Winter`s end and Ruins – Oban Hills Hydropathic Sanatorium

So, the wheel of the seasons has turned once more to spring.  The calendar says so, the evening light says so, but here in Oban on the West coast of Scotland, nature is yet to be convinced. There is that air of anticipation, territorial posturing by brash blackbirds and squabbling sparrows.  

Snowdrop blanket in the woods at Oban Hydro.

Snowdrops have gone. Now Celandine carpets the winter-bare earth in bright yellow and green, adding a welcome splash of colour but they will soon give way to this year’s hazy bluebells.  Now that spring is (almost) here, I thought it would be a good time to capture the last colours of winter and the beautiful forms of the trees before they are hidden again under the canopy of leaves. Below are examples of the Ink, and watercolour pencil sketches I have been working on.  One is of an Old Mill near Achnacroish on Lismore and the other is of the 1745 house at Dunollie castle Gardens. (More about them another day).

Old Mill, Lismore. In Progress


Arteza & edding55. Perfect partners

I like to sketch using edding55 fineliner pens. I have used them since my college years and though I have tried and used lots of other types, these are the ones I find most useful and keep going back to.  Good price too so they don`t break the bank. I buy these 10 at a time! I am fairly new to Arteza Expert watercolour pencils so Thought I would give them a try though on this occasion I didn`t  use water. I used them as I would any other colour pencil. They perform well either way which makes them a perfect partner for the edding55 liner which is also useful dry or washed with water later.

Dunollie 1745 house In progress

One of my favourite Oban walks is just at the end of my street. I love exploring the ruins and woodland of the Hydro. Or the Oban Hills Hydropathic Sanatorium to give its proper title. I have been sketching and photographing the Hydro for the past few years, trying to record what is left and watching the changes as it falls, stone by stone. Huge structures remain among the massive overgrown earthworks. A Baronial turret tower,(See my illustration below) still stands and another turret fragment still lies nearby where it fell. 

Oban Hydropathic ruins. The last turret standing.
Empty windows, Oban Hydropathic Sanatorium

Tall walls and empty windows still survive. Nestled above Oban, construction began in 1881 but it was never completed as costs were seriously underestimated for such a massive project and investors backed off. It was once an imposing sight, over 130 rooms. A concert hall, conservatory, stables and gardens were planned too, but it was abandoned shortly before it was completed. Soon after, the roof was destroyed by fire, and much of the stone was taken by locals to build new homes. Despite its ruinous state, it is widely used by a lot of people. Lots of dog walkers, mums with children, young people keeping their romances out of the public gaze or having a sly beer or two. Angst-filled, anonymous poems and notes often adorn the walls, questioning life, the universe, and everything.

Recently, I found a textbook wedged into a wall. Opened in invitation at the page entitled “Diplomatic dialogue and International intrigue” Relating to the Judgement of the Lockerbie Bombing!

The Judgement 


 If you do visit and walk your dog there, be warned, there are some areas covered with broken glass. My little Whippet dog Rufus was badly cut a while back. He has made a full recovery but was a very unhappy dog for a while. Best keeping dogs and kids to the paths around the buildings.

Walk on past the buildings through the woodland and you will find a great viewpoint over Oban Bay and the town. There is a sheer drop so be careful if you visit. Put the dog on a leash and don`t go too near the edge! If you see us, say hello. Enjoy!

View from the top
A rustic seat at the viewpoint. A little vertiginous!
Oban Hydro 1897