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Quiet times in Scotland

27 January 2020
Ben Pentreath
27 Comments

We’ve had the quietest weekend in Scotland and it’s been so good. Charlie and the dogs left from Dorset on Wednesday, and I got up on Friday morning after a very sound sleeper ride to Glasgow, making my way westwards on little trains and empty roads. We went to the pub for pints and lunch and I caught up on work that afternoon, and in the evening, completely randomly, Annie – the daughter of Jim & Nic, our next door neighbours in Dorset – came over for supper with her friends… who were all staying just up the road for a few days. It felt like a small world, but a happy one.

On Saturday we needed to blow away some cobwebs, and headed down to the beach at Kilmory for an explore. Sparkling seas, and a bitterly cold wind. 

McCormick was dressed for the occasion…. thanks to Arthur Beale and my dad’s old duffle coat.

Mavis was in heaven, as she is any time on a beach, by the sea.

Spot a corgi in the following picture: 

Then to have a look at the beautiful ancient Kilmory chapel, with its gravestones looking out over to Islay. 

Inside the chapel are magical, mystical, ancient grave markers. 

And two beautiful tombstones to McCormick’s – we wondered, Charlie’s ancestors?

I loved the flowers and lettering of this headstone. 

And we read this bitterly sad tale…

And wondered at the toughness of life in those days.

The light was shining on dark seas as we headed back up the coast.

This beautiful cottage is on the way…. demonstrating perfectly that it is not BUILDINGS that are ugly in wild landscapes – just ugly buildings which ruin a place. 

And then, on the road heading north, you glimpse this dramatic view of ancient Castle Sween – reputedly, one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland, built in the late 12th century. 

But a moment later, the Castle Sween Holiday Park comes in to view.  How was this possible?

The building is wonderful, dreamlike, magnificent. 

And forbidding. Look at that facade – but also at the beautiful arch of the one way in. 

And such a position. 

Arches within arches, and stonework of unbelievable quality.  Like a Romanesque monastery, although history has been tougher to this building, finally destroyed in the civil war. 

The twentieth century has not been kind to Castle Sween.

Although of course, I was glad to spot a pair of monobloc chairs, to add to the vast library of images that Bridie and I are collecting, several contributed by readers of this blog. 

“Welcome to Loch View”.Well done, everyone. Good work:

But then, to Inverlussa, and the beautiful, sad chapel that we’d spied up on the hill.  It is a heavenly building, and as far as I can tell, is, or was, for sale by the Church of Scotland for the princely sum of £50,000.  A dream.
The churchyard was spectacular, and filled with snowdrops. 

Such a perfect, simple, proud building.  It needs a future.  I hope some spark might just be generated. 

We peered through dark windows to see this lucid interior.

Saturday evening with our neighbours, catching up and having a fine night. We woke up late on Sunday morning, and went down to the shore with the dogs.

The paps of Jura were loud and clear today. We walked up the hill behind us…

And down again, and that was pretty much it for Sunday. Quiet, quiet times.  At dusk, after torrential showers and brilliant patches of sunshine, a beautiful sunset spread westering across the sky and the little lane past our house shone for ever.
That evening, by darkness, dreaming of late summer evenings when I’ll be doing the journey by evening light, I drove back to Arrochar and caught the sleeper train back to London. it’s the most brilliant journey, lulled to sleep by the rocking of the train, although I’ll confess I have hyper-lucid dreams on the train. Last night, as I have done from time to time this last year, I had an unbelievably vivid dream about Mum; we had a long and good conversation. I remember waking up in the dark of the night, the train rushing along, feeling infused with a sense of wellbeing.  One or two friends have mentioned these dreams of departed people to me. Does anyone else know what I mean?

Scotland is literally our new heaven; it has an emptiness, a drama, a clarity, a simplicity that the soft, gentle domesticity of Dorset somehow lacks. But then nothing is more special than turning the key in the lock of the Old Parsonage and that friendly house embracing us all again, at which point, you think to yourself – well, that’s double luck, to have somehow found not just one, but two remarkable places in the world, to call home.

