The road to Tayvallich likes to deceive those it carries. The single track road, with scalloped edges for passing places, lifts high and carries to low to sea level. Loch Sween sparkles as close to the edge of the tyres as it dares, then it pulls away and you twist through trees and hedges full of magenta flowers. This last little stretch of road, as soon as you turn away from the Crinan canal is both torturous and yet full of anticipation. On a sunny June day, the car finally turned the last corner and the bay rolled into full view, a sea of boats, more houses than I remember and a harbour that seemed to sparkle. It was a literal wow moment, I could barely contain the word as it tumbled from my mouth.
This little place, in what seemed like the furthest edge of the universe as a child, is home and yet not home. Specifically it’s my father’s home, my uncles and my extended family. Weekends of my childhood were spent here, and each part has a cosy familiarity about it despite it being around eight years since I last visited. A swing still hangs from the same tree I remember as a child, whether the blue rope I swung from is the same I cannot know. The signpost for Taynish remains, yet age has weathered it to rust. A cattle grate I remember the car rattling over no longer exists. The biggest change of course is that there is no Grandpa, he’s not there in a baseball hat with a wide, close mouthed smile asking for ‘a wee hug’. It’s been some time since that happened. It’s why a little group of us have gathered, marking an anniversary nobody wants.
It’s easy to feel sad and a little broken returning to a place where the thing that binds you has gone, but then returning is a great reminder. My sister and I unloop a gate and wander through wild grass to the shore, to where his small wooden dingy once lay. We’d gone fishing on that boat for mackerel and captured nothing. I mostly remember not wanting to wear the lifevest my dad shoved over my head. We stand outside his old house, see a surprising snippet of his handwriting where we had not expected it and a book he had written lying in the BnB nonchalantly. Memories of small things, the things deemed insignificant come flooding back and the magic of the place releases all of it’s secrets. I realise why I missed this little fishing village so much, in spite of what’s not there any more. All of the history of my family.
In the pub, the one which to my mind hasn’t changed much but according to my dad has, we eat fresh seafood from the loch and chat over wine and beer. Heads poke round corners and say hello, people who exclaim at how big my sister and I are and those who embrace with hearty hugs. Later my father and I stand in the bar, where I once did a childish mixture of Irish and Scottish dancing to a live band around aged seven, accompanied by my uncle. I remember the barmaid and she chats as we sip our drinks, recalling my father’s first foray into catering in this very building as a teenager washing pans. As we walk home, the sky produces a rainbow, then a vivid pink sky that looks like an instagram filter. In this part of the world, where phone signal is non existent, the joy in enjoying a sunset like this isn’t lost. Tayvallich I believe the the perfect reset button, for recharging and remembering.
We don’t have long here of course, so we make the most of our time. The sun shines hard for us as we amble down pathways that seem so much shorter than they did as a child. The path to the Old Mill is now dotted with pieces of public art; a door to nowhere, a hammock embroidered with song lyrics, plastic puddles and piles of washing. My maternal grandfather explains to my sister and I how the Old Mill would have worked, his intricate knowledge of these things a great asset. A quirky secret passageway I haven’t seen since childhood has been unearthed after some recent building works and I almost squeeze through it like we did when we were very very young. The magic keeps coming, the stream trickles down to the loch and the water keeps sparkling, even the kelp has a sheen. We stand and take it in, this natural beauty which was once a regular place we all came to and has slowly fallen away from us like wilting petals. But I feel refreshed, and make plans to return to our magical place. As we later toast to an amazing man’s memory, and play songs on my iPhone it feels like nothing has changed. When we do leave, the sky darkens a little. I promise myself I will return, places that are so ingrained in the heart should never stay so locked away.