Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Walk Around Kebock Head - Lewis

Kebock Head, on the east coast of Pairc (Lewis), is one of the least visited parts of the Hebrides. I've only visited it once, on a six-mile, one-way hike from Grabhair to Leumrabhagh. Although Kebock Head is 160 miles from the island of Little Cumbrae, they may be linked in history; for its Gaelic name is A' Chabag, a name that usually refers to a toothless woman; but it may be a dedication to a St Bey. There were several female saints with names similar to Bey, and one was an early saint who called the island of Little Cumbrae her home. (See book 1, chapter 2 for the story of a visit of Little Cumbrae to find the chapel and grave of St Bey.)

I made the walk around Kebock Head in 2012 with John Randall, Chairman of the Islands Book Trust at the time. We started by driving to the end of the road at Tom an Fhuadain, a mile east of Grabhair, on the south shore of Loch Odhairn. From Tom an Fhuadain it was a rough, two miles to Kebock Head, where out in the Minch we could clearly see the Shiants. From there we walked south along the cliff-tops past Gob na Milaid to Cuiriseal. 

Beach at Mol Stiogh a' Chragain 
The settlement at Cuiriseal was famous for its boat building, and looking down from the clifftop we could see the stony beach of Mol Stiogh a' Chragain. It was there that the Smiths of Cuiriseal launched their boats. Although how they got them down the steep slope to the shore is a mystery (to me, anyway). Scattered about the moorland above the beach are several farmsteads, shielings, and large plots of once cultivated land.

Beehive type shieling at Cuiriseal
Old cultivation ridges at Cuiriseal

 House ruin at Cuiriseal
Cuiriseal Shieling
On the shore south of Cuiriseal we could see a large, detached rock, known as Stac a' Chomhraig. I think the name means something like 'Battle Stack'. I have been unable to find any history on the name, or what, if any, battle took place there.

Stac a' Chomhraig - Shiants in the distance
Stac a' Chomhraig
From Stac a' Chomhraig John and I headed due west to 'cut the corner' off the south tip of the peninsula; after passing Lochan Tobhta Ruairidh Dhuibh (the loch of the ruin of black haired Rory) we crossed Gleann Ceann Eastail.  
Looking west over the mouth of Gleann Ceann Eastail
From there it was only a few minutes walk to Leumrabhagh.

Old jetty near Leumrabhagh
Looking north to Leumrabhagh
It was an amazing walk across some historical, but rarely visited country; made all the more interesting by John Randall's extensive knowledge of the area. If you are interested in the boat builders of Cuiriseal, see this link for more information.

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