When we lived in Kintyre we were spoiled for photographic choice. Even though that was the case we seemed to spend an awful lot of time in Ronachan. maybe it was the stunning views? Looking out from Ronachan over the Sound of Jura you can see Gigha, Islay and Jura itself with its impressive Paps. I still smirk when saying or even writing that. Once a school boy always a school boy.
Ronachan is at the top of Kintyre on it’s western coast. Most people will not know where it is but will have shared the breathtaking view. it is not far past Clachan with itself is close to Tarbert. Ronachan is where the road follows the loch shore out into the Sound of Jura. Ahter a few miles of trees and sheep filled fields with the odd glimpse of the narrow West Loch to the right the road bursts out into the open and the full panorama of sea, sky and islands is before you. and I bet many people do gasp when they first see it. Especially at sunset.
Ronachan the Goth years
Maybe it was that there was a handy car park right by the shore that made it so popular with us? maybe it was that it was only 10 minutes from our house? You could leap out of the car and go say hello to the seals basking on the rocks just off shore or if you are lucky, very still and don’t smell too strong (I once was there when a lady with perfume strong enough to dip sheep turned up and the seals, who were down-wind but about 50 metres offshore, flopped off their rocks and headed underwater) you will also see an otter on the shore.
A sunset over the Paps of Jura
I have a taken a remarkable amount of blurred unrecognisable pictures of otters at Ronachan.
The best of an unbelievably bad lot
The difference in shutter speeds between wildlife and landscape photography is a problem. I do carry two cameras because of this but the movement required to get the spare, which is set up for capturing the furry little pimpernels, usually scares them off. Often, once I have finished taking my pictures at sunset I sit while the colours in the sky change then grow dark and watch an otter scamper in and out of the waves then when the Assistants appear swim around the rocks just offshore. Then I realise that I am being watched by a row of bobbing heads in the water. The seals returning to the rocks just off shore always look at me in that slightly curious and slightly dismissive way that seals have. There is an explosion of released breath as they surface. A true snort of derision. I can imagine what they are saying:
“Did you see what he was using?”
“Yeah. A Canon. A 5D. Looks like a MkII. Rubbish, they are”
“Yeah. Common as muck. Doesn’t show us any respect does it? The guy who was here last night had a Nikon D3X! That’s respect.”
“Yeah. I saw it. A bit risky bringing a bit of kit like that to place like this. But still, it’s nice that someone thought we were worth it.”
The smug and supercilious seals of Ronachan
Anywhere you stop to take a photo on the Kintyre coast you are pretty much guaranteed that after 5 minutes a head will break the surface and stare at you in a manner that criticises your choice of filter or poo-poos your lenses. To be honest I love seeing the seals. When I was young we went on holiday to Millport, a classic Glasgow holiday destination. We went every single year and yes, we went at the Glasgow Fair. We were that clichéd. The same two weeks every year for 15 years and every Sunday in the rest of the summer was spent on my dad’s boat pootling about the Clyde and we never ever, not once, saw a seal, or a dolphin, never mind an otter. We did catch loads of fish, which was fun, but not an aquatic mammal to be seen. Now we have loads of dolphins, porpoises, whales, seals and otters. Not so many fish though.
Ronachan’s rocks can look like broken toffee
So the seals appear and no matter how dim a view they take of me, I still take the time to say hello and chat to them, until the Senior Assistant spots who I am talking to and thrashes her way into the sea barking furiously right up to the point she runs too far and makes one underwater woof and starts to swim after the seal. The seal just snorts and disappears under the surface. By tilting its nose up to the sky and slipping backwards beneath the waves it barely leaves a ripple. The senior assistant, like a doggy re-creation of the end of the beginning of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin turns about and swims inelegantly back to shore, huffing and puffing.
It was a dark and stormy Ronachan
I miss Ronachan now. It’s been almost three years since I have stood on the rocks watching the sun set, a storm approach or the waves crash ever closer when it arrives. The passing of the years has dimmed my memory of the biblical plaque of midges that decends on you for ten weeks of the Spring, Summer and Autumn. Or the appalling smell of the seaweed that banks up on the beach after a summer storm which then rots and adds millions of flies to the plague of midges. I have pretty much forgotten the tourists that dared to try and hog what we saw as our Ronachan and had the cheek to enjoy the view and the seals as much as we did. I shall draw a mental veil over the many times I charged down to Ronanchan to photograph a sunset that was happening behind a huge grey wall of cloud that rose from the horizon sapping the colour and drama out of the sky and turning the sea to the hue of a pavement.
I shall remember the good times: the evenings spent staring at the setting sun and thanking whoever or whatever that I was given the privilege to witness something so beautiful. I loved feeling the salt spay of stormy waves crashing around me and the roar of the wind as I witnessed Ronnachan being battered by winter storms. An invigorating if cold and wet experience.
I will be back. Hopefully sooner rather than later…
Ronachaning(Vb) – The act of going somewhere really nice (and really close) and taking a photo of it. (extract from the Lexicon of Landscapes365)