My relationship with this part of the world goes back to my parents, Glaswegians born and bred, whose holidays were all spent ‘doon the watter’. My father’s first Boys Brigade summer camp was on Bute and my mother’s heart’s desire, after seeing the newly built ‘Seven Sisters’ in Colintraive from a steamer going to Tighnabruaich, was to live in one of them one day. However the nearest she came to it was a cottage on Bute opposite South Hall many years later. Dad’s family owned a tiny flat in William Street in Dunoon where I was born and one of my earliest memories is of walking with my brother up to the farm on Alexander Street holding a milk can between us to collect the day’s milk. The hill seemed very long and steep and the milk can huge, but I realise now it was a gentle slope of a few hundred yards and the milk can, discovered in my parents’ kitchen years later, holds at most a pint. We moved away from Dunoon when I was small but visits back to the William Street house evoke memories of the excitement of the journey which brought us through the Rest and Be Thankful on the original switchback single track road where cresting the rises made your tum turn over and occasionally bounced you right off the seat – no seatbelts in those days.
Holidays with my young children were spent with my parents on Bute and the journey from the East Coast to Argyll took all day with miles of single track road down to the Colintraive ferry. The landmark we looked out for towards the end of the journey was the Glendaruel signpost coming down the Leanach. We called Glendaruel ‘the magic glen’ and would speculate, as we went through, who might live in all the wee white cottages and farmhouses we saw. I never imagined, as we passed the Glendaruel Hotel, that Michael and I would end up running it and then living up that enticing West Glen road that I was always so tempted to explore on our way to Bute. And now I do know who lives in all the houses!