Part seven of my diary/travelogue/waytorememberitinyearstocome, recording a couple of weeks spent travelling around Europe, shooting mostly black and white film.
Previous instalments are here:
Part 1 – Cossington, UK – Wioska, PL – Bratislava, SK
Part 2 – Bratislava, SK – Orosháza, HU – Szeged, HU – Cossington, UK
Part 3 – Cossington – Newcastle
Part 4 – Newcastle to Perth
Part 5 – Perth to Dundee
Part 6 – Unprecedented Concrete
We were woken by the rain beating against the window. Iain and I had by now got the hang of the Scottish weather and knew that by the time we’d got our waterproofs on, the sun would be out and the temperature five degrees warmer. So we rubbed our hungover faces and headed out.
We took a leisurely breakfast in Ullapool’s Tea Store after buying our lunch from the fantastic West Coast Deli. The latter didn’t serve breakfast because the former had opened first and they ‘didn’t want to tread on any toes’. I couldn’t imagine similar thoughtfulness back home.
For the first time on our trip, we’d be spending two nights in the same place and so planned a circular tour of the beaches, lochs and lighthouses between Ullapool and the Kylesku bridge that we’d be returning to to shoot with a little more light.
After a brief stop at Ardvrek Castle on Loch Assynt, we headed for another dropped pin, the ‘Hermit’s Castle’ near the village of Achmelvich. It was built in the 1950s by an architect from Norwich, who returned to Norfolk shortly after completion, spending only a weekend in the castle he spent months building. The physical effort involved in building this thing out of concrete mixed with stones from the beach, in such an inaccessible place must have taken either extreme dedication, or utter madness.
The castle was vandalised in the 1970s, when the windows were smashed and the door removed, but it is not unknown for people to use the castle as a bothy. It now appears in lists of Brutalist structures and C20th architecture worth protecting.
It felt pretty remote and we only found it with helpful directions from the lady in the SHYA. It’s certainly ‘diminutive’, consisting of just a sleeping platform and fire pit but it’s story is a charming tale of British eccentricity – I loved it.
We continued along the B869, a wild, single-track road that twists and turns around the peninsular. We took in the Stoer lighthouse, the view at Achnacarnin north to Foinavon, and coffee at Flossie’s shop in Clachtoll. Our chat with (the lady we assumed to be) Flossie reminded us of the laid back pace of things when you get this far north. She was interested in us, our trip and our enthusiasm for the Kylesku bridge. We bought crisps from her, made just a couple of miles from where we live.
After a few more white-knuckle miles on the B869, we were back at the Kylesku Bridge. It was what our trip had all been about and though we’d got to see it the previous night, it was is the last light of the day.
Today, the weather was pretty rough, but the drama of the sky only added to the scene. We spent an hour or so exploring the structure from every angle, and waiting for that break in the cloud that might give us a better shot. It never came.
We retired to the Kylesku Hotel for dinner and a beer before returning to the south side of the bridge to shoot it some more.
It is a beautiful thing, in a spectacular setting and well worth the trip to see and photograph, although those pictures only hint at its majesty! We were both pretty awestruck by it, even on this second visit. As we moved around the bridge taking our pictures, each time I passed Iain, he was shaking his head and muttering ‘unprecedented concrete. Unprecedented…’.
And it was. If you’re ever passing, you really should nip and have a look.