Assynt three

it’s almost three weeks since I painted this, working on the floor of our Kyelsku lodge, but it’s already gone (very happily) to a home in the US.

the evening view. I could happily live very simply and make endless watercolours somewhere like this. note the glass of wine and the knitting on the table.

colour and light on a late April evening

the next morning – our last full day here

Sàil Garbh (rough heel in English, heel denoting a long slope which ends a chain of peaks) so clear in that morning light

Sàil Gorm (blue heel) no longer so mysterious. both have small amounts of unmelted snow in high clefts. between them is slung a glen, and a burn, Allt a’ Bàthaich, flows down from it via waterfall after waterfall. I read, in Mark Jackson’s Meanings of Gaelic words commonly seen in hill names, from Cambridge University Hill-walking Club’s website, that Bàthaich means byre or cowshed. perhaps that refers to transhumance hill grazing when the people took their cattle up to summer pastures and stayed in encampments with them (sheilings, like the booleys in Connemara). but looking closely at the OS map, the glen itself appears to be bog and lochan, hardly suitable, and possibly it’s the connection with Quinag, the milkpail. or not.

for our last day we walked from Achvraie, down the road from Achiltilbuie in Coigach, overlooked by the towering form of Ben Mor Coigach

not a hilly walk, but with views of the Summer Isles

across Badentarbat Bay and Horse Sound, Tannara Mòr, and Horse Island. some of these were used for summer grazing, the bigger ones supported communities, and the local fishing industry.

we walked partly through fenced off regrowth areas, past several crofts to Culnacraig.

in places there are convenient slabs of the ancient Torridan sandstone to sit on,

you can quite clearly see it is sedimentary, with bands of gravel deposits between the finer sand.

crofters grew hay, corn ( oats), turnips, potatoes and other crops. they usually had sheep and cattle and shared common grazings on hill ground. peat banks provided winter fuel. until the Crofting Act of 1886 tenants had no security of tenure and life was harsh. in 1848 Coigach became one of the first communities in the Highlands to actively resist evictions.

the name Achiltibuie ( Achd Ille Bhuidhe) means field of the yellow haired boy. Coigach (A’ Chòigeach’), meaning the five fields, is derived from the ancient tradition of dividing land into fifths. the five ‘fields’ being Achduart, Achnacarinan, Acheninver, Achnahaird and Achiltibuie. perhaps a bit like Irish “townlands”.

on the way back to our lodge the hills of Assynt danced around us.

I took photos out of the car window

Stac Pollaidh’s ragged pinnacles loom over the road as you drive along beside Loch Lurgainn.

then the steep side of Cùl Beag dominates the view, although it is a lesser hill.

then I went back to wild scribblings in the sketchbook – here Suilven

attempting to resist the “view” and impart something of the feeling of it.

back at Kylesku the evening turned the sky pink

then orange and purple

that was our last evening.

the next morning Lucy did the clean-up while I walked Bims

still water in the loch and perfect cloud reflections.

we were in Ullapool for a late breakfast at Cult

and off across to Strathpeffer for another walk

where we managed to get a bit lost in a Sitka plantation as the path disappeared

back home I tried to recapture the landscape with gouache and lots of water, allowing the pigment in the paint to granulate,

thinking of the Lewisian gneiss

and the dyke swarm creating gullies across the bogs and lochans

the quartzite capping Quinag and Suilven’s pinnacles

and the underground streams in the limestone glens at Inchnadamph

all on the kitchen table before venturing  back into my studio. there’s so much to process after a trip like this.

I have been painting in two stages – first in acrylic, and then with oil and wax. there are several drying in my studio. but then this one arrived. I put the gold, green and brown on with the squeegee quite thickly, thinking to work over it with more acrylic and then cold wax and oil stick, like its sister painting. I had already scratched the name of the disappearing river , Allt nam Nuamh (the stream of the caves) along the bottom. but looking over the gouaches, I brought one out to the studio and ripped it up, and this painting just asked … but then sat around feeling a bit uncherished. see a later blog for where it got to in the end.

here’s the sister, to which quite different things happened. both are 60 x 60 cm.










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