All the return journey from Mull to the Black Isle, the wind has grown stronger. Breeze becomes bluster, becomes something aspiring to gale. But at least I can breathe out.
I’ve reached the ultimate island on the list, in a window of calm weather before what could be a storm. Luck has held. But then, the whole experience of visiting so many islands and so many treasures of built heritage has been a lucky one.
I was aware, as I raised a wooden cup of island malt with members of my family on a beach to celebrate reaching the final monument, just what a privilege it’s been to be part of this project. Since my earliest teens, I’ve seldom needed much excuse to explore islands near and far. But to be challenged to visit so many, to learn about aspects of Scottish history and tradition previously almost unknown to me, and to share thoughts and images of those places and their monuments – that adds up to a dream assignment.
From the outset, it’s been a pleasure to work with Historic Scotland staff. And the monuments, the several score of monuments: it’s impossible to summarise, although some names stand out for different reasons. Cairnban, first monument on the first day of the journeys, reminds me of hours of walking and a crazy slog through mud and over felled trees to reach it. Few other places were as difficult after that, although gales and rough seas conspired to thwart initial plans for some others.
Orkney, of course, stands out for its wealth of structures in care. I’ve enjoyed all of them, with images particularly etched in mind from the mainland World Heritage Site, around Rousay and its satellite isles and to the north on Papay and its Holm.
The circles of Machrie Moor on Arran; the quiet of Inchmahome; the bell to summon the river boat at Threave; the corncrakes calling at night near Iona’s many monuments; the kayak trip to Inchkenneth: all these and more are bright in memory.
But I’ve also learned that for monuments on islands, as for life as a whole, enjoyable and thought-provoking early encounters could lead to life-long links. I’d like to see many of them again, and again: as the snow picks out details of masonry and carvings on chapels and castles, when storm clouds mass over circles of stone, when the swans of winter and the swallows of summer fly near and call.
This may be a conclusion. But I know it’s not the end.
To keep in touch with Kenny you can visit his website www.kennytaylor.info where you can also find contact details
Images throughout Kenny’s many journeys: 1. At small cairn, Papay, 2. Beside the ultimate island monument, Inchkenneth, 3. Circle on Machrie, 4. Ferry in sound of Rousay, 5. Garvellachs from the Islay ferry, 6. High sea in the Hebrides, 7. In St Cormac’s cave, 8. Iona scene, 9. The final ferry – Corran, 10. Threave bell, 11. Wet day at Kidalton