100 Weeks of Scotland: Largs, Wemyss Bay, Gourock

SCOTLAND has been a busy place this summer. Commonwealth Games, The Edinburgh Festivals, the upcoming Ryder Cup Golf tournament and the Independence Referendum have all created a perfect storm of heat and light. It’s always advisable to try and dodge a storm.

Alan McCredie visits the west of Scotland this week. Picture: Alan McCredie
Alan McCredie visits the west of Scotland this week. Picture: Alan McCredie

Week 96

My train batters out of Glasgow Central and clatters over the bridge, before heading west along the water to the small towns and ports that limpet-cling to the estuary at the mouth of Glasgow’s river, the Clyde. I am headed away from the noise and dust of the central belt – not far away, but only a few miles is all it needs to slip into what can sometimes seem like another world.

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Sometimes skirting, sometimes through, towns blur past. Towns that still echo with the fading clamour of their shipbuilding pasts; Govan, Renfrew, Port Glasgow, Greenock. Next, Gourock, which spreads like a wave up the hills that overlook the water, with its pristeen outside swimming pool, flashing white against the warm blue of the river on this sunny, yet autumnal, August day. From Gourock it is all aboard the number 901 bus which follows the coast road as it slithers west out of town before turning south to the resort towns of the Clyde Estuary. On the far coast the Argyll Forest, Holy Loch (where once lurked the most unholy Polaris nuclear submarine fleet) and Dunoon are visible in the haze across the diamond glinted waves.

Picture: Alan McCredie

The coastal towns of Inverkip and Wemyss Bay come and are soon gone, before my stop, at Largs, appears through the grime and smudged insects on the bus windscreen. No visit to Largs is complete without ice cream, which is swiftly bought, admired and consumed before a boat, ‘the boat’, steaming powerfully towards the quay is spotted. Pointing fingers, arms held high in welcome. The Waverley Steamship does not hang around and we are no sooner up the gangplank than this magnificent old ship, steamwhistling like a banshee, is storming west over the sea and I am soon, far to soon, thoroughly disembarked upon the Isle of Bute.

After hours of travel, I am, as the crow flies, just twenty four miles from the heart of Glasgow. Judging by where I stand, between hills and quiet water, this seems utterly incomprehensible. Its proximity to central Scotland is undeniable – I can see it, it is right there over the water, billowing out in front of me. But this is a purely geographical proximity, for in every other sense it seems perfectly far away, as do I, as I sit, camera in hand, not particularly wishing that anything will happen.

• Alan McCredie began the ‘100 weeks of Scotland’ website in October 2012, and it will conclude in Autumn 2014. McCredie’s goal is to chronicle two years of Scottish life in the run-up to the independence referendum.

Alan says ‘one hundred weeks...’ is intended to show all sides of the country over the next two years. On the site, he says: “Whatever the result of the vote Scotland will be a different country afterward. These images will show a snapshot of the country in the run up to the referendum.

“The photos will be of all aspects of Scottish culture - politics, art, social issues, sport and anything else that catches the eye.”

Follow the project at 100weeksofscotland.com. You can also follow Alan on Twitter @alanmccredie.