‘If you are wondering about the origins of the name Cruachan, it is the battle cry for the Highland clans of MacIntyre and Campbells.’
The area around this particular Scottish loch is a favourite of ours. We’ve been visiting for a few years having first seen it on the BBC Countryfile programme. Although I do fish, and did indeed catch some fish when we hired a boat on the loch for a couple of days, my main interest is photography. I should at this point perhaps mention that I did catch a pollack that David was hoping for but didn’t manage. Following a slight change in mood and also having dropped the pliers overboard, I decided it was probably wise to concentrate more on the camera than the fishing.
The photos in this piece are just a few of the many hundreds I took on this 10 day trip. I do hope you enjoy them. To accompany my photos I also like to do some research into my subject matter, many hours are spent during and after each holiday we take, gathering facts and figures in order that the pictures tell a story.
Time now to get on with the matter in hand and share with you just a few of my images and information.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Located in Argyll & Bute on the west coast of Scotland, Loch Etive is a sea loch. It starts where the Firth of Lorn meets the Falls of Lora at Connel Bridge in the village of Connel. It then makes a 17 mile journey to its northern end in Glen Etive, which can only be reached by a 14 mile car journey from Glencoe.
The Falls of Lora are generated when the water level in the Firth of Lorn, in the open sea, drops below the level of the water in Loch Etive as the tide ebbs. As the seawater in the loch flows out through its narrow mouth, it passes over a rocky shelf which causes the rapids to form. As the tide rises again there is a period of slack water when the levels are the same on either side. Due to the narrow entrance into the Loch, the tide rises more quickly than the water can flow in, resulting in considerable turbulence at high tide.
The next photo, which I’ve zoomed in a little and cropped, gives more of a scale to the rapids. If you look just to the right of the stone base of the bridge, over to the left of the picture, in the water you will see a small speck of a person, he/she is one of the many kayakers who appear at this state of the tide to take advantage of the Adrenalin rush that the falls provide.
When the bridge itself opened in 1903 the bridge carried the Ballachulish branch of the Callender and Oban Railway, at the time it had a longer span than any other rail bridge in Britain. When the branch line closed in 1966 it was converted to a road bridge. It has a signal carriageway, is traffic light controlled and connects Connel to North Connel, the road then continues north for around 40 miles to Fort William at the mouth of the Great Glen.
Getting back to the loch itself, as I’ve already mentioned, it is 17 miles long and measures from between 3⁄4 of a mile to 1 mile in width. Its depth varies greatly up to a maximum of 490 feet. I think it was probably at the deepest point that I lost the pliers, a subject which still keeps being raised.
The name Etive is said to mean ‘little fierce one from the Gaelic goddess associated with the loch. It heads in an easterly direction for half its length, alongside the main road and rail link to Oban. It then turns to the northeast into mountainous terrain, the head of the loch can be reached by boat, but by road only from Glen Coe.
The photo above, which I’ve called ‘The Sky in the Water’ was taken from an area on the loch called Rubha na Creige looking down towards Geln Etive and Glencoe. The mountain centre right of the photo is called Ben Starav. In the distance in the centre of the photo is Bidean Nam Bien to the left and just visible behind Ben Starav is Buachaille Etive Mor.
The photo below is a similar scene taken on a different day, with slightly different weather. In fact not long before we got very wet in a sharp downpour. Well I say we, it was just David who was sat with the outboard motor, I was nice and dry in the cuddy. I did poke my head out at one point to inform him the sky looked brighter ahead, no words were uttered, just a scowl. At least the damp had taken his mind off the missing pliers and my pollack.
The loch makes its turn from an easterly to a north easterly direction near to the village of Taynuilt.
According to the sign at the entrance to this pier, it’s a scheduled monument on which you are are not allowed to camp or light fires. It was built in the1830’s for the local quarries and would at one time have been very busy. More recently there was a company running boat trips on Loch Etive, but now they have stopped it’s become a sleepy backwater, but with excellent views across the Loch.
