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Crinan Studio Visit | April 2022

10 May 2022

At the end of April, Christina Jansen and Guy Peploe visited the studios of Frances Macdonald and Ross Ryan in the beautiful village of Crinan, in advance of their forthcoming exhibitions with The Gallery later this year. Both artists live and work in Crinan where Frances owns and runs the famous Crinan Hotel, whilst Ross is also a professional skipper.

With a population of just under 80 inhabitants, the tiny, picturesque settlement of Crinan is located on the west coast of Scotland in the region known as Knapdale, and is part of Argyll and Bute. Before the Crinan Canal was built, the village was named Port Righ, meaning the King’s port.

A boat leaving the 18th Century canal, heading out to sea
The canal harbour at Crinan

Arriving to stunning weather with the sea like a glass lake, Christina and Guy were welcomed with the best Highland hospitality and outstanding seafood at The Crinan Hotel. A highlight of their stay was watching the boats land the razor clam catch. Highly prized in the Asian market this particular catch would be on the table 24 hours later in Shanghai.

Guy Peploe with Stanley and Sugar outside Frances Macdonald's studio
The view from the bar at The Crinan Hotel

The Crinan Hotel

The Crinan Hotel is a magnificently eccentric hotel in Argyll on Scotland’s beautiful west coast. Situated on the waterfront at Loch Crinan the hotel lies 6.5 miles from Lochgilphead, 35 miles from Oban and has the most stunning views of Jura, Scarba and Mull.

Dusk at The Crinan Hotel
The Crinan Hotel

For over 200 years the Hotel has been the centre of this little community. Today the Hotel is an international meeting point for walkers, sailors, fishermen, yachtsman, holiday makers and above all lovers of seafood and the best of world-renowned Scottish produce.

The story of “Britain’s most beautiful shortcut” began in 1771 when James Watt surveyed the district to find a course for the canal, originally planned by John Rennie. Only 9 miles in length, the Crinan Canal was built to improve access to the Western Isles, offering a safe transit route from Ardrishaig on Loch Fyne to Crinan, avoiding the long, arduous journey around the Mull of Kintyre. The Crinan Canal Act was passed in 1793, and Thomas Telford superintended the build. Funding for the canal came from London as well as Glasgow, but the money ran out in 1801. With the help of Government loans and additional funding the canal was finally finished in 1809.

The unique Crinan Hotel has been run by the Ryan family for almost 50 years.

Christina Jansen
Outstanding views from the west coast of Scotland out to the Atlantic Ocean

Ross Ryan | Tales from the Skipper

The Sgarbh

The Sgarbh (Gaelic for the sea bird – cormorant) is owned and sailed by Ross Ryan, who has sailed all his life and holds a commercially endorsed Yachtmaster offshore ticket in both motor and sail. The Sgarbh is his trusty companion when he makes his journeys into art, exploring the coastline and its people and on this occasion, taking him on the pilgrimage over to the North East of Scotland to Catterline.

Built in 1947 on the River Clyde near Glasgow by Adams of Gourock as a herring boat, the Sgarbh retired from fishing in 1953 and was beautifully refitted for cruising. Built of teak, fully varnished and completely original, she is the last of her type. Weighing over 20 tons and at 40 foot long she is solid and safe. This year, Ross and his partner Anne welcomed Chutney, a Himalayan Snow Dog to the family! She now joins Ross on all his sea adventures.

Last year I sailed round Scotland, the longest passage I have made on the Sgarbh, 1300 miles in total. The intent was to take in all between Crinan and Catterline. This included a run out to Saint Kilda, then heading north rounding Cape Wrath. Sailing along the north coast to Wick and from there down to Moray and eventually to Peterhead, where I moored Sgarbh and made my way to Catterline. The return voyage was the short cut back through the Caledonian Canal. I arrived back in Crinan exhausted with Covid. This winter I revisited the the route and added to the series of work. Pretty much all the works have been done in situ.

photo: Christina Jansen
Ross Ryan aboard the Sgarbh
photo: Christina Jansen
Ross Ryan plotting his route

Ross Ryan | Studio Visit

Ross Ryan’s forthcoming solo exhibition is scheduled for later this year in September 2022. Ross has painted throughout the winter and spring months on his most ambitious sailing expedition from Crinan to Catterline on the Sgarbh. He has created 88 works from this voyage and Christina was able to view a selection during her studio visit.

Ross painting at Catterline during the winter at the tale end of storm Erwin, photo: Ross Ryan
Ross Ryan painting while rounding Cape Wrath
Ross Ryan in his studio, April 2022
Ross Ryan, April 2022

date for your diary

Ross Ryan’s next solo exhibition takes place 1 – 24 September 2022.

View Ross Ryan’s publication that accompanied his May 2017 exhibition The Logbook here and A Family Affair from December 2020 here.

Frances Macdonald | Living the Highland Life

Frances Macdonald has been running the Crinan Hotel since 1970 whilst also working as a full-time painter when the Hotel is closed during the winter and spring. She has had several solo exhibitions with The Gallery and her forthcoming exhibition will be in December 2022. Her bespoke studio is in a secluded spot further up the hill from the Hotel and close to the outstanding woodland around Crinan. She has been quietly getting on with work in the studio with her beloved whippets Sugar and Spice for company. She continues to take inspiration from Crinan and the surrounding islands and is joining Ross, friends and family on a trip to Iona in June.

Frances Macdonald outside her studio in Crinan, wearing earrings by Ella Fearon-Low
Frances Macdonald in her studio, Crinan
The view from the studio
Work in progress
Frances Macdonald in her studio, Crinan

This short film below captures the tranquil landscape by Frances Macdonald’s studio.

Date for your diary

Frances Macdonald’s next solo exhibition takes place from 1 – 23 December 2022.

View Frances Macdonald’s publication that accompanied her December 2016 exhibition By Sea and Land here and A Family Affair from December 2020 here.

Sunset at Crinan

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