Saturday, May 24, 2014

Boreray and the Naked Monk

Boreray, in the Sound of Harris, is almost two islands; as it is nearly cut in two by Loch Mor. The loch is a bit brackish, as it is barely above sea level, and the only thing standing between the loch and the sea is a narrow storm-beach.

In 1885 a sluice was built through the beach and the loch was drained. With a flood gate in place, any seawater that got in could be drained at low tide. Although this effort reclaimed some 60 acres for cultivation, the sluice was eventually abandoned.  

There may have been some sort of connection between the loch and the sea before the sluice was built. Martin Martin, writing 300 years ago, had this to say of Loch Mor:
…a freshwater lake well stocked with eels… there is a passage under the stony ground, which is between the sea and the lake, through which it is supposed the eels come in with the spring tides; one of the inhabitants called Mack-Vanish (the Monk’s Son) had the curiosity to creep naked through this passage.

When I was on Boreray I looked for the mysterious tunnel, but there was no sign of it. That was probably a good thing, for if I'd found it I'd have been tempted to crawl through naked.  

Storm beach seen from the south
Storm beach seen from the north

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