Since the island of Seil was connected to the mainland by the Clachan Bridge in 1793 there's been a healthy debate about its status as an island: or not. There are no such doubts about the island of Luing, reached by a frequent ferry service across the two hundred yards of the Cuan Sound from the southern tip of Seil. You can find further info about the Luing Ferry from Traveline Scotland or Argyll and Bute Council.
Luing measures some six miles long by one-and-a-half wide, and lies north-south across the mouth of Loch Melfort on the Argyll coast. It is generally low lying, with a maximum height of about 300 feet, and it has a population of around 200.
The largest centre of population is at Cullipool in the north west of the island. This attractive village of bright white cottages is set starkly against the slate that makes up its beach, and whose quarrying underpinned the economy of the island for many years. Slate was still being extracted from the quarries at the north end of Cullipool until 1965. At its height the industry employed 170 men on the island and extracted three quarters of a million slates each year.
Luing's only shop, the Luing Store, can be found beside the road as it heads into Cullipool, and the village is also the location of the only public toilets on the island. There are, however, more aesthetic reasons to visit Cullipool: it has a reputation for wonderful sunsets framed by the islands to the west, and with the slate revealing that when the light is right it has much more to offer the eye than a uniform dark grey.
Further south, the road down the spine of takes you past the white-painted Kilchattan Church, part of the joint Kilbrandon and Kilchattan Parish covering Seil and Luing. Further still, you come to Kilchattan Chapel. This fell into disuse in 1685 and is now completely ruined. It provides a wonderful viewpoint across the width of the southern end of Luing, and out to the mountainous island of Scarba to the south west.
Kilchattan graveyard itself is a fascinating time capsule. Many of the gravestones would not be out of place in any other highland churchyard, but there are also rows of wafer-thin slate gravestones reflecting the fact that Luing is quite literally made of the stuff.
The graveyard is also the last resting place of Alexander Campbell, who died on 4 November 1829 at the age of 78. A renowned Covenanter, Campbell portrays himself as someone you really wouldn't want to have met in life. He certainly tries to have the last word in death with no fewer than four different stones he carved himself (except for his date of death). His headstone, on the inside of the graveyard wall (and now broken), extolls his virtues in closely argued text.
Another stone on the outside of the graveyard wall tries to promote the Covenant to passers by. A third stone, above the second on the outside of the wall, threatens divine judgement on anyone meddling with his memorials. And a fourth, covering his grave, sums the man up: "I protest that none be buried after me in this grave, which I have dug for myself as Jacob did."
Just to the east of Kilchattan is the settlement of Toberonochy. This was also once a slate quarrying village. Today it comprises a number of rows of whitewashed cottages, focused on a very attractive village green. At the far end of the village the road continues round to a little harbour, complete with slate beaches and piers: and a profusion of lobster pots and fishing gear.
On the south west side of Luing is the even smaller settlement of Ardlarach and nearby Black Mill Bay, with imposing views of Scarba and, to the north, a glimpse of the odd rock formation above the beach called the Cobblers of Lorn.
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