Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Airidhean a' Bhaig

The Shiants are a special place, and my favorite spot there is the most isolated place on these isolated islands: Airidhean a' Bhaig, the pasture-land of the Bay. The 'bay' is the sheltered sea that lies between Eilean an Tighe, Garbh Eilean and Eilean Mhuire. Airidhean a' Bhaig (which Adam Nicolson referes to as 'Bagh' in his book Sea Room) lies on a level patch of ground at the northeast tip of Garbh Eilean.

Airidhean a' Bhaig seen from Eilean Mhuire
Airidhean a' Bhaigh seen from the northern slopes of Garbh Eilean - Eilean Mhuire in the distance
I had been to the Shiants several times without ever having set foot in Airidhean a' Bhaig. So on a visit to the the Shiants in 2013 I asked Mark Henrys, skipper of Halmar Bjorge, to set me ashore near the puffin colony on Garbh Eilean. After seeing the puffins I intended to climb to the top of the island, cross over to the south end, and then descend to the shore via the Eiger Pass (see December 2, 2013 post). Mark told me that I would see something quite special above the puffin colony, and he was right.

There is a small beach below the puffin colony, and once ashore it was an easy climb up to a level patch of verdant ground, covered by dozens of overgrown cultivation ridges to the north, and the massive puffin colony to the south.

The landing place at Bagh
Looking south from the puffin colony to the isthmus between Garbh Eilean and Eilean a' Tighe
The puffins
After spending some quality time with the puffins, I climbed a little further and discovered something amazing. At the time I thought it was a Beehive Cell. But after re-reading Sea Room I learned that it may be the remains of a medieval farm.  Here is what Nicolson has to say about the settlement at Bagh:

...you can still see the footings of the farmstead on the rich ground just beside the natural arch on Garbh Eilean: a house, a barn, a byre and a garden enclosure, just uphill from a fresh-running spring.

The ruins at Bagh
Bagh would be an amazing place to camp, and I hope to do that someday: to see puffins fill the sky at dusk, and to see a sunrise from here such as Adam Nicolson describes in Sea Room:

... dawn over the mainland of Scotland, the tangerine sun lifting up over the ragged mountains in Torridon thirty miles to the east with slabs of orange light daubed across the Minch at your feet.

Settlement site at Bagh seen from the climb to the top of Garbh Eilean

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