I found this article while browsing the internet, it has been copied to a site from Dive magazine, so I looked up Mike Clark and found not only his blog, but his beautiful photography; the online home of professional underwater photographer Mike Clark
and his book Wrecks and Reefs of Southeast Scotland
If you would like a signed copy, contact Mike.
“Some folk in Scotland sing Its A Long Way to Inverary, but I was beyond that, and now singing Its A Long Way To Tarbert. It may not scan as well, but it was true.
After three hours of driving along narrow Lochside roads, I had already passed Inverary on Loch Fynes west side. It would be another 20 minutes before I arrived in the beautiful fishing port and village of Tarbert.
It is guarded by the remains of the great Bruces Castle, and a natural bay and inlet form a beautifully scenic harbour. I had never been this far down the loch before and the diving would all be new to me, as it generally is to the brave adventurers who make it to this point.
I started to feel guilty about my earlier complaints as I realised that the other divers had driven for more than six hours to get here.
This was the groups third trip in a row to see Malcolm, proof to me that the diving would be worth the effort.
Topside, Loch Fyne is beautiful along its entire length. Its the second longest sea loch in Scotland. I had dived in the loch on a number of occasions, though never this near its mouth, and encountered a number of strange creatures such as spiny spider crabs and nudibranchs.
A force 8 gale was forecast and while this would not concern divers at the more sheltered sites further up the loch, it could affect us here. Skipper Malcolm was therefore careful with his initial site selection.
The Garden is situated on the eastern side of the loch. As this is the more exposed, it was decided to dive it before the heavy weather came in.
The sky was clear and the vis good as I dropped into the green water and descended to the top of the reef at around 15m.
Initially this was plain old rock covered in brittlestars, but sand chutes led the way over the edge of the reef, and soon I was dropping down the steep slope to 30m, where it got dark.
The slope also eased up here, and a sandy seabed extended as far as I could see in the 7m vis, still dropping away but at a much gentler rate.
I started noticing life everywhere.
Large groups of up to 12 squat lobsters lined the entrance of every crack and crevice. They were so packed in that they couldnt move away when
I photographed them. It must be the only area of overcrowding in and around Loch Fyne.
On the sea floor, my torchlight picked out the eyes of scallops partially buried in the sand. These and a few big edible crabs would make up the staple diet of the visiting divers from Hartlepool for the next few days.
I started my ascent and sparkling green Devonshire cup corals made interesting subjects. But it was when I got back up to around 18m that the most impressive feature of the dive presented itself.
Initially I must have landed on the only piece of barren rock down here, as a dense covering of dead mens fingers covered the wall, before being displaced with colonies of massive plumose anemones. I had never seen these animals grow to such a size before! They were easily more than half a metre tall, vast pillars of orange and white forming a forest over the top of the reef.
Schools of small pollack darted between them, but sheltering in the forest were big old edible crabs, butterfish and the aggressive velvet-backed swimming crabs, whose red eyes glared from their cover as they tried to make their escape. I used up the remainder of my film on the top of the pinnacle around 10m down.
We had got off to a great start, but having watched the CD-Rom Malcolm had sent me, I was itching to get onto one of the little puffer wrecks I had seen on my PC screen. After returning to Tarbert and looking around the ruins of Robert the Bruces castle, we were off to dive the Arran III.
I had often thought about diving this wreck from the shore. Once at the site the reality of the task dawned on me, and I was glad that I hadnt bothered.
It looked a long way, though dedicated divers do make the trek. Little Blue makes the dive a lot more comfortable.
Falling over the stern, I followed the instructions given by Malcolm. I landed at the stern of Arran III at around 12m. This is the only section of the wreck that remains intact.
This Clyde puffer, or small steamboat, had run straight onto the rocks on the first day of 1932. As you would expect, the bows are completely broken up in 5m. There is still a lot of wreckage to explore, even if it is covered with kelp in the summer months.
Finning aft to the stern, the wreck gradually takes shape and scenic spars coated with red seaweed rise like clutching fingers. Lifeboat davits and mooring bollards are clearly visible.
Beneath the stern, a group of massive edible crabs was noted and it was good hunting for the Hartlepool club.
Back at the stern, I hung about and tried to capture an image of the massive pollack that patrol the area. They would shoot off when my flash fired, only to circle and take up the same holding position. There is also a big conger eel on the wreck that Malcolm called Curly.
I didnt find him, but other divers did.
He was out posing for pictures.
The Arran III, like all Clyde puffers, made deliveries to all the Clyde ports. Many of these, such as those in Loch Fyne, were in extremely remote areas where no road communication was possible. She met her fate while returning from Lochgilphead with empty beer bottles for recycling.
A storm with severe south-easterly gales blew up, and from that direction the winds could run right up the loch.
