The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

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.

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

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.

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

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.

The magic of coming home to TayvallichThe magic of coming home to Tayvallich

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.

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich

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.

The magic of coming home to Tayvallich


  1. ms m mclauchlan says

    Ten years seems such a long time, yet sometimes like yesterday.. So sorry to have missed you all when you visited. Your blog is beautiful. Thank you.

  2. says

    Victoria this is such a sweet post! I didn’t know about your loss, so sorry-but this will always connect you and make you all gather and have a lovely weekend in his memory.


  3. Isla Dunlop says

    Lovely words Victoria, can’t believe it’s 10yrs since John & my dad have left us, but their antics still live on in all of us .

  4. Jenny Buckley says

    That’s a beautiful piece Victoria,I have a lump in my throat…sorry didn’t see you guys when you were time xx

  5. David Johnston says

    Although this is very picturesque I was a regular visitor to Tayvallich when there was no pub.. Great Uncle Johnny and his family farmed Danna and I remember going to a Summer ceilidh in the village hall which was supposedly dry.. All the locals And a few celebrity visitors managed to smuggle in bottles of whisky.. which were partaken of in China tea cups in the kitchen of the hall.. the ceilidh started at 11pm and went on till around about 5am or 6am .. who knows or cares when it finished.. it was the highlight of the year in a tough environment for local people.. after arriving back at Danna, goodness knows how..we all had an easy Sunday.. it was midsummer and not too much animal husbandry to be done.. lambing done, silage in.. hay made.. had a long lie till 10am .. Someone, probably Archie, had milked the coos.. after being out all night..Aunt Bessie and Archie, with a little help from me did the evening milk.. happy days..

  6. Dawn Goodwin says

    Great comments of a place lots of us call home, despite having left there to work years ago. Well said Victoria! I worked with your Dad in the pub, good times indeed!

  7. says

    This is the most beautifully written post I’ve read in a long while … I know exactly what it’s like to return to place so filled with nostalgia and longing! Funnily enough, even though it’s not my home, I feel this way when I return to my husband’s original home, the place he grew up in, in Leicestershire. I get that same sense of vitality and “refreshment” whenever I visit, and the sense that I’d like to go back again soon.

    xo Jaime

  8. Brian MacDonald says

    Great, and atmospheric just as Tayvallich is, then Carsaig and Keils, all hidden gems with beautiful memories for Kate my wife and I. I love this area and living in Crinan means it’s not that far from here.Come back soon.Pease is a good name here as it seems it has always been.

  9. Sharon says

    I came to your post via a link on the Tayvallich Inn facebook page as we were staying in Tayvallich that night and had dinner booked that night in the inn.

    It’s the most beautifully written piece, although I came to the comments to say that when we got to our rental cottage I picked up a book called Taynish: A History of the Ross Estate and written by John Pease. I’m thinking this must be your grandfather as it mentioned he passed away ten years ago. I only managed to read part of it but have ordered my own copy to continue the read at home. It was most fascinating.

  10. Amanda Chadderton says

    My friend Jean shared the link to your blog yesterday and it was so timely as we had walked down to Taynish that morning. We were intrigued by a small round stone construction close to the house wall.
    I am now fortunate to call Tayvallich my home since August 2016, but it must be wonderful to have a family background here. I love finding more about the history of the area.

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