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Islay – a round church, a square lighthouse and other architectural highlights

Portnhaven Church, Isle of Islay

Portnahaven Church was designed by Thomas Telford and built in 1828. The two doors are reputed to allow the populations of Portnahaven and the neighbouring village of Port Wemyss to enter separately and remain segregated when inside. Very Christian!

It is one of the best remaining examples of a ‘parliamentary church’, part of a wave of church-building (funded by Parliament) designed to better serve churchgoers in remote areas. Thanks Maraid for the tip-off.

The Round Church in Bowmore, Isle of Islay

Kilarrow Parish Church, more commonly known as The Round Church sits at the top of Bowmore’s main street. It was built in 1767 and is one of few round churches in the UK. The story goes that it was designed to be round so the devil couldn’t hide in any corners, but this seems to be more fiction than fact.

The church is not usually open apart from Sunday mornings, but you can arrange a visit by contacting the parish clerk on the number at the entrance.

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse on the Mull of Oa is a beautiful thing from any angle. We visited at 7.30am on the hottest day of the year.

It is Scotland’s only square lighthouse, and was commissioned by Walter Frederick Campbell, the Laird of Islay, in memory of his wife Lady Ellinor Campbell who died young in 1832. There is a beautiful dedication to her on one side of the lighthouse.

You can walk across the little path to get right up close (except at high tide). The lighthouse itself is not usually open to the public.

Further reading: a great tour of the lights of Islay and Jura by a very dedicated lighthouse-bagger.

The Royal Arch Masonic Hall, Bowmore, now the Bowmore Lodge

And finally… a pleasing doorway. Bowmore’s Royal Arch Masonic Hall has been beautifully restored and is now Bowmore Lodge holiday accommodation.

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The lonely petrol pumps of Islay

Concrete garage, Port Askaig, Islay

I’ve been on the Isle of Islay for a few days. This Brutalist shelter was the first thing I saw after getting off the ferry at Port Askaig.

Concrete garage, Port Askaig, Islay

I thought it was a bus stop, but it’s a lone petrol pump. The shape of the island is cut out of one side.

Port Charlotte Garage, Isle of Islay, Scotland

After that, I couldn’t help noticing other tiny garages. This one was in Port Charlotte.

Bowmore Filling Station, Isle of Islay, Scotland

Bowmore Filling Station, in the middle of one of the main town’s streets seemed like a megastore in comparison.

All operated by Gleaner, a family-owned Scottish fuel supplier.

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Weston-super-Mare – Wonkey Donkey

Wonkey Donkey, Weston-super-Mare

After leaving the pier, sadly Wonkey Donkey was closed.

Crazy golf scene, Weston-super-Mare

Weston-super-Mare has at least three crazy/adventure golf courses in close proximity. The old ones are the best.

“Person per tramp” – an example of business speak that doesn’t quite translate outside the business.

Haile Selassie was here, Weston-super-Mare

Good story on this blue plaque in Weston’s local newspaper – “Although invited to, he never jumped the queue and would happily chat with other visitors.”

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A walk around Dundee

Desperate Dan statue in Dundee opposite the Caird Hall

Went to Dundee for the weekend. It is a handsome city with a rich heritage.

The V&A museum in Dundee

First visit to the V&A Dundee to see the Michael Clark exhibition, ‘Cosmic Dancer’. There is a good trailer for it on YouTube, if you’re not familiar with his work.

Title of the Michael Clark exhibition at the V&A in Dundee

The videos were plentiful and fascinating (allow a couple of hours to see it all) and the costumes were wonderful.

Oor Wullie outside the McManus in Dundee

Also spent a good while in The McManus, Dundee’s art gallery and museum (above) which has some great exhibitions about Dundee’s history, including an exhibition of Joseph McKenzie’s photos and an olde timey street.

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A postcard from Corrie

Sandstone Quay at Corrie on the Isle of Arran - harbour view with sheep

I found this idyllic harbour last week in Corrie on the Isle of Arran.

