Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Beehive Cells of Both an Aird

I first read about the beehive cells at Both an Aird in DDC Pochin Mould's amazing book West Over Sea. They are probably the most remote beehive cells on Lewis - a mile and a half SE of Hamanavay - so unless you can get someone to take you by boat to Hamanavay, getting to Both an Aird requires a hard 12-mile hike from Uig. For most people (including me), a 24 mile round trip in one day is a bit much, especially across this tough terrain. And so I decided to visit the beehives as part of an overnight excursion; a one way walk from Uig to Morsgail. 

Once I crossed the footbridge over the Hamanavay River I made my way up to the ruin of the mill below Loch Grunavat. From there I followed a series of derelict telegraph poles along the east shore of the loch. I followed the poles up the narrow glen of the Feadan Grunavat (the little Grunavat stream), and once Loch Bodavat came into view I turned south to climb the heather-clad slopes of Cleit nam Bothan Aird. Aside from being on the side of the hill, I was not sure where the beehives were. I circled a small knoll atop the northern side of the hill, but there were no beehives to be seen. I then circled a smaller knoll to the south, and was about to give up the search, when I saw them.

Looking south to the Bothan Aird Beehives
The two cells - the one on the right has collapsed
Bothan Aird is actually a pair of side-by-side cells. One of them has almost completely collapsed (to the right in the previous photo), but the second is intact. I'd planned to spend the night in the intact cell, but it was a bit gloomy, so I decided to carry on another four miles to spend the night atop Beinn Isobhal (see February 23, 2013 post), and then the next day I followed the postman's stones to Morsgail. 

Below are two close-up photos of the intact cell at Both an Aird. See plate 13 of this Society of Antiquaries report for a detailed drawing of the beehives as they were in 1857.

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