Morvern Lines with Iain Thornber week 23

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The Drimnin Distillery, opposite Tobermory, is well into its second year of production and has about 750 casks sitting in its warehouses. These are a mixture of bourbon, red wine and sherry casks.

The distillers have had very positive feedback on their ‘new make spirit’ and have just started to taste their one-year-old and are very pleased with the progress.

They are looking forward to welcoming more visitors this summer, now the season is well under way. The distillery is open every day Monday to Friday for tours and also offers lunch, which must be pre-booked.

Visitors can be collected and returned to the water taxi jetty at the end of the public road where there is a waiting room. The water taxi will also carry bicycles for those who may wish to do the circular route up to Lochaline and take the ferry to Fishnish. As there are seats for 12 only to and from rimnin, it is advisable to book. Further information, including ferry times, is available via the internet and Facebook.

An added bonus for those visiting the distillery, is the newly opened, jaw-dropping, Alan B Hayman Gallery and Studio at the Mains, a lovely old house and steadings, less than a mile away. There you will be warmly greeted, by Alan and Helen who moved up to Morvern from Aberfeldy where they had the Glen Lyon Gallery.

Alan is a former Perthshire stalker and passionate about wildlife and its
surroundings and, like all skilled hill men, has a keen eye for nature in all its moods and seasons.

Visiting the Mains is like popping into one of the country’s top natural history museums. Here you will find exhibits, wonderful original local paintings, sketches and limited edition prints of birds and animals in the wild, with Alan working in his studio on his latest painting.

Two weeks ago saw him on St Kilda, a voyage he made alone from Drimnin. He described it as being like nothing he had ever seen before. With that sort of comment, we can’t wait to see the results. Further information and directions at

The Lewis family, who own Drimnin Estate, have added to Morvern’s history by restoring an 18th-century apple-store and the later Roman Catholic chapel which doubles up as a multi-faith place of worship, a community hub and a wedding venue.

A little way below the distillery is the tomb of Alan Maclean of Drimnin, 5th estate laird and an officer in the Jacobite army at Culloden, who died in 1792.

There is a tale told of one of the Macleans of Drimnin who took his piper with him to a funeral in Lochaber. He indulged too freely and, instead of playing sad laments, turned to lively reels which so angered the assembled company that one of them stuck his dirk into the bag.

On holiday recently in Morvern’s unique war memorial cottage was Mrs Fiona Ross, nee Cameron, who, along with her husband, was renewing her family ties with the parish. The Camerons were a well known local family going back many generations.

Driven from the Glenborrodale area at the time of the Clearances, they came to Lurag in the Black Glen on Laudale Estate, before moving to Kinlochteacuis and Kiel, Lochaline, where Donald Cameron carved superb walking and shinty sticks.

His father, also Donald, who married Catherine Stewart from Uist, was a talented stone-mason who built Lochaline’s former Free Church for John Sinclair, the Tobermory distiller and owner of Lochaline Estate who, unlike many of his fellow Highland landowners, came out for the Free Church at the time of the Disruption.

Donald’s brother Ronald, or Dan as he was known in Morvern, moved to Ardrishaig where he was well known there among an older generation.

The Camerons of Kinlochteacuis were renowned for their kindness and hospitality. No one who came to their door ever left a stranger. Haste ye back, Mrs Ross!

Raven culling has become routine across Scotland, with Scottish Natural Heritage granting licences to shoot 1,129 in 2016, 1,133 in 2017 and 1,082 in 2018. This information was made public following answers to a series of parliamentary questions posed by Claudia Beamish MSP, Labour’s shadow cabinet secretary for the environment, climate change and land reform.

It has also been revealed that the recent licence issued to kill ravens in an area of Perthshire for ‘research’ purposes permits the use of cage traps and was issued with no stakeholder consultation. Furthermore, the ‘review’ of the licence – announced following public outcry in April – will not consider its repeal.

Ravens are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), but licences can be issued to permit the killing of a ‘small number of birds’.

All licences given in the past three years have been for preventing serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters. The only exception to this has been the licence issued to permit the killing of 69 ravens in Perthshire, which was granted for science and research purposes.

Harry Huyton, the director of OneKind, a campaigning animal welfare charity based in Edinburgh, said: ‘We are shocked to find that so many ravens are being routinely killed across Scotland. Ravens are supposedly a protected species, recovering after a long history of persecution.

‘Yet instead of celebrating the recovery of these intelligent and charismatic birds, it appears that they are being routinely killed, with the approval of Scottish Natural Heritage.

‘Ravens are opportunistic feeders and are known to predate lambs, which we assume is one of the main motivations behind their persecution. There are many alternative, non-lethal means of deterring raven predation that should be pursued instead.’

On the licence issued to the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders, Huyton commented: ‘Given that the cull zone is dominated by grouse moors, it suggests instead that this is about protecting red grouse populations for recreational shooting.

‘We are also deeply concerned that the use of crow cage traps has been permitted. They impose serious stress on the trapped animals and, as investigations by OneKind have shown, the slaughter method associated with crow cage traps raises serious welfare concerns.’

Ms Beamish added: ‘The scale of the killing of ravens is a cause of deep concern. It is about time Scottish Natural Heritage explained why they are content with the mass killing of these creatures.’

A Freedom of Information request has gone to the government to find out if any licences were granted for killing ravens in Morvern.

Creag an Fhitich (the rock of the raven) is the motto of the chiefs of Glengarry and refers to the rock above Loch Oich on which Invergarry castle stands. A raven also features in the chief’s coat of arms and is why a magnificent sculpture of one by Gerald Laing adorns the memorial to Air Commodore Donald Macdonell CB DFC, chief of Glengarry, at Armadale Castle, Skye.

Iain Thornber