Sunday, March 31, 2013

Atop Eriskay 3

A great way to descend Beinn Sciathan is to head due east down to Loch Dubhat. Along the way you can get a closer look at Calbhaigh island. I wonder if there is any whisky left to be found in those sands.

As you approach Loch Dubhat with its two small islands, Canna and Rum can be seen on the horizon. The little islet in the sea to the left is Thairteamul. 

From the loch you can either turn north and head to the road at Bun a' Mhuillinn, or turn south to circle around the flank of Beinn Sciathan. Let's do the latter, and make our way down to the harbour of Acairsaid Mhor. When I walked this way I encountered Eriskay ponies grazing on the short grass.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Atop Eriskay 2

This view indicator is mounted on the trig-pillar atop Beinn Scriathan, the highest point of Eriskay. The islet in the distance connected to Eriskay by a sandbar is Calbhaigh, It was near there that the SS Politician ran aground in 1941 with a full load of whisky.

View indicator on Beinn Sgiathan - 2012
A few weeks before the above photo was taken another view indicator made the news when someone stole the one on Colonsay's Beinn a' Gudairean. The heavy bronze marker had been there since the 1930s. The photo below was taken in 1993, and I'm not sure who the young fellow is, but he's sitting on the now-missing indicator. (I think he feels bad about sitting on it now.)
View indicator on Colonsay's Beinn a' Gudairean - 1993

Friday, March 29, 2013

Atop Eriskay 1

In the next few posts I want to share some of the views that await all who wander the hills of Eriskay. These first two are looking north from the slopes of Beinn Scriathan  To the lower right is the small bay of Haunn where the ferry once landed; the Politician Bar stands near the shore to the left of the red-roofed shop; and St Michael's Church can be seen on its knoll above the near end of the causeway.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Vallay Mad Cow

While island going you'll often encounter docile Highland Cattle, and the occasional angry bull. This fellow was snoozing inside an old burial enclosure on Vallay. I wanted to see inside, so I had to shoo him away. He wasn't too happy about being disturbed. But he did get the last laugh. He left me a big present inside the ruin.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jura Journey - Day 7

We'll end this week-long visit to Jura with another long walk from the end of the road. On this one we'll go around the north tip of the island to see Breakan's Cave and Corryvreakan. 
Corryvreckan - 7 long miles
Along the way you'll pass Knockinsaul (Barnhill) where George Orwell stayed.
From there a steady traverse of the north end leads to a view of Scarba and Corryvreakan. When I did this walk the tides were not good to see the whirlpool at its best. But I would return two more times over the next decade to see it in action (book 1, chapters 6 & 7).
A quiet Corryvreakan
Continuing around the coast will take you to Bagh Gleann nam Muc (Pig Glen Bay) and Breakan's Cave. At one time there was a tomb in the fortified cave, but the only sign of it now is a large stone slab. Also inside is about 20 tons of Goat droppings.
Breakan's Cave
Below is a view of Bagh Gleann nam Muc from above the cave. I would return in a few years to camp on the beach here (book 1, chapter 7).
Bagh Gleann nam Muc
After a climb up Gleann Beag you are rewarded with this view before starting the long walk back to the car. By the way - always check on deer-stalking activity before you wander through this area.
Looking down on Bagh Gleann nam Muc
This ends our week-long sojourn through Jura. I had to leave a lot out. We didn't climb any of the Paps, and that's because I have yet to ascend them. Neither have I seen the great raised beaches on the north shore. So I need to go back to Jura to do that. The following photo of a raised beach was supplied by Christina Macaulay, who visited the area during a cruise aboard Elizabeth G.
Raised Beach

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jura Journey - Day 6

After a night in the car I set out to walk to Glengarrisdale, the site of an old MacLean castle and where Maclean's Skull was once to be found. Nothing beats an early morning start, the air is crisp, the shadows sharp, and the adders fast asleep.
Early Morning shadows on the way to Glengarrisdale - but no brocken spectre
Halfway point - the adders are awakening
I am not joking about the adders. In all my years of island hiking I'd never seen one until right after the next photo was taken. The little fellow was coiled, and hissing up a storm as I approached. I was so tired from lack of sleep that I did not hear the hissing until I almost stepped on him. But I did hear him, and was able to step aside in time. His wee hiss had not been much of a warning. Poisonous snakes should at least have the courtesy to rattle.
Loch on the way to Glengarrisdale
Approaching Glengarrisdale
The bothy seen from the site of Aros Castle - Scarba in the distance
Creature comforts in the bothy
Bothy Attic Accomodation
After exploring the bothy I had second thoughts on my decision to sleep in the car the previous night. I could of had a fire, and been quite comfortable. But it was good that I'd not tried to do that. I would have gotten here late, and this terrain is tricky enough to cross in daylight, let alone in the dark.

After finding where Maclean's Skull once rested, and leaving a similar token to mark my visit, I stumbled upon the gamekeeper's ATV track, which made for a longer, but easier return to the road.
The gamekeeper's track

Monday, March 25, 2013

Jura Journey - Day 5

From Inverlussa we drive north about four miles. This is as far as we can take a car, as a locked chain blocks the road onwards to Kinachdruchd. 

