Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wanderings on North Uist - Taigh Talamhant

We made the transatlantic crossing a week ago, and are now up on Berneray. Tried Icelandair for a change, as they have flights from Seattle to Glasgow via Reykjavik. Nice flights, but our checked bags, including all my camping gear (except my boots -which I always carry on), missed the connection. They did manage to expedite things, and our luggage arrived in Oban the day before the ferry left for South Uist.

The cottage we're staying in on Berneray is called The Smiddy, It is in a beautiful location overlooking the machair at Borve. 

The property is run by Gloria MacKillop. We last saw Gloria in 2001, when her and her husband, 'Splash', were doing B&B. I first met Gloria and Splash when I stayed here before my first trip to St Kilda in 1999 (see book 2, chapter 14). Splash passed away in 2009, and Gloria finally stopped doing B&B last year. Yesterday my wife and I paid a visit to his grave.

The weather in the Western Isles has been miserable this week: blowing and rain/hail mix. The forecast stone outside the Berneray shop is wet and swinging. Hopefully it won't go missing later this week.

A few days ago the storms abated and I went for a hike to Taigh Talamhant, a souterrain with three entrances that DDC Pouchin-Mould wrote about in West Over Sea. It is described as being quite roomy, and the entrances large enough to still get into. So I threw a couple of flashlights in my pack and set out to find it.

The souterrain lies on the west side of Loch Thacleit, three miles northeast of Lochmaddy. To get there I drove the single track to Lochportain, and left the car in a lay-by near Loch an Duin. From there I huffed and I puffed my way south to the summit of Beinn Thacleit. It's only about 400 feet high, but the ground was a soggy mush, and I had to navigate around several lochs. At the top I was rewarded with a great view over to Lochmaddy.

Lochmaddy seen from Beinn Thacleit
Ferry from Uig (Skye) arriving at Lochmaddy
From Beinn Thacleit I descended to Loch Thacleit and crossed the isthmus between it and Loch Grota. 
Loch Thacleit
I found the first of the three entrances to the souterrain nestled in a small depression halfway up the west shore of Loch Thacleit. I dug the flashlights out of my pack, and made my way down to the entrance.
The first entrance
But it was not to be. With all the rain the souterrain was half filled with water. Without a snorkel there'd be no way to get inside. I wandered over a small rise to find the other two entrances, hoping they'd be drier.

The second entrance
But they were'nt. There was no way to get inside, and I had to be content with sticking my head in a few feet  - next time I'll have to bring scuba gear. I was disappointed not to get inside, but I'd still had a good walk on the hills with not another person in sight. See this CANMORE page for more info on Taigh Talamhant. My next walk will be an overnighter to the fort of Dun Carragary, high on the slopes of South Lee.

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