On our way home now and, after a fond farewell to Arran, we crossed from Tarbert to Portvadie on the ferry that had broken down on our outward journey. Portavadie is a remarkable, thriving marina in one of the most out of the way places imaginable. What is now the marina was originally created as a dry dock in the 70s to build oil platforms to exploit west coast oil reserves.
The MOD, however put the kibosh on the whole thing when they said it would interfere with their nuclear submarines going to and from Faslane, so the project was dropped, but not before a whole village had been built and equipped to accommodate 500 workers … but never occupied. What is now referred to as the ghost village of Polphail, stands like a monument to government ineptitude. The local people told us, perhaps in typical Highland fashion, that after it was abandoned, they were able to just go in and remove fridges, washing machines, televisions, tumble dryers … indeed, all the fixtures and fittings. When we were here last year we got a chance to explore and take some pictures … it is a sad, eerie place. The marina on the other hand, just a few hundred yards away, is like another world; shops, swimming pools, restaurants and millions of pounds worth of yachts tied up to the pontoons .. the contrast could hardly be more stark. Another wonderful day but this time we decided to sit inside. The staff were extremely attentive but there were so many of them they got our order a bit muddled up … to many cooks. Eventually they got it right but without a shadow of doubt these were the worst scones we have ever had. Pat’s, especially, was as hard as a brick … couldn’t even cut it with her knife. Mine was hard too but at least I could get into it. There were profuse apologies and Pat’s was taken away (presumably to be used as ballast on one of the boats) and exchanged for one which was much better but still pretty awful. We wondered if it was a case of style over substance i.e. the surroundings were so swanky and lavish that expectations were raised to an unrealistic level, but no, they were just terrible scones … and it’s not often we say that! It’s a shame because this really is a fabulous place, great for a holiday with the kids, so don’t let the scones put you off visiting. Don’t see it ever happening, but perhaps, if we could get rid of our weapons of mass destruction, the Clyde oil reserves may yet be exploited. Having said that, with the world being awash with oil at the moment, it hardly needs more of it. Good news though on the greener side of things with the world’s biggest floating offshore windfarm set to be commissioned next year off Peterhead. It is being built by Statoil the Norwegian state owned oil company .. great, but where is our own government when it comes to wind power … oh yes, reducing support for green energy in favour of nuclear, brilliant! Okay, what you have all been dying to know … the final bird count for our Arran trip .. the grand total was 52. Not bad, but slightly surprising that, having been near the sea almost all the time, there were relatively few waders on the list, no redshanks, no sanderlings, no knot and relatively few ducks. Pat saw so many eiders though that she got a bit of a down on them … sorry. In spite of no eagles being spotted, and in spite of finishing on the worst scone ever, it was a great week. You will be happy to know that the recent blizzard of scone blogs will now be calmed down considerably … we are all sconed out. Many thanks to our traveling companions for their forbearance.
PA21 2DA tel: 01700 811075 Portavadie Spa & Liesure Centre