End of the public road - North Jura
There is a parking area in a quarry here, where anyone without a key to that chain, who wants to explore the north of Jura, has to leave their car. But I was quite happy to leave the car and set out on foot.

Free Parking at the quarry
On a summer visit to Jura, many years after the above photo was taken, I spent a night in the car here (see book 1, chapter 7). The B&B I was going to stay at had lost my booking, and the owners were off the island. As I was planning to hike to Glengarrisdale the next day, a hike that would start at road's end,  I drove up there to spend the night. 

Since it was summer, when it would stay light until the wee hours, after parking I set out to find the village of An Carn, which was deserted in the early 1800s. It lies a mile off the track, and in the waning twilight I headed down across the rough countryside towards the sea. After a half hour of fruitless searching I almost gave up trying to find it. But then, in the half-darkness, I noticed the low ruin of a house. I knew it was An Carn when I then stumbled across a slab of bedrock sticking up through the turf. I had read that cup marked stones were to be found at An Carn, and several cups were carved deep into its surface.

An Carn - looking seaward in the twilight
An Carn - House ruin
Cup Marked Stone - yeah, I know they're hard to see
House ruin - An Carn
An Carn - looking inland in the twilight
I then got a little lost in the darkness, but did manage to find the road and return to the car. It was a chilly night, and I had to start the car up every few hours to stay warm. At one point nature called, and I had to step out into the cold night air. As I did I saw a herd of deer grazing on the hillside, and high overhead a million stars illuminated the night sky. Tune in tomorrow to find out what happened the next day.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Jura Journey - Day 4

Today we stop to explore two old chapel sites and their burial grounds. The first is Cill Chaluim Chille, St Columba's Church at Tarbert. The grass-grown foundation of the church can still be seen, and at one end of the burial ground is a 6-foot tall cross-incised standing stone. 
Cill Chaluim Chille - Tarbert
Church foundation and standing stone -  Cill Chaluim Chille
Cill Chaluim Chille
My company at Cille Chaluim Cille
To the side of the road, 1000 feet east of the site, is another, and much larger standing stone. It is easy to find, but not so easy to find is the holy well dedicated to St Columba. It is said to lie at the foot of the low cliffs east of the cemetery. I spent an hour searching in the boggy and fenced off terrain, but I could not find it.
Standing Stone at roadside - Chille Chaluim Cille
Our next stop, four miles up the road, is the burial ground of Kilchianaig at Inverlussa. No traces remain of the chapel dedicated to the mysterious St Cianag. But it is worth a visit both for its beautiful setting, and to see the tombstone of Mary MacCrain, who died in 1856 at the age of 128. Mary was descended from Gillour MacCrain, who died in 1671 and is said to have lived to the ripe old age of 180.

Kilchianaig at Inverlussa
Tombstones in Kilchianaig - Mary MacCrain's at centre
Mary MacCrain's Tombstone

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Jura Journey - Day 3

Our next stop is the old ramped ferry pier at Lagg. Built in the early years of the nineteenth century, cattle from Colonay, Islay and Jura went to the mainland from here.

Lagg Jetty - where the cattle marched down
The second photo is of the inner quay at Lagg, built 'for preservation of the ferry'. There was a drover's inn (I am not sure if it was the house in the photo), and you can read some descriptions of what the drovers experienced here in A.R.B. Haldane's The Drove Roads of Scotland.  For example: "...we found every corner of the inn crowded with drovers who had been detained by the weather for several days, and were passing their time, as was their wont, in riotous and continuous drinking."

Lagg inner quay - looking back to Jura
Below, six miles away at Keills on the mainland, was the other end of the ferry. What a sight it would be to see a herd of fine Jura cattle making landfall here and marching off to market. If the subject of old piers interests you, see Proceeding of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol 117.

Keills jetty - where the cattle marched up (Jura in the distance)
Keills - North Quay

Friday, March 22, 2013

Jura Journey - Day 2

Our first stop is near Jura House. Its grounds and walled garden were once a must see stop for anyone visiting the island. Sadly, since my visit in 2010, they have been closed to the public. Below the house is a beach of singing sands like those on Eigg. But I've never had the chance to make them sing.

Although the house grounds are closed you can still explore this southernmost part of the island. A wonderful coastal walk leads to the bay of Poll a Cheo. Here you will find the ruin of Jura's only known Neolithic chambered cairn, Cladh Chlainn Iain (burial ground of the Macdonalds). Its two portal stones still stand, and chances are that if you make the effort to see it you will have it all to yourself.

Jura House
Rest stop on the way to Poll a Cheo
Cladh Chlainn Iain
Cladh Chlainn Iain
Brosdale Island seen from the walk to Poll a Cheo

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Jura Journey - Day 1

The last post on Keils made me think it would be fun to take you on a week long tour of Jura. So lets do that. It will start at Port Askaig on Islay, where we board the RO/RO ferry Eilean Dhiura for the short crossing. Although the distance is small, there are times when the wind blows up and she can not sail. That happened to my wife and I once, but fortunately we were already on Jura, and the bad weather gave us a  bonus day on the island.

Below is the view of Jura as we approach. What shall our first stop be? Check back tomorrow to find out.