South west Cowal’s tourism marketing group, imaginatively and successfully branding the area as Argyll’s Secret Coast, have just made sure that it’s a lot less secret than it was on the last day of June.
There are some who are known to pronounce negatively and obstruct the development of marine tourism in Argyll’s pre-eminent sailing grounds. This stance was given the lie in major measure yesterday, 1st July.
The idyllically beautiful, remote little waterside village of Tighnabruaich,, on the Cowal coast opposite the west coast of the Isle of Bute was physically packed to the gills.
Thanks to the detailed work done by the Argyll’s Secret Coast team – in information gathering, in marketing, in galvanising the village to respond to opportunity and in a wide range of subtle promotional strategies, hordes of visitors drawn by the publicity around this visit of the classic Clyde-built yachts came yesterday to the village to see them.
They enjoyed spectacle, competitive community rowing, a local produce and crafts fair, steam boat trips to the incoming Fife fleet on the puffer, Vic 32, pony and trap rides along the coast road to the pier, first class street food with venison burgers and Fyne Ales, bistro, hotels and cafes catering for sit-down ease – and companionship galore.
Through the charming village, shop window after shop window displays underlined the presence of the Fife’s.
As well as a large and rather mystical photograph of the Burnt Islands in the East Kyle, the official print for the 2013 Regatta, the lively Tighnabruaich Gallery displayed, in another window, a series of art objects for sale that underlined the nautical theme of the day.
Part of this display was also an understated link to the Caol Ruadh Sculpture Park, Scotland’s first commercial outdoor sculpture gallery, nearby on the Cowal mainland, opposite the Burnt Islands and just north of Colintraive.. There were little miniatures of the larger than lifesize reflective steel figures by Ron Mulholland that Caol Ruadh displayed in the tides off its shore last season. They have kept one for this year’s exhibition – now secreted within the cavern like undergrowth in a large rhododendron shrubbery – and the reflective images it offers are mesmeric.
Crowds of people flocked to the Lifeboat station to watch the coastal rowing race between four community teams in their St Ayles skiffs – and cheered wildly when the local heroes, Kyles Coastal Rowers won. Many had already paid a visit to the open workshop in the village – an unused double fronted shop converted to a shipbuilding workshop open to view from the street.
All we heard, day long, were the sounds of pleasure, enjoyment and contentment. There are always sanctuaries to be created when you want them. This gentleman and his two lovely dogs were happily chilling out by themselves on the grass just above the busy market marquee. No one else had seen what that space made possible.
Holidaymakers in Cowal had flocked to the village for the day. Others had come from a distance just to be there to see the Fifes – and were knocked out by the welcoming gem that is Tighnabruaich. As we’ve said in the companion article on the Fife Regatta cruise from Rothesay to Tighnabruaich itself, we overheard an awestruck father say to his young son, ‘Magic, innit?’
It was. And the marketing coup is that many of those who found this event, this village and this part of the world so magical will be back. We saw two separate couples taking photographs of waterside houses they’d love to live in. Those who return may never see another Fife yacht in the waters off Tighnabruaich and it won’t matter one bit.
The Fifes brought them here but Argyll’s Secret Coast sold them the true enduring story. They bought it, gladly. The place is great – flower baskets everywhere and even the public loos on the waterfront whitewashed to brisk reassurances of hygiene; but it was the focused, comprehensively thoughtful work and preparation done beforehand to capitalise on this promotional opportunity that did the business.
And this is what it was all about.