Inveraray is one of the real gems of Argyll – a rare planned town so picturesque everyone seeing it for the first time experiences a kind of shock. It is utterly unexpected.
It’s got pretty well everything:
- a charming but not obsessive symmetry;
- a sense of order – but with curious little nooks and crannies;
- a teasing variety in its buildings;
- memorable historic street names like Arkland and Relief Land, some factual but mysterious like Cross Houses;
- a white and black theme reinforcing its character;
- punctuation marks like the sentry Argyll Hotel, formerly the Great Inn (a much more resonant name), the Church, at the head of the gently rising broad main street, the famous George Hotel beside the church and the imposing sandstone elegance of Inveraray Jail, with its compelling historical records and, with the castle, at the top of Argyll’s visitor attractions;
- the arches on either side of this hotel, a single one almost ritually marking the entrance to the road to Oban;
- the fairytale turreted Inveraray Castle – the seat of Clan Campbell, the genuine home of the Duke of Argyll and his family and open to the public – at the beautiful little hump-backed stone bridge that carries the A83 into the village;
- two oldtime boats tied up at the pier (good photo opportunities but otherwise promising more than they deliver);
- an unmatchable location with wrap around hills above the water, curving around two lochs – the almost mythical Loch Fyne and the little satellite Loch Shira – separated by the attractive and spacious stone and timber pier.
And this is now a serious issue.
Taking photographs there last night – including this hilariously gothic image – what commanded unexpected attention was the pier itself.
The pier is a magnet – for all the right reasons. It pulls you to it, to explore it – offering changes of direction, landing steps, a superb stone slipway and a timbered end section jutting off into Loch Fyne.
There are always folk fishing off it, in their own self–contained worlds, whoever else is around. The gulls strut it. Visitors stroll it. Couples wander along it and just sit on it in some corner to talk and be alone. People simply pass time on it, calm in the proximity to the water that has drawn them there. It is always host to a variety of narratives.
But it is showing signs of long and serious neglect, to the point of being unsafe.
At its entrance, a long stretch of railing – opposite the ‘Maritime Museum’ ship, rocks through quite an arc if you just touch it. Anyone leaning on it – as such rails are there to enable, would be at risk – and Inveraray has daily collections of elderly visitors on coach trips. The first seven sections of this railing, from the office down the pier are unsafe, worst nearest the entrance end.
Beyond the ships, another – short – section of railing at the head of the landing steps, is broken off, lying on the pier, leaving a dangerous uprght and a trip hazard at the stump where the end stanchion used to be.
Beside it, a section of stone cobbles is being picked away, offering an immediate tripping point. This is at the head of the well used landing steps, as evidenced last night. below. This decobbled section offers an immediate hazard to those coming up the steps with a mooring line to attend to; and to those who, of course, walk to the edge to see what’s down there.
Around the corner from here – at the townside of the stone pier section in the two photographs above, is another section of unsafe railing.
The foot boards are visibly dangerous in places. This horror is also loose and rocks badly.
Below is a detail of the near end of it.
The entire long townside metal rail of the timber pier section at the end of the pier is unstable – just visible above the timber rail that is the focus of attention below.
On the inside angle of the pier at this point there is a timber rail – above and also pictured top – whose condition and level of risk offered could not be more evident.
This links with another metal rail at a point which is a cluster of opportunities for accidents across the spectrum of risk.
A broken notice almost comically fails to warn pier users that they do so at their own – considerable – risk.
Another notice explains the situation of the pier.
Inveraray has recently and rightly had a major award from Historic Scotland under the Conservations Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS).
It seems perverse that, as the town looks forward to a spanking refreshment programme, a potentially wonderful pier facility for people actually to use – to fish, to take the sea air at leisure and to visit the town from boats moored off – has been allowed to get into its current condition.
Last night, the Ocean Youth Trust Scotland’s Challenge 72 racing yacht, Alba Endeavour, was moored off, with most of its young trainees ashore – via this pier.
What is shown above is not a collection of cosmetic offences or minor signs of wear and tear. These are serious risks and are the result of long neglect and lack of care for the safety of those who, rightly, love such places.
Given the state of what is in plain view, one has to wonder about the security of the underpinnings of the timber sections.
If this pier were a child, it would be taken into compulsory care, because of its malnutrition, ill health and the vicious threats it offers to others.
Perhaps this is what needs to happen to Inveraray pier? Someone has to care.
There have to be civic responsibilities in ownership of particular types of property.