27 comments on this post

Annsays:

Dear Ben Pentreath,
In answer to your question, does anyone else know what you mean about dreams of departed loved ones; I think they are quite commonly acknowledged among persons who take dreams seriously. I have had numerous such dreams which are always comforting and often with a message that I don’t quite understand straight away.
One time, I had a very vivid dream of a departed friend who was profoundly physically handicapped in life. With an alphabet board and then keyboard, he often conveyed that he wished he could ride a bike.
In my dream, I was in a small town in a wild part of Donegal, not unlike your corner of Scotland. I was standing in the square and he cycled up to me, looking physically fit and well, showed me his lovely new racer bike, showed off on it a bit, and then we went cycling over the hills. Then we arrived in San Francisco (where I lived at the time) and we cycled from where I lived then, up a hill and then we were in an apartment with an excellent view over the bay. The hills opposite appeared to be pulsating and shimmering. He stood in the kitchen and the wood of the cabinets glowed. He glowed with them and it was clear he wanted me to take note. Then the dream was over.
A few weeks later, when I was looking for my own apartment, I drove past a place that interested me but the neighbours had a pair of huge rottweilers one of which barked at me. It put me off as I dislike barky dogs as neighbours. Nevertheless, I viewed the apartment out of politeness because the owner was so keen to show it to me. I walked in and was surprised by great view from large picture window but all I could see was the rottweiler staring through a gate across the street.
Then I turned to see the kitchen and at that moment, a passing cloud allowed sunlight to burst through the ceiling window. The wooden kitchen cabinet doors suddenly glowed, just as in my dream.
I knew that it was the apartment shown to me by my deceased friend. Immediately, I signed agreements and moved in.
Later, I met the rottweilers and ended up in love with one of them – Joseppi (who I occasionally yelled at to kindly shut up barking, which he always did albeit sometimes with one last huffy bark). His owners became lifelong friends and I lived in that apartment very peacefully and happily for several years until my return to Ireland.
It was my true home in California and I remain thankful to my dear (deceased) friend for leading me to it.
Finally, I discovered your blog because I was looking to see if you have published any more books.
From an artistic perspective, it is quite evident that you and your husband complement each other very well.
I admire your works.
Sincerely,
AM

Rosamond Tollemachesays:

Hi Ben

I came to your beautiful home in Dorset with Dee a good few years ago! Your photos are simply divine, as is Scotland ‘simply divine’ apart from the horrible ugly holiday homes!! Please keep sending.

See you again with Dee one day! 🙂

Rosy Tolly xx

Dee Rowlandsays:

My husband and I live in historic New England now, close to our daughter, but for many years we lived on an old farm in central New Jersey, USA. There is a wonderful greenhouse from Holland on the property with huge fig trees growing inside. My Italian father lovingly cared for them – pruning, scrubbing the branches when insects appeared, running a fan for proper air circulation, and generally keeping the greenhouse in pristine order. After he passed away, I would do the same, and after one very rigorous day of tending to the trees, cleaning and organizing the soil-filled benches, and washing the concrete floor, I returned in the evening, wine glass in hand, to inspect my labor. The alarm on the clock we kept in there suddenly went off as soon as I entered. My husband said it was broken, but I knew it was a “well-done, girl!” message from dad. I’ve had many wonderful dreams of him and my mother, recently with hugs!

the Elegant Economistsays:

Lovely to see your appreciation of your new home in Scotland in these beautiful photos. In many rural areas there are more old buildings needing care than there are people who can afford to restore them as alternate homes. But lack of means doesn’t preclude either appreciation of, or care for, landscape and community. The old-fashioned holiday parks (there are quite a few around the Scottish coasts) are a long established tradition for many families. Connections to a particular area often go back several generations, and ownerships/tenancies are treasured.

Eleanorsays:

So pleased to have found your site! As I was born in Scotland moved later to Dorset !
Love your pictures brought back nice memories ! Beautiful dogs you have they enjoyed
their time in Scotland.
I have been living a long time in Berlin now so this brought memories of Scotland and Dorset
Look forward to following news! and photos!Thank you .

