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Scottish Fleet Cardigan: Week 7 – 12 October

As I was still on holiday last week, and the rain actually rainethed every day, I spent rather a lot of time knitting; so much so that I’ve finished the first sleeve and made a good start on the second. It’s back to work now, so normal (i.e., slower) service will be resumed; even so, the knitting part of the cardigan should be completed sometime this week.

The old mill

There was a morning when it didn’t rain—yes, we were surprised too—so we went in search of the legendary waterfalls of Forss. Well, I say legendary… In fact they’re so well known there’s a hotel right next to them, the Forss House Hotel, and the word “forss” in Old Norse means a waterfall; but as I hadn’t actually visited them they were legendary to me. There are two ways to reach the falls: park on the main road and walk about a hundred yards; or drive up to Crosskirk on the north coast and follow the Forss Water inland for about a mile and a half. Well, as the poet Waters says, we were young and life was long and there was time to kill today: and so we took the scenic route.

Looking downriver

Forss Water has its source about 13 miles south of Crosskirk, at Loch Shurrery (rhymes with “jury”). For the first mile or so from the sea the river meanders through a broad strath, wide and open. It was very wet and very muddy underfoot: the recent rains had swollen the river and saturated the adjacent fields, so that at times the path was completely submerged and the question of whether my boots were waterproof was conclusively, if disappointingly, resolved. It’s a salmon river, and every now and then the silence was broken by the splash of a leaping fish; scientists think they do this to shake off sea lice, but I think they were just checking to see if we were packing rods. After a mile the sides of the valley closed in, becoming steeper and narrower and covered in trees. We were conscious of a steadily growing roar, like a pride of lions watching a football match. The water became streaked with foam.

Raindrops on sodden grass

We crossed the footbridge, and it was immediately clear that we were almost at destination’s end: the muddy path was here overlaid by a wooden walkway (helpfully labelled “unsafe”). We rounded a couple of bends and there were the falls; and very lovely they are too. It’s not a high drop: the rain-boosted river cascades over a series of steps in an exuberance of foam and spray; and if I wouldn’t choose them for a showdown with Professor Moriarty, I wouldn’t exactly want to go over them in a barrel either. We didn’t linger, as it quickly became apparent that there was more than spray in the air. So we squelched our way back to Crosskirk, where the Forss Water spills into the sea; and made for home, and a hot drink, and the long-awaited benison of dry socks.

8 comments to Scottish Fleet Cardigan: Week 7 – 12 October

  • Sharon Gunason Pottinger

    What a coincidence–I was going to head to crosskirk the last dry day we had but game was called on account of rain. I love not only the falls but also the old church there. That used to be my ‘patch’ Forss house and ‘Forss House’ was our local. First time I walked that way I was just a visitor staying in Forss HOuse Hotel. I’d never seen so much Tartan all in one place. Such good memories.

    • Gordon

      Hello Sharon, Crosskirk is a cracking place to visit, isn’t it? And there’s usually no one there, so you can enjoy it in splendid isolation. (No tartan to be seen when we got to Forss; but then, it’s probably the breeding season, and they’re shy, furtive creatures at the best of times…)

  • Annie

    Ah, I was carried away, thousands of miles away from my Texas Hill Country. Thank you, wonderful writing, and photos to carry one thousands of miles away.

    • Gordon

      Hi Annie, and thanks! As Robert Burns says:

      Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
      The hills of the Highlands for ever I love…

      And holds true for the flat bits on the edges, too.

  • =Tamar

    About twenty years ago I visited Scotland with a group and we hunted the tartan. Happy days.

    Water power was already important when scientific terms were being defined. I wonder whether “Forss” and “force” are related. Was Obi-Wan really saying “Use the Forss”?

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I think they’re coincidental homophones – our “force” derives from the Latin “fors, fortis”; whereas the Old Norse probably derives from something foreign.

      I blush for my country. There’s another place in Caithness called Forse (same word); a craft place has appeared called “Forse of Nature”. (I’m too embarrassed by the name to have ever gone inside..).

  • Lois

    May the Forss be with you.

  • Gordon

    Hi Lois, et cum spirito tuo!

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