According to the sign at the entrance to this pier, it’s a scheduled monument on which you are are not allowed to camp or light fires. It was built in the 1830’s for the local quarries and would at one time have been very busy. More recently there was a company running boat trips on Loch Etive, but now they have stopped it’s become a sleepy backwater, but with excellent views across the Loch.
The photo below shows the remains of a former structure now rotting away at the end of Kelly’s Pier in Taynuilt. On the opposite shore of Loch Etive is Bonawe. In the early 1900s there were a 1000 people living there. Bonawe Quarry was the hub of the community and still operates today. In the 1900’s there were stonemasons, drillers and miners extracting the stone. Their families supported industries such as local shops, butchers, a cinema, bakeries and a laundry. Now technology has advanced which means very few people are needed for the quarry and people travel in to work, as a result there are no shops left, the school has closed and the nearby church is up for sale.
The Bonawe Narrows, as the name suggests, are the narrowest point on the loch, it’s the place where the loch changes it’s direction. Just on the other side of the narrows as seen in the below photo, in the far distance is the village of Taynuilt and Airds Bay. Taynuilt is situated on the River Nant, around half a mile from where it flows into the loch at Airds Bay. It takes its name from the Gaelic, Taigh an Uillt, meaning ‘House by the Stream’.
Today the village has a population of around 800 people. It has a village hall, a pub the Taynuilt Inn, a very nice tea room which we visited, a post office, doctor’s surgery, a very well stocked grocery shop called Graham’s and run by Graham, a nice man who takes time to have a chat to all his customers, so don’t expect to be in and out in a hurry. There is also hairdresser’s, a butcher’s shop, craft shop and a railway station.
Airds Bay is near to the village of Taynuilt. It is a lovely quiet spot with spectacular views across the loch to the surrounding mountains. This is the place where we boarded our little boat for the couple of days we spent out on the loch. It is a good place to see wildlife, otters, osprey, eagles and deer. We did see two otters, but not here, one was one running down the main road in front of the car on a drive out to Loch Awe, the other was swimming in the river Awe. The view across the loch looks towards the mountain that dominates this area, Ben Cruachan, it can be seen in the photo below.
Ben Cruachan or in Gaelic, Cruach na Beinn is the highest point in Argyll & Bute, standing at a height of 1126 meters, it is a Munro. It also gives its nameto the Cruachan Dam, which is hydroelectric power station, in a cavern actually inside the mountain where there is also a visitors centre. The ring of mountains surrounding Ben Cruachan is known as the Cruachan Horseshoe.
If you are wondering about the origins of the name Cruachan, it is the battle cry for the Highland clans of MacIntyre and Campbells. I took a series of photos over a few evenings documenting how the view of the mountain changes, they were all taken from roughly the same spot, give or take a few feet, on the Glen Lonan road out of Taynuilt. As you can see things are never the same twice.
The River Awe which can be seen in the picture below is only short, around 4 miles. It carries freshwater from Loch Awe and empties into Loch Etive at Taynuilt. The river flows from Loch Awe through the Pass of Brander, it is accompanied for most of its length both by the railway from Glasgow to Oban and by the A85 road, both cross the river halfway along its length. The Awe is also crossed by a small road bridge and a foot bridge. It is a very popular salmon fishing river. This is where we saw our second otter, sadly it was out of sight before I had the camera ready, I’m as lucky with otter pictures as I am with kingfishers, hopeless.
The final two photos in this series were taken from our rented fishing boat on the loch, both from roughly the same spot, but on different days. The hills inthe pictures were home to a very loud and persistent cuckoo, who spent around six hours in competition with one on the other shore, vying to see who could be the loudest and make a noise for the longest. The one in these mountains won by an hour or so. This is also the point where we come to the end of our journey around the water and banks of Loch Etive.
Writing & Images Ruth Craine Summer 2021