Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wanderings on North Uist - Eaval & Dun an t-Siamain

For myself, Eaval was a tough nut to crack. Although it is only 1100 feet or so high, the approach to the foot of the hill requires miles of bog-hopping. In the summer of 2013 I was dropped on the shore near Burival, also known as Little Eaval, intent on climbing Eaval. That cut off a mile of bog, but I was only given three hours ashore, and when turn-around-time came I had only managed to climb to about 700 feet. I promised myself I'd return someday to make it to the top.

That promise was kept last week. But instead of repeating the approach to the hill from the north, I decided to climb it from Cladach Chairinis, three miles southwest of the summit. I made the climb in the company of Martin Margulies. Martin wrote the book Mhor and More about his walks on the Uists. Martin had advised me on the route to take on an visit to Glen Corodale I made three years ago (see the March 2013 issue of Scottish Islands Explorer).

From the road end at Cladach Chairinis, Martin and I headed east across the bogs; the sight of Eaval guiding us along. Without the mountain as a guide, the way back would be more of a challenge.

Across the bogs to Eaval
After two miles of bog- and loch-hopping we came to Loch Obasaraigh, where we got a close up look at its ring fort and dun before starting the climb.

Ring-fort and dun in the loch. The ring-fort is to the left (mostly submerged)
Dun & Ring-fort seen from 500 feet up the slopes of Eaval
It was a windy, gray day, but we were lucky in that there was no rain. Three hours after leaving the cars we reached the summit of Eaval.

Martin at the summit of Eaval
It was good to get to the top, especially as it had defeated me two years before. The next photo shows the view north: Burival (AKA Little Eaval) in the middle distance, South and North Lee in the far distance. (The northern approach to Eaval follows the shoreline at the base of Burival.)

Burival, South Lee and North Lee
After enjoying the view (and a snack) we descended to the southwest to the shore of Loch Dun an t-Siamain. I wanted to see if I could walk out across the causeway to the large dun that gives the loch its name.

Dun an t-Siamain from the slopes of Eaval
On reaching the shore we could see that Dun an t-Siamain was massive, as was its causeway made of giant boulders (one wonders how they got them in place). It was an easy stroll across the causeway to the fort.

Dun an t-Siamain
The approach across the causeway
Looking back to the shore - notice the large defensive wall where the causeway meets the fort
From the dun we started our way back to Chairinis. As we found out, without Eaval to guide the way, it is easy to get disoriented in the maze of bogs and lochs. After a wrong turn we managed to make our way back to the cars. Six hours afoot had left us with a thirst, but the proprietor of the nearby Temple View Hotel refused to serve us beer (since we were not residents), so we had to settle for tea and coke. It had been a great day on the hills, and I hope to hike with Martin again. You can read about his adventures on the hills of Uist in Mhor and More, published by the Islands Book Trust.

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