As Arran III approached Tarbert, she became more exposed to the fury of the storm. In the terrible conditions at 6.30am that Hogmanay, she ran aground on a reef east of Baltimore island. Badly holed, she sank on the next high tide. Her cargo was salvaged.
Next morning, after emptying a couple of beer bottles the night before, I was glad of the civilised 9.30 start. The poor weather had arrived but was doing little to affect the sea state, as it was all coming from a westerly direction.
Very close to the resting place of the Arran III lies another puffer, and it was to be my favourite dive of the weekend.
I was first in and onto the Margaret Niven, which is a great benefit if you want to photograph it. The shotline was attached to the prow in just over 28m. The green water had turned black but my eyes soon adjusted to the gloom. Vis was a respectable 6m but it soon shrank to 3m once the bottom-huggers arrived.
The whole bow section lay before me, rising a couple of metres out of the muddy seabed. First there was a set of large winches and bollards. After that, the hold opened and the cargo of road chippings was clearly visible.
The Clyde puffers were working to put themselves out of business by delivering the raw materials to build the highways.
At the stern, the main points of interest were a large boiler with a tiny one-cylinder engine directly behind it – the powerhouse behind the whole Clyde transport system of the early
Dropping over the stern and down a couple of metres, I could see the small prop and the rudder hard to starboard, perhaps thrust there in a last-ditch effort to avoid the rock on which Margaret Niven ended her sailing days.
She must have sunk fairly quickly, as the wreck lies 10m off the bottom of that very rock. If you feel comfortable about it, you can fin straight off the bows for 10m and ascend up the vertical cliff. This will give you plenty of interest to help you wile away your deco stops.
Kelp obscures everything above 6m, but the wall is covered in soft corals. The cracks and crevices are home to edible crabs and the guys from Hartlepool all saw lesser-spotted dogfish on every dive, with a few noted on the cliff here. These small sharks are common in the loch. Catch a lazy one and it will make a great photographic subject.
After a long steam up the loch we arrived at Moyle Rock, a submerged pinnacle. After the long wait, it was all go as soon as we reached at the site.
It was billed as similar to the Garden, which was magic. The difference was that Malcolm, who is also a keen diver, had apparently seen plumose anemones that made the Gardens look small.
I found the site under water by hitting the pinnacle at 18m and working up to around 6m, but with not a lot to show for it. I was about to surface when flashes of orange and white caught my eye. I headed south, and soon plumose anemones appeared, though they could not rival those of the Garden.
I think I was on the right site, and none of the other divers saw anything much apart from another dogfish.
If you have the choice, I would always opt for the Garden rather than waste time steaming to this site. However, on the way back we had the bonus of noting a large group of porpoises heading up the loch.
Back in Tarbert, it was pack-up time and then a three-hour drive home. Was it worth it You bet – the diving is great and relaxed, and Malcolm is a cheerful skipper who provides excellent briefings based on diving knowledge along with the hot drinks and chocolate biscuits.
Tarbert is a beautiful place, where people still say hello and pass the time of day. The pubs are great for a couple of nice pints post-meal. Give it a try.”
With so many woodland and coastal walks it is so easy to find the perfect tranquil spot to unwind and give you that well earned peace a holiday on the West Coast can bring.
For a huge majority of us, there is always that problem of finding a place to stay that welcomes pets.
West Loch Hotel, a short walk from the centre of the village on the shores of West Loch, easy access to forestry walks, you are also very close to the starting point of The Kintyre Way, a beautiful walk that criss crosses the whole of the Kintyre Peninsular.
|The Kintyre Way|
Also at West Loch are a selection of cosy lodges set on a hill they have spectacular views over the Loch.
West Loch Shores are set right beside Corranbuie, a natural woodland beside forestry land, you can follow the track all the way along to bring you back to Tarbert village.
The track is popular with other walkers, runners and dog walkers.
Although more often that not you can walk the full track without seeing another soul.
Also at West Loch you will find Kayak Majik, you can hire a canoe, try sea kayaking, even meet some of our local seal population,
A truly relaxing way to explore the lochs.
Argyll Haven also sits at the West Loch, another lodge sat in a quiet and beautiful location yet not too far from the village centre, surrounded by forest overlooking the loch. What better place to unwind!
Have you ever tried Glamping?
Well now you can, and what’s more you can bring your dogs too!
Kennacraig Camping Pods have small and cosy wooden pods , allowing you to enjoy the fun of camping outside but with the comfort of a sturdy and cosy shelter with washing and cleaning facilities.
|Tarbert From The Hills|
In the village The Tarbert Hotel allows pets, with a friendly bar and delicious food it is another popular place to stay!
The Mews is a pet friendly guesthouse in Tarbert village
Also overlooking the beautiful Harbour is The Islay Frigate Hotel, it has a popular bar, a harbour view restaurant and a beer garden out the back, a pretty little sun trap to sit and relax in.
