This afternoon was anther one of those games of two halves. First there was the disappointment of not making it to The Piggery at the Taynish National Nature Reserve in Knapdale to see the Lochgilphead High School pupils’ photographic exhibition, Snapberry IV.
Then there was the delight of Taynish itself – an utterly enchanting lochside woodland with low-profile and very well kept paths, new and old.
It has signature bench seats in tempting places that look like gentle enticements designed by Vlad the Impaler – and the silver-worn wood just slides into the colour palette of the woodland.
The old and impressively massive Taynish Mill is now under restoration.
The stream that once fed ts wheel still comes tumbling down the rock at the back of the building, with a stone seat set to enable a relaxed absorption of the tranquillity of the spot.
Carrying on down this path to the right after the old mill takes you up a stunning flight of beautifully built old stone steps curving away into mystery.
By the other fork in the path, you arrive at the shore of Loch Sween.
After failing to resist a few metres detour to a viewpoint, you find yourself walking out of the green covered path into the open and onto a lovely stone paved observation platform with smooth boulder steps down to the foreshore.
Wherever you look, there is a detail to tease the eye – stone and water, salt and fresh; water lilies, heather, old trees, wildflowers, grasses.
So what happened with Snapberry IV?
We will get there. It just didn’t happen this afternoon.
Some of it was the result of this being a first visit to Taynish – and simply not being aware that you really need a four track to get there. You can take your car as we did – and most do – but there are parts of the track with a raised centre and a deep rut on one side- perfect for grounding the underside of a car – after which you perfect a weaving straddle technique to stay out of trouble. It’s not far but it’s not quick and you do need to concentrate all the way.
Then, when the track spawns side bays clearly meant for parking and with SNH site boards in view, you just about clock a small low notice that tells you to park at this ;point and lets you know that it is then a further two miles to the Piggery. That’s a four mile walk, plus browsing and exploring time.
The trouble for us was that, not knowing any of this before heading off in mid afternoon for what we foolishly imagined would be a straightforward recce that could be squeezed into the usual manic day, we hadn’t the time to devote to getting to The Piggery as opposed to absorbing the space and the exhibition when we got there.
We’ll find a day when we can make the time and the weather is kind enough to support an expedition. The Lochgilphead pupils Snapberry project images are always mesmeric and after today’s taster, Taynish is a major draw of its own.
For others making the trip, when you get to the surprise village of Tayvallich, with its lush wooded bay and its busy moorings, you drive to the end of the village and take the – faintly improbable but signed for Taynish – left hand road, a single tracker which swings left. You also make the left hand choice at the next point of asking, eventually passing Duntaynish House on the left. Then you hit the rough track – take your time and tack around until you get to a sort of clearing which you recognise to be where you park and start walking.
If you’re exploring Taynish, then take the left hand path signed – appropriately – for the Old Mill and the shore.
If you’re heading for Snapberry IV at The Piggery, walk straight on down the track you drove in on – but get your bearings first by looking at the map on the Taynish Reserve information board in the car park [and there really are leaflets behind the metal flap inside the second little upright post].
When we had wheel-danced our way back out to Tayvallich, we nipped in to the village Coffee Shop in the centre of the village above the moorings and, without time to sit down, bought take away coffees and slices of Victoria Sponge – both first class – to carry over the short road to Carsaig, whose bay is on the sound of Jura.
This may have been a swift revisit, but Tayvallich and Carsaig make a great pair of very different close neighbouring waterside communities – one sheltered and quite manicured, tucked inside the substantial sea loch of Loch Sween; the other more open, more windswept, more wildly beautiful. And both choices are open daily to those who live in either place.
Taynish is to the south, with the Scotnish Reserve and Knapdale Forest to the north of these isthmus villages on the way back to the road junction at the celebrated Crinan Canal, carving through the magical Moire Mhor – yet another National Nature Reserve.
Next – Snapberry IV.