Eddy pro­vides seafood soup from the deep

Rochdale Observer - - THE LAUGHING BADGER -

THE High­lands was a risky call, with the Beast from the East due at any mo­ment, but after a gig in Hawk­shead on New Year’s Day we turned left on the M6 in­stead of right and headed north. It turned out to be the best de­ci­sion; no snow, no rain and no wind, and of course, best of all, no midges.

The lit­tle bit­ing devils, the ruin of many a good sum­mer trip, were nowhere to be seen and we were free to en­joy the balmi­est first week in Jan­uary for many a moon.

After speed­ing by Loch Lomond with a few verses of Rab­bie Burns, with not a hint of the white stuff on the top of Ben Lomond, we cruised over the Rest And Be Thank­ful and made haste to the Loch Fyne Fish­ery and stocked up with all man­ner of good­ies, in­clud­ing their own smoked mus­sels and smoked salmon.

‘Rest and Be Thank­ful’ was in­scribed on a stone by Gen­eral Wade’s builders in 1753, and the road has been known by the same name for cen­turies.

A quick visit to In­ver­ary Jail saw us step back al­most two cen­turies and dis­cover the sto­ries of the real men, women and chil­dren, some as young as seven, who were tried and served their sen­tences in this prison.

Your kids will love a visit to the court­room full of spooky char­ac­ters, and they can ex­plore the cells in the Old and New Pris­ons; try out the wooden beds and ham­mocks, sam­ple the pun­ish­ments, ex­pe­ri­ence the whip­ping ta­ble and take your turn at the crank wheel.

Please be warned they may be trau­ma­tised by the cries of the man locked up in a strait-jacket.

Once re­leased, we set off for the Isle of Lu­ing, my lit­tle bit of Heaven on Earth and the home of my old­est friend, the artist Edna Whyte. Edna is 89 this time round and is still talk­ing of ex­hi­bi­tions in two years time. A con­stant in­spi­ra­tion.

Although the weather was uber-mild dur­ing our two days, the enig­matic is­land of Scarba – with a moun­tain­ous back­bone the shape of a shark’s fin – was hid­ing be­hind a shred­ded mist, and the truly amaz­ing Cor­ryvreckan whirlpool was just be­yond sound and vi­sion.

It is the largest in Europe and third largest in the world, a caul­dron of con­flict­ing cur­rents which whirls and spins, and plum­mets and dives be­tween Jura and Scarba, cre­at­ing a mael­strom of im­mense pro­por­tions.

Wa­ter falls into a 219-me­tre hole be­fore meet­ing a pin­na­cle of rock 30 me­tres from the sur­face. It is forced up­wards, pro­duc­ing in some rare cases one large whirlpool, although more fre­quently many small ones and ‘stand­ing waves’ which can reach up to 15 feet in height.

These are lit­er­ally waves which are at dif­fer­ent lev­els, al­most like steps in the wa­ter, and hun­dreds of seabirds in­clud­ing guille­mots, ra­zor­bills, kit­ti­wakes, gan­nets and puffins, take ad­van­tage of a nat­u­rally in­duced seafood soup aris­ing from the deep.

Wher­ever that kind of ac­tiv­ity takes place, you are guar­an­teed cetaceans, es­pe­cially por­poise.

Writer Ge­orge Or­well and his son, who lived at Barn­hill in north­ern Jura, were briefly ship­wrecked on the skerry of Eilean Mor, south of the whirlpool when boat­ing the gulf, and Or­well’s one-legged brother-in-law Bill Dunn was the first per­son to swim the gulf.

I know, mad as a wasp, but there have been a few made the cross­ing since.

All was calm back on the slate beaches of Lu­ing, and sur­pris­ingly, oys­ter­catch­ers and a few species of gull were all that showed, but there is al­ways the chance of ot­ters and a white tailed sea ea­gle, and if its eight feet of wingspan doesn’t im­press you, noth­ing will. As for Scarba, she showed her­self at the last minute.

Next stop, Loch Ness and In­ver­ness.

●●Scarba

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