Gillian takes me to Rum: Personal recollections of KCFA's March 2008 Work Party Visit to Rum by Alan Bowles

Gillian Gibson was in deep conversation with a ticket inspector when I arrived at Queen Street Station Glasgow on 5th March. She told me that a landslip had blocked the West Highland line near Garelochead so a coach would take us to Crianlarich. As we set off out of Glasgow the weather was fine but dull. We enjoyed the drive along the banks of Loch Lomond although I was disappointed the 'Ben' was covered in cloud. Alas heavy rain as we boarded our train in Crianlarich and mist and cloud prevented us from enjoying the beautiful scenery. I looked down on General Wade's military toad between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy and recalled tramping along when I walked the West Highland Way many years ago. This was my first journey on the West Highland line so was grateful to Gill for pointing out places of interest. On arrival at Mallaig we dropped our bags and enjoyed our celebration evening meal.

Spirits were high as the Friends greeted each other at the harbour. It was lovely to welcome Graeme Arno on his first visit to Rum. Although the sky was overcast the sail is always a delight. On arrival a cheerful David Frew greeted us and said he had plenty to tell us. At the castle my luxury four-poster bed in the Oak Room awaited me - ah what bliss! Friends met in the common room to listen to David tell us the latest developments and options for the future - closing down is NOT AN OPTION. We soon made acquaintance with the new addition to the common room - the bar where Stroma satisfied thirsty souls. Then work to be done - Liz, Ewan and 'the Gillians' went to plant trees.

Andrew, Zoe, Graeme and  myself were detailed to re-organise the compost.

The kitchen waste was kept in five bee-hive containers. These were emptied and then shovelled on to a trailer and taken round to a site in the garden.

The work being supervised by long term Rum residents Jinty and Fliss.

Graeme and Andrew revealed their talents as good compost bin makers.

Our AGM was split into two, Ewan chairing the one on Saturday morning before saying goodbye, while the second was chaired by Douglas on Monday morning. Saturday evening we dined in style of high society in the grand dining room. David the chef served up some delightful casseroled venison.

I envisaged climbing Askival (2,659 feet) on Sunday but the weather prospects were not good so set off with the 'Gillians' up Kinloch Glen and then down to Kilmory.

Douglas and Sheila met up with me and had a real good chat. Liz had set off earlier and in Kilmory Bay pointed out the deer. Some of these beasts must have featured in the BBC Autumn Watch 2007 programme. Perhaps one day I will return in warmer weather to relax on the beautiful sandy bay.

On Monday, with our guide Jinty, we very much enjoyed a tour of the grand rooms within the castle. In the Great Hall, Sir George and Lady Bullough looked down from their respective portraits, I am sure delighted with Andrew's adept 'tickling of the ivories' on their Steinway Grand Piano. The inside of the orchestrion was opened to reveal the workings of this wonderful instrument.

Our tour was all too soon at an end and we had to make our way back to join the ferry 'Loch Nevis' and enjoy the sail to Mallaig admiring the mountains with their freshly snow-capped peaks.

We said our goodbyes on the harbour. However as Gillian and I were not leaving until the next day we were able to have a walk above Mallaig and enjoyed clear views of Ben Ladhr and the Cuillins. The sun shone for the return train journey. Gillian really enjoyed reminiscing about the highways and byways around Loch Treig, Spean Bridge, Tulloch and Rannoch moor where she had walked in days gone by.

Thank you Gillian for your wonderful company and sharing your happy adventures.