Sandstone Quay at Corrie on the Isle of Arran - harbour wall with sheep

Corrie lies on the north-east side of the island. It has two harbours – this one is known as Sandstone Quay because of the sandstone that was quarried locally and shipped from here.

Sandstone Quay at Corrie on the Isle of Arran - harbour view with black sheep and rocks

The sheep came from the Glasgow Garden Festival, and are a fun presence. There is also a lot going on rock-wise, if you like that kind of thing (I do).

Corrie shoreline with swan - Isle of Arran

The shoreline is full of plants, lichens, birds and sealife. The textures and colours are amazing.

The sand at Corrie, Isle of Arran

The colour of the sand is warm and inviting. It reminded me of butterscotch Angel Delight.

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The Stewartry Museum

The Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright

No trip to Kirkcudbright is complete without a visit to the Stewartry Museum. The Stewartry is the old name for Kirkcudbright and the surrounding area.

The museum collects local items, from birds and animals, to butter churns and communion tokens.

Smoky Wainscoat butterfly in the Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright

It is slowly being modernised, with the beautiful handwritten captions being replaced by printed ones.

Chiff chaff eggs in the Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright

Look beneath the blinds on the balcony to find exquisite collections of seashells, butterflies and birds eggs.

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A dull day in Kirkcudbright

Kirkcudbright High Street

Kirkcudbright (pronounced kir-coo-bree) is a pretty wee town in Dumfries & Galloway.

Paintings, Kirkcudbright

It’s known as the artists’ town.

Gargoyle, Kirkcudbright

It is full of quirky little details.

Coffee?, Kirkcudbright

And an interesting selection of shops.

St Cuthbert Wanderers, Kirkcudbright

The local football team is called St Cuthbert Wanderers – named after the patron saint of the town.

Kirkcudbright churchyard

There is always something good to see, even on a dull day.

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Recent reading

Haven’t been out much recently, so I’ve been travelling the world on a small screen.

Humberston Fitties by Seagull Swamp

Humberston Fitties, historic plotland developments on the bank of the Humber in Cleethorpes, lovingly documented by Seagull Swamp.  


How curling stones are made – quarried from Ailsa Craig, a well-known landmark off the west coast of Scotland, and made to Olympic standard by one company in Mauchline – photos by Andy Buchanan


Presenter Kirsty Young has bought the uninhabited Scottish island of Inchconnachan, home to a group of wallabies.


The Hermit of Treig – a great documentary about Ken Smith, who has lived alone off-grid on the shore of Loch Treig for the last 40 years. Incredible for his hardiness and indefatigability, I was fascinated with his thorough approach to record-keeping and the daily admin of being a hermit. (Not currently available on iPlayer but it has been repeated a few times).


The story of Clarion Clubhouses, founded by socialist organisations for the benefit of walkers and cyclists visiting rural areas. Found via a Guardian article about the last Clarion House in Lancashire, which I would very much like to visit.


Slow Ways – help create a national walking network.


Current reading: Tiny Islands: 60 Remarkable Little World Around Great Britain by Dixe Wills.

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King of Piel

The Ship Inn and Jetty, Piel Island

Piel Island – a tiny island in Cumbria off the coast of Barrow-in-Furness – is looking for a new ruler. For reasons that have become slightly hazy, the licensee of the Ship Inn, Piel’s only pub, is crowned the King or Queen of Piel.

The King of Piel's Throne, Piel Island

The ‘coronation’ ceremony involves sitting on a throne and having beer poured over their head.

Piel Ferry to Piel Island

Piel is a tidal island, and can be reached by ferry from Roa (at times).

Tide's out, Piel Island

At low tide, it’s possible to walk across the sands (careful now).

Pilots' Houses, Piel Island

For a small island, it punches above its weight with one substantial ruined castle, one thriving pub and one row of very solid-looking houses.

Piel Island artefacts in the Ship Inn

When we visited, there was a great display in the Ship Inn, full of historical artefacts.

If you like to get away from it all, it might be worth a shot.