Thursday, 14 October 2010

mull of galloway lighthouse

I love lighthouses - the engineering, architecture, their purpose and the stunning places they are built are a powerful combination for me.

So it was a real treat to spend the day at Mull of Galloway and visit the lighthouse there - it is roughly an hour and a half away from Kirkcudbright but well worth the journey. The day started off pretty driech but as we got closer the skies cleared and the sun came out - the soft quality of the light was amazing against the green of the hills and the blues and greys of the sea.

My first sighting of the light house was in the distance and over several cliffs and was stunning - appearing through the clearing skies, the sun hitting off the fresh whiteness of the lighthouse, it was really thrilling to see.

We parked up and strolled over to the lighthouse - unfortunately we couldn't get up the tower that day but we did get access to the exhibition [two pounds each - bargain!]within the old lighthouse keepers area. Now, I go to a lot of exhibitions and some are great and some are pretty rubbish. I don't know how many times I have gone to an overhyped exhibition - either making out it will take days to fully experience when it could take 20 minutes, or with 'techy' interactive bits that don't work or are not that impressive, or are just plain dull.

Well, maybe my judgement is biased given I love lighthouses, but I think they got the balance just right on this one. The videos that you could watch were a good balance between being educational [one explained how the lamp, lens and engine worked] and giving you the story right from the horses mouth [one video was one of the lighthouse staff talking about his life and work].

The engine room contained technical information as well as correspondence between Stevenson and his contractors and artefacts like the instruction book issued to lighthouse staff - see below for the rather detailed instructions on how staff should wash themselves!

The balance between serious information and more human, funny anecdotes, like the staff reaction to having a lighthouse bible issued to them, was well done and we spent quite a long time looking through everything.

The lighthouse itself is stunning - Stevenson was of course an amazing engineer but he also managed to create beautiful buildings in incredibly challenging environments. Inside there are pictures of all the lighthouses in Scotland and you can tell a Stevenson designed lighthouse - although they were designed absolutely for their purpose, if you didn't know what a lighthouse was, and just saw the design anywhere, you would be impressed by the architecture. The fact it is beautiful and functional is an achievment and echoes William Morris' edict about having nothing in your house unless it has a function or is beuatiful - Stevenson's lighthouses manage to combine both with elegance.

After we had exhausted the exhibition, we took pics of the lighthouse and then popped into the Gallie Craig Coffee Shop just a short stroll from the lighthouse.

This has to be the best view from a cafe anywhere - the building is well designed with large glass panoramas to take in a 270 degree view. The building is dug into the hillside with the roof covered in the same plants and grasses as the hillside, so it blends in amazingly well to its surroundings. And, a major bonus, the cafe is run by lovely women who do proper home baking and a selection of daily specials for hot meals. The carrot cake was to die for and the scones were actually better than the ones we had bought from the bakers in Castle Douglas. With so many cafes now either being Costa or Starbucks outposts, or just below par serving bad coffee and cakes in wee packets, it was good to see a well run establishment. If they can do it in such a remote location why can't others in towns and cities achieve the same?

We then took a walk along the cliffs - it was very windy but after we had walked over 2-3cliffs we found a wee sheltered area where we sat for ages just enjoying the sun, fresh air, amazing views and the sound of the sea.

Andy sorting his hair in the very blustery wind!

Andy with sorted hair!

I really miss the sea now that we live 'inland' and could have spent hours just listening to it.

The amazing view from the cliffs

As a souvenir Andy got me a map of Scotland that has all of the lighthouses marked on it - what a geek I am but I was very chuffed he spotted it - not many maps will show where even the more well known lighthouses are.

If you like bird watching, you can access an RSPB nature reserve where you can bir watch to your hearts content. I know nothing about bird watching so can't say whether it is worth it or not, but given the coastal position imagine the seabird element would be good.

It is definitely somewhere I would visit again and would plan for doing more walking next time too. And while I am landlocked in Stirling I can checkout the lighthouse's webcam! Well worth a visit.

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