Down By The Sea

I left my soul there,
Down by the sea.

The Sea – Morcheeba

I woke up this morning, stretched luxuriously, inhaled deeply, a little smile of contentment playing about my lips as I anticipated the delights we would no doubt experience today. 🙂

Getting washed and dressed, we went for our pre-breakfast coffees and teas; breakfast on board the Glen Tarsan is served at 8.30am but for early risers there is always tea and coffee, freshly made by our ever-cheerful bo’sun Max. Taking our hot drinks onto the deck and looking around, the loch was perfectly calm and mirror-like, perfectly reflecting the shoreline. As I raised my camera to take a photo, the appearance of a speedboat created radiating ripples on the water, which enhanced my photo rather than ruin it. 🙂

Breakfast consisted of hot porridge, thick-cut wholemeal toast and chunky marmalade, and a tasty cheese omelette, washed down with apple juice and more coffee.

Skipper Dave came into the saloon shortly afterwards, and asked if we wanted to go ashore for an hour or so, before the Glen Tarsan weighed anchor and continued on her way. Gazing across at Tayvallich, it looked too nice not to visit, so we were all in agreement, and five of us decided to go, which meant only one trip in the liberty boat.

As the water was just so beautiful and calm, we decided against any waterproofs, and climbing down the iron steps and onto the “Tupperware Tub” (ha ha) was a breeze this time. Steve took the helm and Max was, as usual, at the bow ready with the ropes, and we roared off across the bay and disembarked at a small landing stage.

It was wonderful! What a delightful little village Tayvallich is. The tide was low and there were many small, colourful craft, and lots of dream dwellings whose back gardens went straight down to the shore. Nearly every house sported a boat trailer and the houses further inland that were not lucky enough to be right on the shore were more than compensated by the fact that they were higher up the hills, and as such had superb views. Each house was different, full of character and charm, and the lucky occupants would be able to wake up each morning and smell the salt air and see the clouds and blue sky mirrored on the water. It was utterly stunning.

Further up the road we came across the tiny village shop and post-office, and we went in and brought some boxes of shortbread to take back home. You can’t go to Scotland and not bring shortbread back! 🙂

We also looked at the village hall and its sports court; the notice outside advertised Zumba Gold classes, which are classes for older or less fit people who don’t have the energy for traditional Zumba (that would be me then!) Nearby was the Tayvallich church, which had been closed for services for over a year because of Covid-19. 😦

The Glen Tarsen‘s yellow tender arrives in Tayvallich to collect us (centre of photo)

On the ride back across to the Glen Tarsan, we were able to get some fabulous shots of her sitting placidly on the sparkling water under a blue, blue sky.

The M/V Glen Tarsan anchored off Tayvallich, on a perfect day in May

Back on board, we enjoyed some tea and coffee and home-made shortbread and oat cookies (yum yum), and soon the anchor was raised, the engines gained momentum, and the Glen Tarsan continued on her way, next stop Easdale, where we were due to arrive this afternoon. This meant we had a relaxing couple of hours in the delightful sunshine on the delightful decks, and we sat out on the top deck, just in front of the wheel house, where Dave the Skipper waved to us on our way past. 🙂

Sitting above the bow, thinking pleasant thoughts, as we glided along in the sun

After a delicious lunch of Cullen Skink (how much more Scottish can you get?!) washed down with a cold beer, we went outside on deck as the Glen Tarsan prepared to drop anchor once more, this time of the tiny island of Easdale. Easdale used to be at the forefront of the Scottish slate industry until the 1950s; one of the quarries is now filled with water and is used for swimming. From our vantage point on the boat, we could see a rugged island dotted with a number of little whitewashed cottages.

Once again we boarded the yellow liberty boat for the short ride across. As Steve negotiated his way through the markers to the pontoon, we noticed the bulk of the decaying wooden pier rising up, which was used to load the slate from the quarries. Shortly afterwards, we disembarked, and Steve said he’d come back for us in an hour.

As we walked up the ramp, the first thing we noticed was cardboard boxes and “bags for life”, as well as hold-alls, filled with grocery items and other shopping, just left at the top of the pier. A few minutes later several people arrived, pushing wheelbarrows, into which they loaded the bags before returning to their homes along the path. What we found most remarkable is that the wheelbarrow seems to be the main form of “transport” on Easdale; there was not a single car or motor vehicle (unless you count tractors) to be seen anywhere; the island is completely car-free.

What happens is that the villagers order their groceries which are brought across each day on the tiny ferry, and are left at the top of the ramp awaiting collection in the villagers’ barrows. Each wheelbarrow was painted to make it distinctive from the others, and the numbers of the dwellings to which the wheelbarrows belonged was painted on several of them.

Walking around, we marvelled at the peace and tranquillity. There are only about 60 permanent residents on Easdale, and the most exciting thing that happens is the Annual Stone Skimming World Championship, that has apparently taken place every year since 1997. We spotted a Community Centre and a pub/restaurant called The Puffer which was (inevitably) closed.

All too soon the time was up, and we spotted the liberty boat making its way back over to collect us. What an unusual and totally charming place Easdale was! We’d never been to anywhere like it. In the sunshine, of course, it was idyllic, but we couldn’t help wondering what it was like in the depths of winter, and how it was for the villagers to live there.

We arrived back on board the Glen Tarsan about 4.00pm, just in time for a cuppa and a slice of delicious home-made Victoria sponge. Shortly afterwards, the vessel set sail again towards our anchorage for tonight, and we took some time out for an afternoon power-nap.

Then we pottered around the boat a bit, and I had a refreshing shower and shampooed and blow-dried my hair before we all re-convened in the saloon in time for pre-dinner drinks and canapés. We noticed we had company tonight; one of the Glen Tarsan’s sister ships, the larger Glen Shiel. We took some photos of the Glen Shiel and we were amused to see some of her passengers taking photos of us. 🙂

It was quite sad for the seven of us to be sitting around the table in the comfortable saloon for our last dinner. As ever, our amazingly-talented chef Mags conjured up a masterpiece of a meal, and we started with haggis, tatties and neeps as an appetiser, followed by succulent venison in whisky sauce, served with roasted root vegetable and roast potatoes. This was followed by a melt-in-the-mouth chocolate mousse with raspberries, and finished off with cheeses, one of which was Cheddar with Laphroaig.

We ended the evening in our customary manner, watched the westering sun (what we could see of it, as the sun had dipped down below the mountains) and looked across as the lights came on on the Glen Shiel and reflected on the sea loch as night turned the sky and the sea to a vivid deep blue. We enjoyed some “wee drams” and tried to put off the time we’d have to return to cabin #1 for our last sleep on this truly lovely little vessel. 😦

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