Highlands & Islands

Minister's 'mobile manse' helps her cover west Highland parish

Rev Fiona Ogg and her dog Maisie with the van Image copyright Church of Scotland
Image caption Rev Fiona Ogg and her dog Maisie travel all over the parish in her van

A Highland minister has clocked up thousands of miles covering a Highland parish in her "mobile manse".

The Reverend Fiona Ogg serves the linked parishes of Acharacle and Ardnamurchan - an area that spans 131 square miles in west Lochaber.

With only rural single-track roads, journeys within the parish can take well over an hour.

In order to cover it all, she has to rely on her trusty Fiat Ducatto campervan.

Travel times from her house in Acharacle to the church in Kilchoan can be lengthy, with the roads often snarled up by sheep, cattle and slow moving tourists.

Therefore, to allow herself to attend meetings and events, the Church of Scotland minister regularly sleeps in it overnight.

Image copyright Church of Scotland
Image caption Fiona Ogg uses her Fiat Ducatto campervan to get around her Highland parish.

Joined by her Border Terrier, Maisie, Mrs Ogg said driving around in the van is "great fun" and allows her to stay close to the community.

"If there is an evening event followed by a morning event in Kilchoan, going back to the manse in Acharacle to sleep then returning is tiring, time consuming and pushes up travel costs," she said.

"Having the van frees up the travel time for pastoral work and desk time."

Mrs Ogg, who was ordained in the parish in 2012, bought the van in 2016 because she wanted to keep a visible presence in Kilchoan after the church building closed in October 2018.

Image copyright Geograph/Alpin Stewart
Image caption The Ardnamurchan Parish Church building was closed in 2018 for health and safety reasons

The congregation now meets in a community centre, which the minister visits most Sundays and one weekday.

The "mobile manse", which has driven around 4,000 miles to date, is popular with parishioners, who are sometimes invited on board for tea and a chat.

"Using it as a base is often an opening into conversation, but also means parishioners can stop me, or pop in, maybe just for a look around," continued the minister.

"They also stop for a chat when I'm walking the dog.

Image copyright Church of Scotland
Image caption Parishioners are often invited in for a tea and a chat

"One of the best days was going for a walk with someone, on a rare hot, summer day, on a beach and returning to the van to eat ice-creams that we'd bought earlier and left in the freezer.

"The van is snug and cosy in the winter."

Mrs Ogg, who also uses her car for work, said that while her congregations were small in worshipping numbers, they are active in the communities they serve.

The Acharacle and Ardnamurchan parish stretches from about six miles east of Acharacle to just past Roshven in the north, and incorporating all mainland west of those points.

It is the UK mainland's most westerly parish and its presbytery is one of the largest in Scotland.

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