Overlooking the Tarbert Church is the Cullins Bed and Breakfast, a perfect base to relax after a day of exploring.
Just outside of the village, before you come in to Tarbert are Barfad Self Catering Holiday Cottages set in farmland, surrounded by woodland and near the shores of Loch Fyne.
There are 2 Cottages Available At Barfard the underlined text takes you to their site for further details. Lesley from the Loch Fyne Gallery told me on the All Things Tarbert Facebook Page
“Years before I had my cottage in Tarbert, I stayed at Barfad Farmlands a couple of times with dogs, the cottages were lovely, and direct access to White Shore was fab for the dogs. I met people with dogs over the summer who stay regularly, so they obviously still allow them”
|So much exploring for a pup to do!|
Sitting right on the shores of Loch Fyne near Stonefield castle is Shore Cottage, a peaceful retreat in beautiful surroundings.
Skipness is one of my personal favourite places, you can walk there from Tarbert, see the map on the Kintyre Way Website for the specific details for the track.
Be warned you may meet livestock on some sections.
The Seafood Cabin offers freshly prepared sea food along with tea and coffee, see their website for opening times and the menu.
If you visit Skipness do visit the castle, in the Summer the tower is opened allowing you to climb up to the top for magnificent views on a clear day.
Skipness Holiday Cottages are in a fantastic location, with beautiful walks and stunning views over to the Isle Of Arran, it is breathtakingly beautiful all year round.
Contact Sophie and ask for a brochure and booking form
|Scotland, it’s very cool in Winter! <3|
On the other side of West Loch is The B8024, with spectacular views of Kintyre and the Inner Hebrides, Jura, Islay, Gigha, if you come all the way to Tarbert you really should take a gentle drive along this road!
Dunmore Villa and Anchor Cottage sit right on the shore, totally wonderful if you love the sea!
Both are large, private self catering holiday lets with total privacy.
A short drive past the villa and slightly up the hill on your right is Dunmore Court, with self catering cottages in a shared courtyard.
Surrounded by ancient Oak woodland and wildlife with beautiful views from the hills.
Back over on the right hand side, with views over the loch, a few miles from Dumore Court is Barr Na Criche offering self catering or bed and breakfast holiday accommodation. It is a perfect get away from it all! Relax on the shores of the loch, walk miles through forest or countryside track or drive into one of the little villages for fine foods and excellent hospitality!
|Standing Stones Loch Stornoway, Knapdale|
Port Bàn Holiday Park is further along the road, it is set in a beautiful location and you are able to rent or buy a static caravan here.
You can also camp there with pitches for tents and hook ups for tourers and caravans.
Totally pet friendly, the whole site has poop bags and bins, making cleaning up easy, please keep all dogs on the lead on site.
Still within roughly a 30 minute drive from Tarbert Harbour is the beautiful Ellary Estate the cottages and chalets are situated on the Loch Caolisport side of Ellary Estate.
The cottages all stand in their own grounds, offering privacy and seclusion and are equipped with everything that you are likely to require on your holiday.
Just across the loch from Tarbert Harbour is the Portavadie Mariner with a superb spa and leisure centre.
The cottages and studio apartments are dog-friendly so you can bring your dog too!
The ferry trip takes less than half an hour, so it’s easy to pop over and back again.
Take a look at all the facilities on offer at Portavadie there is so much to see and do you will be wanting another holiday after your holiday! Set in beautiful surroundings with luxury accommodation.
|Ferry To Portavadie. Photo by Blue Wave Services.|
Going further afield but still within easy travelling distance Mellow Melfort accepts all pets.
They have accommodation to suit a wide range of needs.
If you have holiday accommodation and allow pets in or near Tarbert please contact me and I will add your details.
If you are booking a holiday with your pets, please make sure you inform the owner you intend to bring pets, be sure you are happy and agree with any terms and conditions they may have prior to booking.
Please clean up after your pets and keep them under control around wildlife and livestock.
|Click Image To Enlarge|
I am not a great photographer, but as we travel through the hills and beside the lochs there are so many breathtaking views, so here is a short post, loaded with pictures and videos of the B8024 (Just go through Tarbert, past Stonefield Wigwams, then turn right as though going to Tarbert Golf Course.
Then do a left onto the B8024, the road follows alongside the shores of West Loch.
Just follow the road, be mindful of the passing places as you may need to give way to farming or forestry vehicles, if you stop for photos or to enjoy the view, make sure you have left room for other vehicles to pass.
Allow yourself plenty of time to explore, or just relax and take in the stunning scenery and crisp, fresh air.
|Port Ban Holiday Park, A Romantic Beach Just Before A Snow Flurry|
Along the road you will find an excellent holiday park with static caravans and camping pitches.
