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kirsty muir and the guesthouse

Kirsty Muir and The Guesthouse
2 Tales from Lachmuirghan

by Xandra King

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return of the prince

Return of the Prince
A Tale from Lachmuirghan
by Angelique Armae


welcome to lachmuirghan

You may have trouble finding Lachmuirghan on maps and atlases. And you would be quite right, because Lachmuirghan, doesn't exist - except here and now. And Lachmuirghan can be whatever you want it to be. So come with us on a stroll around our secret valley…

Imagine a sheltered valley and loch somewhere in Scotland. At the head of the valley is an ancient circle of standing stones; at the lower end stands a ruined castle overlooking the village centre of Lachmuirghan.

Among the narrow streets and the grey stone cottages, you'll find a cluster of shops: a general store, a butcher, a greengrocer and a narrow shop selling curios and antique jewellery. Up the street a little way, just past the garage, is the village bookshop that in these times also stocks DVDs, tapes and CDs. Up the hill, you'll find The God in the Valley, one of two village pubs. The other is The Royal Rescue, on the riverbank. The God in the Valley the larger, and caters for visitors and locals alike. Upstairs are three bedrooms which the landlord rents out when the fancy takes him. Very fortunate indeed is a visitor who spends a night at The God in the Valley. And if a weary visitor passes by the God at the top of the village, surrounded by heather gardens and rockeries, is the Lachmuirghan Guest House: a large imposing stone building.

Why these quaint names? Local legend claims The Royal Rescue was used as a hiding place for the Young Pretender during his escape, and the oldest part of the building does indeed date from the early eighteenth century. The God in the Valley, refers to a much, much older legend. Some say that millenniums ago the whole valley was constructed by a seagod for the human woman he loved. He set the stones at one end to serve as her calendar, provided a sweet freshwater stream, blessed the land with extraordinary fertility so she would never hunger, and surrounded the valley with magic to protect her from ills. But cruel fate intervened, she drowned in the river, and as she had refused the gift of immortality he had offered her, the God could not save her. Broken-hearted, the God wept for five years, flooding the valley where he'd buried his love, and then left, never to set foot in the valley again. But many say the magic remains…

Who knows if this is truth or myth? Certainly the loch is slightly saline, but the river leading off it is freshwater - an anomaly that has long mystified scientists and geographers. The fields and hills around are extremely fertile, the climate warmer and more temperate than the surrounding areas. The villagers are healthy and long lived and the air is clear and invigorating. You notice this particularly as you stroll through the village. You pass several villagers who smile and wish you a good day: a young woman pushing a toddler in a stroller, two women talking in front of a cottage, a good-looking, dark-haired man carrying a knapsack smiles at you as you pass. A dog barks through a garden gate.

Walk up through the village, towards the hills. Once past the last cottages, pause and look around you. In the shifting light, it seems the village changes. Is that a ruined church, not a stone circle? And are those dark shapes along the loch rocks or caves? It seems the mountains are closer, and greyer - perhaps the mist plays tricks on the eye.

Or does Lachmuirghan change as you watch? The abandoned manor house you passed at the end of the village, now appears to be a castle, complete with battlements and a ruined tower. The road back towards the village surely has more twists and turns that you remembered. Where did that farmhouse in the distance appear from? Surely it wasn't there a moment ago?

Walking back towards the village, anticipating a glass of something alcoholic at The God in the Valley, you notice a small teashop offering Honey-Cakes and Sweet Cream that you missed on the way up. In front two women stand talking but their skirts are long, and one wears a bonnet and another a knitted shawl. A little way on, you meet the young woman, no longer wearing blue jeans and T-shirt, but long skirts and pushing a large pram. She smiles as before, and mentions that Angus is waiting for you at The God in the Valley.

Before you can ask who 'Angus' is and how he knows you, she turns down a narrow side street and disappears. Meanwhile you notice the garage is a smithy and farrier, and several more shops have appeared: a baker, a wool and haberdashery shop and McGreerly's Apothecary.

Lachmuirghan has changed and so have you. Your hair is longer, tied back with a ribbon, you're walking faster, and as you go along you catch sounds and scents you missed before: bread baking, soup simmering, roses in a garden, a kettle whistling on a stove, a child singing, a baby crying, and a man telling his love what he plans when the bairns are fast asleep. Blushing a little, you walk on feeling a little envious, until you remember the mysterious Angus waiting for you. Ahead the sign for The God in the Valley rocks in the breeze. Outside sits the man you passed earlier, watching you. Is he what you want? Do you dare? Would it be safer to duck into the bookshop and get lost among the stacks and shelves? Or why not nip down a narrow side street which catches your eye? A side street that appears to lead down to the shore where the sun glints on the water. As you stand trying to decide, a voice calls your name from a window across the street.

Where will you go? And to whom? The choice is completely yours. Explore the village with us, and live out your fantasy.