Carol Brynersays:

Your blog unlocks a door into another world for me, and I do so very much enjoy it. Thank you!
I was especially taken by your photos of the gravestones. I love wandering through the old cemeteries where my ancestors are buried in southern Connecticut. The carvings and inscriptions tell so many stories of shockingly short, and amazingly long lives. I love that your mom came to you as you dreamed. In my dreams my grandparents and parents and the old farmhouse that burned still live on and comfort me. And your Scotland place is most definitely a place where dreams are made. Lucky you!

Birgitsays:

Dear Ben,
thank you for sharing your wonderful weekend in Scotland with us. Your photos are always so beautiful and I can feel me through these Scotland so near …..
Your dream about your dear Mum reminds me as my father has died, I saw his face in a dream so very clear and near to me, that I thought I can feel him, he is sitting here ! It was amazing !
Our dear Mums and Dads are always with us and that’s so very important!

Susansays:

I live in a beautiful spot on calm(sometimes) Mobile Bay,Alabama.Theres a bench near us on a boardwalk facing the water-a very peaceful spot-on the bench is unscripted “Friend there’s welcome here for thee, look round and all Gods glory see. Sit a spell and think and pray, then peace to you be on your way”. It has a Scottish ring to it I think. A beautiful place to share but not to linger too long. Enjoy your writing and photos so much.

Karen Thomsensays:

Thanks for this beautiful blog, I have been following it for years now. I live in Denmark and have this great love for “your England” since – in another incarnation, it feels I worked for at year in Cambridge. Yes, shortly after my fathers death he visited med twice in my dreams. First he payed me a very short breathless visit to tell me: “Karen, it is not about all the stuff I always thought was important, it is only about one single thing LOVE” Very very unlike my father.. In the second visit I was confuses and asked him how he managed to be here, now that he was dead. He said: It does´nt matter at all – either it has´nt happend yet or it happend so long ago, that it´s not worth thinking of. Now – Now I´m here, that´s what matters. These two dreams were lucid and in a way more clear than daily consiousnes. In the other dimension, in which we live, more or less knowingly – as in this dimension – all though often it doesnt seem so, I think my father was right. It´s all about Love.

David Sanderssays:

Yes, it is amazing how buildings can influence the look of a landscape, as you so ably demonstrated, Ben. The time-ravaged castle, the simple but proud cottages seem to enhance the glorious vistas. Whereas, the poor old structures in the holiday camp make everything look quite bleak and depressing. Perhaps one just has to turn a blind eye on occasions.

Scotland is undeniably beautiful tho’.

Darlene Chandlersays:

Beautiful pictures of Scotland. Just loved that church that was for sale, it looked beautiful. And all of the snowdrops. The beautifully castle and quite funny to see it surrounding my homes which we call trailer homes in Canada. But a lovely setting for those living in that area in those homes. I lost my father and mother not long ago; and many a time have almost vividly when sleeping felt my father’s presence and speaking to me that everything will be alright. Perhaps your Mum watching over you on that train. I find that beautiful and comforting for you when your were on your journey home. I so look forward to seeing more pictures of Scotland especially in the Spring and warm months and everything you have completed in your home. That lovely coat on Charlie when at the water’s edge and what a lovely memory and the tomb stones with his family name. A comfort I am sure, if it is indeed family. I look forward to many other pictures and your fond memories.

Mary Chapin Carpentersays:

Echoing a few of the comments here, I was told to expect a “visit”in dreams from beloved parents after they had passed; it was both a comfort and an affirmation of love and connection to believe that it was possible. When they do visit in dreams, it helps me to believe that love never fades and that our ability to believe in these dreams is what helps us welcome in the later seasons of life that come – if we are lucky, as Sir George Martin said…

Deborah Wagnersays:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. It has perked up my day no end. Such beauty.

