Calm sea and Scotland Saltire blue sky this morning promised a perfect day to go plein air hunting. I always get antsy when conditions are this perfect—there’s a palpable feeling that the day is calling ‘carpe diem’! Added to urgency, I know that here along the west coast, conditions aren’t guaranteed to be predictable for an hour, let alone chunks of a day. I think my family can sense that I’m a bit of a caged animal waiting to get out there when the day looks this perfect. My painting gear backpack is at the ready in the studio, so all I need to grab is some fruit and make a tea to go.
Last year in January our family made the roughly forty minute excursion to see the castle at Skipness. Now after a year of lockdown, that seems like a bit of a lifetime ago. I remembered that in addition to the fascinating setting of the castle with its history, there were scores of classic Scotland vignettes right within walking distance of the carpark.
It’s not a long drive but there are tempting painting ideas and photos all along the A83 as it hugs the western coast of Kintyre from our house. Rugged rock faces interlaced with sandy beaches, pastures dotted with sheep and strands of ancient stone walls climb up the sweeping pastures. When I reach the Islay ferry terminal I head away east from the views of Jura’s peaks up and across the spine of Kintyre. The single track road takes me past a sunny porch where I see two fellows sitting and enjoying the sunshine and talk of the day. It’s best to ease along over the hills and curves, ready to allow the occasional other side traffic to pass. Pheasants stand almost in the roadway and don’t seem to even startle away in this slower remote place.
Soon I see a crescent of deep blue ahead. Nestled in the space of valleys the expanse of sea with soaring peaks above. Arran is a major island in the Firth of Clyde channel between Ayrshire and Kintyre. Near Caradale, its shores are only three miles distant. Now on the eastern shore of Kintyre, rolling north to Skipness, views of Arran are nothing short of spectacular on such a fine April day.
Skipness itself is a bit of Brigadoon with St. Brendan’s church at the end of an arching stone bridge along a cove facing south. Just a bit farther now and I’m at the carpark next to 13th century Skipness Castle. Pairs of lambs are frolicking along or lying in the grass in the pasture by the castle itself. You ‘cannae’ make this up—that’s how picturesque it really is.
While keenly aware that the ideal afternoon sun might disappear at any time, I was taking pictures and looking for ‘my spot’ as fast as I could.
I settled on a view looking across the tiny stone bridge, pasture, and then the sea sweeping up to the snowy cap of Goatfell itself. While I painted I was visited by one of the neighbour’s chickens, their dog, and perhaps three folk who passed along the tiny lane. I had a blast soaking in the sunny idyllic view and felt I absorbed enough impression to complete my work in the studio. With some regret to leave the views of Arran, I was soon enough on top of Kintyre heading home with dramatic views of Jura’s blue peaks again on the other side.
What a treat to explore and paint today and thanks for coming along for the ride!