Port Ban Holiday Park is set in a fantastic location and is perfect for extra guests if you are planing on getting married in such a beautiful spot.
See Crear Weddings for further info.
It is also a perfect location for family holidays, with sandy beaches and craggy coastlines there is plenty for little ones to do.
For Naturalists, it is wonderful all year round, with wildlife in abundance!
You don’t have to wait long to see Seals, Buzzards, Deer, Otters and much more.
|Sandy beaches and rolling hills|
Of course, you could just sit back, relax and enjoy the views (even better if someone else is driving)
|A Common Seal In Loch Caolisport|
|The Weather Seems To Change With Each Twist And Turn|
|And Raging Burns|
|Click to enlarge|
I have set up a Youtube channel to add the short films I have been putting on Facebook and Google+.
More recently inspired by playing around with the phone settings while out with the dogs.
They are all short and at the moment there are only a few but I have embedded the playlist so it will grow in time.
It’s just a bit of fun, but it shows the forests and lochs etc, if you enjoy walking you should be inspired.
Just a couple of videos I made while playing with my phone walking the dogs, it’s still very rough out there so please be careful.
If you are travelling locally and you have a facebook account bookmark the A83 Facebook Group for regular news, photos and updates from the people on the roads.
|Clyde Fishermen’s Association|
The Clyde Fisherman’s Association is holding community meetings for all residents, please see poster on the left for the meeting and times near you, and please do attend if you can.
(click image to enlarge poster)
“I’m quite sure everyone will have seen the post put on to this site by the Clyde Fishermens Association advertising events all around the Clyde .
I cannot stress enough how important it is for the economic and social well being of the village that we get a good turnout. I am not going into the politics of the situation on this site that’s not what this site was set up for but I do want to make people aware that if the proposals for Marine Protected Areas and or a Regulating Order go ahead in their present form the consequences for Tarbert are dire.
Many businesses will be affected not just ones with fishing connections .
As a native of Tarbert along with many other long-standing fishing families our jobs and way of life are on the line.
Tarbert was built around fishing going back hundreds of years and it looks as though we are about to lose it all. The fishermen of Tarbert have given a lot to the village for many years now both in their time and financially by supporting every group club the churches and even the restoration of the castle, we have never turned anyone down for help.
Now we need the help of the community to secure a future not just for us but for the village as a whole. I wouldn’t be writing this post if I wasn’t concerned about the employment prospects for the future of Tarbert.
Anyone who can manage to come to the public event in the village hall on the 24th at 7.30 please do and you will hear more of the detail and the politics of the situation. Many people may think that they have nothing to do with fishing but that’s not the case this will affect everyone the knock on effect will go right through the village.”
The Tarbert Meeting is on Tuesday 24th November at the Tarbert Village Hall.
Scottish fishermen have been at the forefront in pioneering a range of conservation and sustainability initiatives in recent years
For more information please visit Fishing For Truth.
Meanwhile just off the coast of Ireland is the world’s second largest super-trawler.
The ‘MFV Margiris’ drags a net bigger than a football field and, if stood on its end, would be almost twice as high as Ireland’s tallest building.
The super-trawler ceased operations off Australia after bitter protests by Government, fishing industry and conservation groups.
The vessel even changed its name to the ‘Abel Tasman’ in a bid to side-step protests off Australia and New Zealand.
But it ultimately quit Australian waters after being repeatedly targeted for protests by Greenpeace who feared its operations could devastate regional fish stocks.
The vessel which is 143m long (429ft) and displaces 9,500 tonnes is the second biggest trawler/factory shop afloat and her processing capacity is enormous.
Irish fishing industry and conservation groups warned about the potential impact of such vast fishing potential in vulnerable Atlantic areas.
Please Sign The Petition to stop this factory vessel destroying the environment and the fishing industry.
There are many fantastic Places To Stay In Tarbert.
Below is a list of hotels in and around Tarbert.
The links take you directly to their sites.
If your hotel isn’t listed or you know of one I haven’t listed please let me know and I will update this page.
The Islay Frigate is also in the middle of Tarbert with views over the harbour and a beer garden out the back.
Stonefield Castle Hotel is a beautiful Scottish castle built in 1837 overlooking Loch Fyne it is a beautiful retreat set in stunning grounds.
The Tarbert Hotel is easy to find in the middle of Tarbert overlooking the loch, stunning views and with everything on your doorstep, it’s ideal for a holiday or a short break whild exploring the islands.
West Loch Hotel sits on the shores of West Loch, is a pet friendly hotel, ideal for hikers and their four legged friends, with breathtaking views of the loch and the hills, it is just a short walk from the centre of Tarbert.
|A beautiful village|
If you have a hotel in or near Tarbert and I have not listed it, please contact me with the details and I will add it to this page.