Sunday, 28 March 2010

Image Above and Below Right: Red Deer Stags grazing.

Scenic Route
Thursday 25th March 2010

I am off island, the location only serves to heighten my sense of disconnection, off island, off line. My mobile phone has joined the conspiracy, even if the battery hadn’t died the chance of a signal on these barren shores would at best be slim. This is my day out on Mull, an island and yet not my island home, but then place can be a small thing maybe a tossed pebble. I have stopped the van halfway along a route described by local sign posts as scenic, this almost implies that all other routes on Mull are somehow commonplace.

Below me, a beach of dense basalt pebbles stretches away to meet the mountainous walls that guard the entrance to the sea loch. I walk down to meet the water and prospect for oysters but the tide is high leaving me only spent shells, stripped of their cushion soft, enamelled mother of pearl. Above the road a sheep fank* nestles into a low cliff and I wander back to take a closer look. The collection of drystone walls with rooms and runs almost has the look of an Andean ruin, a city laid out and forgotten. I lean over the stonework pushing my elbows into to a deep carpet of moss, and look up to find a pied wagtail watching me from across the enclosure. I turn my attention to the moss and pretend to hunt for something in the hopes of raising the bird’s curiosity and draw him closer, it works for robins but my friend may be a little wiser and bounces off into the distance.

I walk through the pens and find a toilet positioned with some architectural sensibility and yet almost surreal in its application. So this is the world today a little less than serious, I return to the van .

The road swings in and out of the cliff faces as it rises sharply from the loch shore. The height of the van’s driving seat only adds to the sense that I might have stumbled onto a fairground ride. Ahead the Burg a monolith of basalt sits like a impenetrable fortress, its walls holding back the sky. The sun has reached far enough into the afternoon to run its fingers over the shear sides picking out the layers and faults in the rock. I slow as the road nears the pass and glance along the northern wall of the Burg, a moment later all is forgotten as the landscape opens into winter scorched moorland, golden in the afternoon sun. A group of twenty or so stags are grazing near the road, I pull into a lay-by, cut the engine and reach for my camera.

Fank* an enclosure for working with sheep

Image: A Fank with facilities.