Saturday, 18 October 2014

Castles Home and Away: Part Seven

This is the seventh and last blog entry describing the seven places of interest visited on a West Highland road trip earlier in the year. The last place of interest visited was Ardnamuchan Point. As Andrew and I were leaving Mingary Castle for home, we saw the brown sign saying Ardnamuchan Point was only 5 miles away. We had come this far, so on a total whim we decided to go for it.

Ardnamuchan Point, beloved of the Radio 4 "Shipping Forecast", is the most westerly point in Britain - in short legendary! Common sense would seem to suggest Land's End in Cornwall is the most westerly party of the British mainland, but in fact it is 20 miles further to the east.

the very bleak and very westerly Ardnamuchan Point

Ardnamuchan is bleak and while not inaccessible, the road is sufficient tricky, that getting there seemed to take an age. Not for the first time Andrew and I asked ourselves "What are we doing here?". In fact a lot of the driving in the Western Highlands was similar. While the distances were not huge, the slow running on the roads make all trips seems like an odyssey. The roads went up and down and wound side to side. I recall passing one "Blind Summit" sign. This normally means just taking extra care. However, this summit was so blind that once at the top neither of us could see the road dropping down beneath us. And much like a high-octane roller-coaster ride, we both screamed involuntarily and in synchrony.

Ardnamuchan Point has a lighthouse (1849) and a foghorn, and while a lighthouse is not a castle, there are similarities. Castles and lighthouses both have towers; both are built solidly; both are often built in stunning locations; and both are often interesting architecturally. Ardnamuchan is no exception and the building style is Egyptian Revival, and indeed the material is granite, of which the Ancient Egyptians themselves were rather fond.

Egyptian Revival lighthouse buildings
The engineering infrastructure for the foghorn is amazing. Diesel engines drive air-pumps. The pressurised air is collected in large metal tanks. These tanks are connected by a pipe to a small building right on the coast, which contains extra gubbins, before feeding through to the massive red foghorn itself. Andrew was in his vintage engineering element, and even I have to admit that the set-up was a steampunk's dream.

lighthouse and foghorn

Andrew provides scale for the foghorn

(timing?) gubbins inside foghorn building

 gubbins inside foghorn building

 warning on foghorn building door

room with air pumps

Arriving at and leaving from Ardnamurchan Point was slowed down considerably by the lengthy last section of road which is single track with no passing places. Andrew and I had to wait at the traffic lights at both ends for a considerable time.  While waiting to leave, I took this image because I rather liked the serpentining road ahead leading homewards.

leaving Ardnamurchin: traffic lights and serpentining road
Looking back, the mini road trip had many of the hallmarks of insanity, but I am so pleased to have done it. Thanks to Andrew for driving and indulging the insanity. I returned re-invigorated and re-motivated for Balintore's restoration.

the 36 m lighthouse tower

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