Friday, 24 August 2018

Walking the Island of Kerrera

Rock trio on Kerrera's south coast

Keep the sea on your left, and you won’t get lost. That’s what my friend said to me before I set out to walk the circuit path on the island of Kerrera.

The tiny ferry to Kerrera leaves from just south of Oban, on Scotland’s west coast. It has room for one car and eleven passengers. It reminded me of the Irish ferry to Bere Island which had room for two cars a few pedestrians and one cow.

There were quite a few people waiting to get on, standing at the top of the jetty slope. I moved down the slope and was aware of people behind me also moving down as if at a signal. I stood behind the car and two people at the side of the car, talking to the driver.

When the ferry laid its pale green ramp onto the jetty the car drove on and we started to walk on. Only eleven said the man-in-charge, with yellow oilskin and cap, and to those left on the jetty – I’ll come straight back for you. .....

I had a small map of the southern part of the island, with the path marked on it. It circled south from the ferry terminal, skirted the south shore, brushing past the tower of Gylen Castle, then coming back up the northern shore, turning inland and crossing the island’s low hills and so returning to the ferry.

Bay and islands off Kerrera's south coast
Keeping the sea to my left as instructed, even I could not manage to lose my way but I did not always know where I was on the map, and there were those pesky forks in the track which always make me think of the Yellow Brick Road. Most of the track was wide and clear. I could not find the point where you could leave the main path to head down to the reddish-brown stone of Gylen Castle – the map did not match the terrain. But I continued on the main path and found it later. I simply had not been as far along the path as I thought.

The tall castle-tower looks out to the western sea, with faint shadows of distant islands or mainland promontories showing as thickened lines, blotches on the horizon. There’s always so it seems to me, a sense of longing, yearning, in such outposts looking west. West – in this part of the world – is not the direction of nostalgia or looking back, but the direction of future, of escape from too much history and time that still lies around in the present, possibly packed into bales and stored in some attic or barn, like contraband that no-one knows quite what to do with, reluctant to pay duty to transfer it to that ‘foreign country’ (as L. P. Hartley called the past) where it surely must belong. And where it should have stayed, instead of cluttering up our present and embarrassing us so.

East, south-east is the direction of nostalgia for what is known, loved and – is possible to be returned to. If you follow the line of south-east until you reach the heart of the world – or at least Europe, located on a shifting grid of light – somewhere in Greece.

Gylen castle and rocky archway

Far from Greece, on this misty promontory, the gloomy dark-brown needle of the castle gazes out into a misty future. I walk a short way along the shore and meet up with the main path. There’s another bay, some lush green grass, a house with a meadow in front of it and a few trees. And how the heart leaps at the sight of trees on an island like this, where there are so few......

View from Kerrera hilltop

 You can read the whole article on Scottish Review


three sea horses said...

Oh I want to go for that walk now!
Wondering if you've made a quick getaway from the Book Festival!! Xx

dritanje said...

It was a great walk, but that was early August, before the Book Festival. I'm almost always a bit 'behind' with blog posts as it takes me time to write things up. There's more from France I hope to post soon but it's slipped down the list as I have various things to do, with deadlines. xx