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India boasts the Taj Mahal as the world’s most romantic building … but a new memorial inspired by a much-loved Taynuilt artist could soon be about to rival it.
While the Taj Mahal is made from white marble, The Shieling is part-made from recycled stone and is perched 1,500ft up a mountain overlooking Glen Etive. It officially opens to the public later this month.
The memorial is the fulfilment of a promise made to Belfast-born Evelyn MacDonald by her husband Sam before she died from cancer last year.
The pair, who divided their time between Ireland and their home at Barguillean, Taynuilt, had talked about creating a lasting memorial to a love story that had captured their hearts.
Deirdre of the Sorrows tells the tragic tale of two young runaways who fled across the sea from Ireland to escape an angry king and found happiness hiding away in Glen Etive – but it was not to be forever.
Some years later, they were tricked by the king into returning to Ireland, Deirdre’s lover Naoise was killed and – faced with being forced into a loveless marriage – she took her own life.
A ‘couple’ of standing stones symbolising Deirdre and Naoise face each other, almost touching, at the top of the memorial’s steps that lead down into arm-like walls with a Celtic knot seat at the heart of it.
Tucked into the wall will be a statue of a man and woman clasped in an embrace. Before it received its new gold coat, the concrete statue took pride of place outside the MacDonalds’ home.
Mr MacDonald said: ‘Evelyn would be horrified to think The Shieling was a memorial to her. It is a memorial to someone else’s love story that we both fell in love with.
‘Everyone who hears the story and hears about The Shieling is seduced by it.’
Public art sculptor David Wilson will be back on site next week to add the finishing touches.
‘David was the right man for the job. He said he would leave it looking like the gods had dropped it on the hill thousands of years before. We hope it will take on a life of its own from now on and, with what must be the finest view in Argyll, become another must on the map for people to visit.
‘No doubt people will soon be wanting to get married up there,’ said Mr MacDonald, who ran nearby Barguillean Nurseries for 30 years and gathered a creative team close to home to make The Shieling vision a reality.
The project has been driven by Mr MacDonald and four other committee members. Taynuilt artist Lucy Gray restored the embrace statue, giving it a golden sheen. Lismore-based photographer and film-maker Julia Fayngruen with her partner Erik Tovar are working on thedeirdreshieling.co.uk website, which will include a visitors book for people to leave selfies, thoughts and feelings.
Storyboards cast in bronze will retell Deirdre of the Sorrows and give a modern interpretation of it. Another board will map out the eight locations in Glen Etive where Deirdre and Naoise lived in peace and safety.
There will also be a Celtic bell for people who make the 2km uphill hike to the site to ring as loud as they like.
Youngsters from Taynuilt Primary School are busy making posters inviting everyone in the community to a picnic to celebrate The Shieling opening on Sunday June 24. The picnic, from 2pm-5pm, is being provided free and there will be transport for those who need it from the car park at Angus’s Gardens on the Glen Lonan road. It is hoped people will go by foot to make the most of the views.