Argyll is rich in scenery and the variety of sporting and leisure activities associated with forests, mountains, glens, islands, sea, rivers, sea and inland lochs. It has the richest biodiversity in the UK. The topography that creates all this comes at the cost of inaccessibility – Argyll to the outside world and one Argyll community to another.
Argyll is the second largest local authority in Scotland, with the third most dispersed population, twenty five inhabited islands and a coastline longer than France. There are only three roads into its great landmass, cut virtually into further islands by long sea lochs. Journey times between Argyll’s six major towns equate to journey times between England’s six major cities.
Argyll fuses Scotland’s two major peoples – the Viking – through the seat of the Lordship of the Isles at Finlaggan on Islay; and the Gael, through the ancient Kingdom of Dalriada, linking much of Argyll’s west coast with the north east coast of Northern Ireland.
Argyll has the second most important cluster of archaeological remains in the UK (after Orkney) – at Kilmartin Glen. The ancient Kings were crowned at Dunadd Fort in this glen and one of them, Kenneth McAlpin and his descendants brought the warring tribes together into what became the basis of the unified Scotland we know today. In spite of all of this, Argyll has an identity problem.
- The reorganisation of local authority boundaries sees the historical Argyll – which includes Glencoe and Ardnamurchan – adrift from the area now managed by the local Council.
- ‘Argyll and Bute’ is the name of the local Council – ignoring its other twenty four inhabited islands, some very substantial.
- ‘Argyll, the Islands, Loch Lomond, Stirling and the Trossachs’ is the name of Argyll’s local visitscotland authority – burying ‘Argyll’ in what sounds like a recitation from memory.
- ‘Loch Lomond and the Trossachs’, Scotland’s first National Park, does not even name Argyll – the county lending much of its territory to the Park.
- Strathclyde Police cover Argyll.
- Highland Health Board now includes Argyll in its responsibilities.
- Paisley – on the south bank of the Clyde in Glasgow is the source of Argyll’s ‘PA’ postcodes.
- There is no vehicle registration to identify Argyll.
Add this picture to the isolations dictated by the landscape and any coherent notion of ‘Argyll’ just runs through your fingers like the sands of time.
Affinity with place depends on knowing that place and belonging to a muscular set of connections within it. For Argyll is designed to contribute to Argyll’s knowledge of itself and to establishing a communications network capable of enabling fast, interactive connections:
- between its communities
- between those communities and agencies responsible for delivering services to them and consulting with them and
- between those communities and the world wide community with links to, interests in and affinities for Argyll.