My next-door-neighbour Gregor looks after a dog of whom I’ve become very fond – where I now live on the island of Luing – on one of the famous inner Hebridean ‘Slate Islands’.
I was very glad to see her return from a few weeks away – and, both in high spirits, we took to the coast-path where a jaunty rainbow seemed to lead – as they do – to promise of riches ahead. We didn’t care for treasure – just for fun and fresh air.
The path follows a string of abandoned mine-workings. Surrounded by towering walls of rocks, evidence of the extraordinary risk and hardship endured by the slate workers – I was, not for the first time, disgusted by the social mores of the time dictating that those at most risk were least rewarded.
The path gradually narrows, something the dog already knew, but ignored, in her pursuit of an old ball (where she was concerned – treasure enough). Having not walked this way I was more cautious .. and occasionally fretted that the dog might overstretch, land on the spur of rock below the path.. and require rescue by lifeboat.
The southerly cliffs of Mull, now and again caught the sun, turning red, seen against the blues and greens of the sea and sky.. looking like a Kaffe Fassett patchwork. In the direction we were taking, this path is part of a route headed north and then east around the top end of Luing towards Port Mary and South Cuan, taking in several more abandoned slate works and quarries along the way.
Luing is home to much wildlife – and the old quarries make wonderful shelter for goshawks, peregrines, sea – and – golden eagles ( the first three of which species I’ve already caught sight of). As I currently become clumsy and incoherent with excitement – I’ve yet to capture any image worth a jot. A long lens for my Canon is suddenly occurring as more desirable than a wide-angle at this point.
One day soon I’ll return with help (abseiling-expert friend springs to mind) to explore this intriguing ledge and the just-out-of-reach rock-face beyond..not a good idea when alone – my sensible four-legged companion having patiently waited behind on the preliminary reccy’.
The living history of the working of the slate – though long-ago abandoned – can be brought, in the present, to serve the island community. Through continuing to protect and champion its past, its community spirit, and its wildlife – Luing can inspire future generations to ensure that its unique qualities are protected, and enriched, for all time.
There is ‘gold’ to be found here. No fooling.