Words and photos can’t do justice to the beauty of Ardnamurchan and Sunart. What an utterly inspiring experience it was.
Hopefully my upcoming paintings will capture something of how it feels to stand on the beach of Sanna. The light there makes you feel you’ve entered a different dimension, or as though you’re seeing beyond normal perceptions – everything opens up, including your self.
Which sounds as though I was on some sort of druggy trip, and it is a sort of high, but it’s more hyper-reality, almost raw in a way. It was an emotional experience, which is often how it feels when you’re in these places. It’s strange to return to Edinburgh – nice to be back home and what’s familiar, but it feels several steps removed from Sanna and Ariundel forest, so I must keep it alive in my mind and imagination for the paintings I’ll be working on, because nice as these photos are they don’t get what it’s like to be there.
I took hundreds of photos, made various sketches and I’ll create a couple of edited videos as well as paintings I think. Also my friend Donald (who was an excellent companion throughout the trip), will hopefully be recording a guitar response to the videos once they’re made. Donald felt similarly moved by the experience; as he described it –
‘the ocean, that was the most cosmic for me, looking beyond the sky, then inside the forest, walking the leaf-strewn path, then the wild and windy moors and glens from a speeding metal box’.
Absolutely. Something I’ve always really loved about these journeys is the contrast between the road-trip/car-time – chatting and playing music, the sound of the engine and the feel of impetus – then when you leave that small human-made world of your ‘speeding metal box’ and stand still on a beach of epic proportions looking out to the Atlantic – the almost shock of silence and space.
Also, Sanna is I think the most beautiful beach of the west coast and islands of Scotland I’ve seen. It felt sad to leave and I found myself walking backwards for several minutes as we headed back to the car. It was getting towards evening and it’s a long drive across the wildest parts of the Ardnamurchan peninsula on single-track roads …
We also stopped that day at Castle Tioram, which has to be one of the world’s most beautiful settings for a castle. This is my third visit there, and each time I learn more about the area, the centuries of history and its golden age before Culloden and the Highland clearances. (I wrote about this in a previous post, link Here).
In that blog post I also talked about Ariundle oakwood in Sunart (which is before you head out west on the proper peninsula of Ardnamurchan). Suaineart ghorm an daraich – Green Sunart of the Oaks.
We visited Ariundle the next day and it was such a contrasting experience to the epic feel of Sanna. Such a gentle feeling amidst all those multi-hued mossy hillocks, flowing streams and lichen-covered oaks. (I made sure to pick up a pile of oak twigs for my niece, who wants to frame a couple of oak-leaves she was given at the hobbit-land place she visited in New Zealand!).
Ariundle – it is quite a Tolkien-esque sounding name don’t you think? It means shieling (or ‘settlement’) in the fair meadow. It’s heartening to see how much conservation work is going on there to preserve it – Ariundle is a remnant of the ancient oakwoods that once stretched from Portugal to Norway along the Atlantic coast – hence why it’s described as Atlantic oakwood.
I discovered a new hobby on the return to Edinburgh – sketching the surrounding landscape from the car, it makes you quickly focus on the obvious points, shapes and lines – here they are (scenes from Corran ferry, Glencoe, Rannoch Moor and Balquhidder) …
I always like to visit Balquhidder before returning to Edinburgh, as it’s the last part of the Highlands before the relative flatness of Lothian – it eases the shock of re-entering the city I suppose!
You head off the motorway after Edinchip on a little bypass, then you see the Mhor84 cafe, which serves excellent coffee and nice cakes, but if there’s time it’s nice to drive under the bridge and towards the village of Balquhidder then along the beautiful shores of Loch Voil. It’s always fairly quiet as the road ends after a few miles at the end of the loch – after that it would be a lo-o-ng and arduous walk over the mountains west to the coast again, if you wanted to keep going.
After a mile or so along the loch, you get to Monachyle Mhor Hotel, where you can stop for a drink by the open fire if it’s cold, or if it’s warm sit outside admiring oak trees, shimmering loch and mountain valleys. The hotel interior is lovely (if a bit ‘Farrow and Ball’ – you know – tasteful chalky paint finishes in deep colours or neutrals!) also they have an impressive art collection – it’s kind of perfect, as hotels go, I’ve yet to find out how much it costs to actually stay there.
Today I’ve been gessoe-ing up my wood panels. I’ll make a little road-trip video, then it’ll be on with the paintings, and a fuller video with paintings and music, wish me luck! In a few days I’ll post the first video, and also some info about an upcoming three-person exhibition at the Resipole Gallery in Sunart, which I’m looking forward to. I’m not forgetting that these paintings are part of my planets series. March is related to Mars – war, heroism and sacrifice, also early spring – Mars Silvanus – new leaves – and the corresponding Narnian book, Prince Caspian. More on that too in later posts …