Sagas of the Inner Hebrides: Dunoon to Isle of Bute

Waking from a slumber in my nest, the windowpane left open overnight, waking from the cold salt air seeping in, high tide lapping up the seas flora just yonder the pathway in front of my dwelling. Today wasn’t a planting day, and I meant to bend my steps further into the surrounding territory. A destination. A Crossing…
Taking a ferry across the inner estuary of the Firth, a passage over waters I have come to love, porting in back on the mainland then riding the rails for a transit through Glasgow. I went accommodated, reading material, a bottle of Red Stag whiskey, a warm Icelandic sweater, a camera and a journal. Again meeting the shores, via Glasgow, I arrived at Wemyss Bay not afar from where the battle of Largs happened between Scotchmen and Vikings. Another ferry/fairy would take me across the channel again to the island of Bute. I read of its appeal, a castle pilfered by Vikings surrounded by a moat near the coast, and decided to dedicate the passing of the sun to its endeavor, at least I thought. I left fairly later than expected, and all light was waning as I took the second boat, the travel, not a very short passage.

Alas anchoring in the port, and dispersing from the fray. I quickly found the castle only a fathom away, my late arrival meant it was closed for the day, now a ‘tourist’ attraction. It did not phase me, so I lurked around the stone wall perimeter for awhile scoping out the easiest method inside. Admonishing a conscious awareness of place, the castle stood in partial ruins and contrast to the architecture surrounding it. Only small portals un-bricked for windows, curving walls, a cannon on one side of the moat, and what would have been rooftop lookouts, a quintessential Scottish castle. I am always impressed by the amount of man hours that must have been dedicated to such buildings. When the scurrying of the people on the streets were less apparent and the dormant hours seemed to creep over the town I made my move. The only way I could determine was up and over the stone wall, so I climbed and traversed the metal spires, then wandering along the inner embankment of the shadows, admired the castle from a closer proximity, I went ’round again trying to find the lesser distance over the moat so as to jump it. The only other way into the walls was across a bridge (unfortunately not a drawbridge), and through a gate which was of course closed. I figured if I could only cross the moat I could scale the outside ruines. For several minutes I tried in vain to find a place that wouldn’t arouse attention, thinking I may have a chance under the shelter of a tree, but to no avail. Of course this would be no feat if it were a matter of pillaging, whereupon it would be easy to swim across, but for now the most wise choice was to acknowledge that at least, the fortifications stood to defend encroachment.

I passed the wall but could not the moat, and remembered a time in the midlands of England, when I climb a regal birch to cross a barrier into a Roman fortress, walking into the battlements, entering their arena, and standing aloft in the tower in thick hazel light and feeling transported in the temporal. Times like those I am united with the past, and gain more inspiration that the reading of such events or witnessing of re-enactments. One can say this is why I do these pilgrimages. So alas, I left the castle after sitting in neath its sheltered outer walls, and caught the ferry back to the mainland. I wrote a poem called the whiskey seaman, and hummed a tune unfamiliar of the roving mariner.

Roamin o’er the Ocean wyde

Doon’ thae shore of Firth o’ Clyde

Me heart is restless, I feel so ol’

But Scott’sh whiskay soother tha soul

Aroond’ the castle, then ay go

And then me boys, I’ll gae back haim

I’ll fill me stomach and go te bed

Tomahr i’ll plant me trees again

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