Some random thoughts:

Poor Hector McCormick died two days before Christmas—or should I say poor Hector’s family. However, my dear mother died aged 57 on my brother’s birthday, 26 January, which is hardly better. We counteract it each year with a posh lunch washed down with lashings of Vespers, G&Ts, and Martinis—well, I’ll have just one Martini. I am slender, so I’m absolutely faced after two.

I have had dreams with my mother in them. They are happy and loving dreams, as was she. I never want to wake up from them. I have an idea that’s what heaven is. At least, I hope so.

Your dad’s duffle. I am sooo jelly. I recently had a Gloverall Monty shipped over to me, but it will take years to reach that level of perfection.

Tragically, we have the quids, but I’d never talk my mister into that exquisite chapel. Either the money or the willpower would run out before we got it finished. That seems to be the fate of most renovations. Doors without handles, decades on.

Gotta run. A letter to write, a dog to walk, and copper saucepans to polish.

Deborah

Nicolasays:

Super quiet pictures. Why however do these holiday parks/residential sites always manage to bag the best spots, and can be seen from miles around? Best wishes, Nicola

Carosays:

This post brought back happy memories of taking the night sleeper to Scotland as a small child. In those days there were blue ceiling lights in the compartments and a dining car with white table cloths a proper cutlery and service. Getting off the train at 6 am at Arrochar station, then driving through the dawn over the Rest and Be Thankful. Sometimes porridge and kippers for breakfast first in the Tarbet Hotel. Such nostalgia !

joaniesays:

Dreams can wrap us and restore us, just like your time in Scotland and your dad’s coat around Charlie. I do believe, especially in the early times of loss of loved ones, that the connections are strong. Perhaps the dreamlike time in history, water and the landscape allowed your mind heart to be open to the gift of your mother’s call. It is a gift to be cherished. In the meantime, I will finish up my coffee now and be a bit restored and ready for a long grey week in Chicago. Thanks as always for sharing your beautiful photo diary and reflections.

FLorencesays:

I’m glad the people who can just afford a caravan / mobile home get to enjoy the beauty too!!

sarahsays:

Three homes actually – having your lovely elegant city base can only enhance the contrast. Absolutely beautiful, lovely images – if I had a spare £50k sloshing around I know what I’d do with it. x

Dorothysays:

How things change!
I remember when Mavis was a puppy and so scared of the water. – you two have mad such a good job of bringing her up…

Stevesays:

Yes, those dreams are quite common-when my paternal grandmother died I dreamt she called the family on the telephone while we were at dinner-I picked up the phone and the shock (in the dream I knew she was dead) woke me up, but not before I heard her say “I called to say I love you…” I’ve never forgotten it and it was very comforting.

Peta Forsythsays:

I once had a dream that my long departed father was contacting me from heaven and it was that ring from the modem and he said thats how they contact us now!!! (Obviously a bit behind up there)

Jensays:

Just beautiful, I really enjoyed reading that and imagining converting the chapel!

Allison Hsays:

Lovely post, thank you, I really enjoyed it. I felt transported to Scotland – including to Castle Sween Holiday Park. God, what a carbunkle! I particularly enjoyed the photos with the critters in them. All photos are improved with a dog(s) or cat(s) in it, in my opinion!

Stephanie louise Murraysays:

When my little sister died, mum, my brother and I couldn’t rise above the sadness then one night we all had the same dream, where my sister told us not to be sad, that she was safe. We were still sad of course but it reassured us a lot. Scotland is a country that never stops giving, I grew up in the northern highlands, not far from you cottages and I wouldn’t swap my childhood for anything ! God bless

Natalie Canningsays:

Pure escapism! Reminder to self: visit Scotland! Thank you.

PATRICIA CLEVELAND-PECKsays:

Dreams of the dead.
Yes, my father came to me in a dream wearing a sprig of lavender in his buttonhole (as he did) and simply told me, “everything is all right.’

Pierre B.says:

Stunning post, Ben! How lucky the five of you are! Did you know that Charlie,s duffle coat is also called a “canadienne”?

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