan.

  5. I agree with Lee that the photo of the Castle was excellent, but thought the photo of the derelict fishing boat spoke a thousand words. The colours of the boat and the hill background blended in to each other, and gave us an insight into someones past and the present.
    Will speak to you soon.
    MG Mike.

  6. Mike, thank you for that. There really is a sense of the blending of time, past and present. There was an artist who had a studio near my mum and dad back in Pickering Village. He was able to paint a landscape of the present with a scene from the past, on the one canvas. Families were portrayed, perhaps skating on an ice pond...that was long gone. He was able to integrate it with a very changed scene from the present. I often found his work deeply moving. It was a wonderful way to honour the past within the context of change. Thanks so much for your comment. Looking forward to meeting up soon. Duncan.

  7. Happy anniversary to you both D & J, looked like a superb restaurant inwhich to enjoy a gourmet meal - one where every table has a view!

    Kind Regards

  8. It was, indeed, a superb "establishment", Ian. You've been to many such places, many times! :) Take good care and warm wishes from Joan and I. Duncan.