Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Bute of St Blane

Away from Mountstuart and Rothesay, the visitor finally feels they are getting into Bute proper.

This is the Bute as described in Alex and Bob's Blueskyscotland, a pastoral place of majestic horizons, thanks to its position as a low-lying island in the Firth of Clyde, surrounded by the mainland and other island hills.

Dunagoil Bay and Arran:


We lunched on the bay next to the prehistoric fort of Dunagoil, watching yachts in the glittering Firth of Clyde, planes from the nearby grass airstrip, and eating brambles picked from the roadside. I've never seen them in such profusion!

Brambles:


Dunagoil is an iron age vitrified fort, very difficult to access as it is surrounded on all sides by low cliffs of columnar basalt. Lots of domestic remains were found when the site was excavated in the 20th century. This was someone's home, back in the days when an inacessible cliff-top site and solid curtain wall round your settlement was considered prudent.

Dunagoil:


It is short stroll from Dunagoil to the tucked-away chapel of St Blane, so we wandered there.

St Blanes Chapel:


The info boards at this secret spot state that St Blane was the illegitimate son of Ertha. Ertha's brother St Cattan ran Kingarth on the other side of Bute, the religious centre for Cowal, and set her and her infant adrift in a currach (they weren't all nicey-nice, the old saints). They survived this ordeal: the boy was raised in Ireland and returned to Bute as a monk, founding a chapel at St Blanes.

Outlook from St Blanes:


There is a peculiarly restful atmosphere at this spot in the early evening light. A small cliff face to the west should create a claustrophobic feeling, but the configuration of trees, rocks and a well, with an outlook to the Firth of Clyde and St Blane's Hill, creates the opposite feeling.

Perhaps this was a sacred spot before St Blane's arrival: in pre-Christian Scotland, wells often were considered sacred. The year of St Blane's death was 590, in what used to be called the dark ages - but a more accurate description for the area, which produced great works of mobile art and scripture like the Book of Kells, would be the age of saints.

Old grave at St Blanes:


It had been a day of beautiful soft light characteristic of the Argyll coast and we were content, despite a lack of energetic traipsing round the rough ground on the very southern tip of Bute beyond St Blane's Hill. We returned to Rothesay via Scalpsie bay for sunset.

Scalpsie Bay at sundown:

4 comments:

Dave said...

I visited St Blane's chapel myself recently. It is a lovely spot, but you had a better day with views across to Arran.

blueskyscotland said...

Good history of the fort and church.
More than any other place in Scotland I,ve always felt a real sense of peace here at St Blanes but I,ve only been on sunny days admittedly. bob.

Allison Harley said...

Hi Robert your pieces on the Isle of Bute are wonderful can VisitBute used some of you pictures the St Blanes in particular are stunning ?

Robert Craig said...

Hi Allison - send me an email. craig at loveofscotland.com.