A stranger has arrived on our neighbouring shore at Saddell Bay – a tall, brooding, naked stranger who is causing great excitement in these parts, and (mostly) not because he’s naked.
He is one of five sculptures by Anthony Gormley, which were commissioned by the Landmark Trust to mark their 50th anniversary. The life-size iron figures have been placed at Landmark Trust sites around the UK but the Saddell sculpture is the only one in Scotland.
Pictures of him have been appearing on social media all week and I’ve been desperate to see him for myself but have been severely hampered by a bizarre change in the weather. We’ve had hailstones, sleet, ice and driving rain. An unexpected contrast to the previous week which was so warm I was swimming in the sea.
Eventually the sun reappeared so I took the dog and headed to Saddell Bay, a mere 5 minute drive away and one of my favourite places to walk. We are completely spoilt with beautiful beaches on our doorstep – Carradale Bay is expansive, sandy and stunning, our own Port Bahn is a hidden paradise and Torrisdale Beach is breathtaking with it’s views over the Kilbrannan Sound. Saddell Beach always feels special though and is a mandatory destination on my things-to-do-with-visitors itinerary. This also includes a re-enactment of Paul Macartney’s Mull of Kintyre video which was filmed at Saddell beach, minus the pipe band but with plenty air-acoustic guitar.
Unencumbered by reluctant children, I walked briskly down the avenue which leads to the beach and through the arch beside Saddell Castle*, keeping a keen eye open for the mysterious figure on the rocks. From a distance, he looks quite eerie and very life-like, a solitary being, contemplating life from his rocky outpost. Keen to get closer, I scrambled over slippy seaweed in inappropriate footwear (tip: wear something grippy or waterproof), while the dog raced ahead, barking futilely at our iron friend. I’m not sure how far out the tide goes so it may not be possible to get up close and personal but he has just as much impact viewed from the adjacent rocks.
Gormley’s figures are always evocative, regardless of scale. I was awe-struck by his colossal guardian of Gateshead, The Angel of North, both whilst standing underneath it’s vast wingspan and also when viewed, all to briefly, from a speeding train. Similarly, I was moved immensely by his piece, ‘Field’, which consists of thousands of little hand-made forms, barely human but for their deep, searching eyes staring hopefully up at the viewer.
Our Saddell visitor also moved me – not because he stands alone, stoically facing the elements – but because he appears to be utterly at peace with the world and completely aware of his own insignificance in relation to the incredible landscape that surrounds him. He is only a temporary visitor, but then, aren’t we all? Mere pin-pricks on the infinite map of time, racing through life with our priorities all wrong.
I hope to visit this guardian of Saddell frequently during his year-long tenure – life here is busy, chaotic and often stressful. I think we could all do with wee reminder to stand still once in a while, take in our amazing surroundings and just be. Not today however – this pin-prick has a mountain of bed-linen to iron and holiday cottages to clean.
Landmark Trust are holding open days on May 16th and 17th when Saddell Castle will be open to the public for viewing. Check their website for more information.