Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Laraichean - Iona

At the far south end of Iona, between the Port of the Coracle and Columba's Cairn Cul Ri Eirinn, you'll find the ancient settlement known as Laraichean. Many visitors make their way to the Port of the Coracle, but few carry on the extra 200 yards west to see Laraichean.

Laraichean (which means 'foundations') is well hidden in a natural hiddie-hole above a small beach. If you make your way to the site you'll find the remnants of a half-dozen or so beehive type structures. As you can tell from the photos, my visit was on a grey and misty day.

The ruins here may predate the time of Columba, and so its residents, if there were any at the time, may have been the first to greet him when he arrived. Or, as the CANMORE page on the site mentions, this could have been the first settlement established by Columba and his companions.

Cattle grazing at Laraichean
I wanted to see Laraichean after reading this description of it in Trenholme's The Story of Iona (1909):

These are declared to be by far the oldest buildings in the island. The spot is a beautiful recess, enclosed by high rocks all round, and open only toward the sea, where the inclination of the ground towards the water is remedied by an artificial terrace. The hamlet could be well defended with bows and arrows, but whether it was the home of Picts or Scots who lived before Columba, or of later monks or hermits, is unknown. 

To get to Laraichean I climbed the small ridge west of the Port of the Coracle. When you approach it this way you can appreciate that it is indeed sited in a 'beautiful recess'; a pretty little spot far from it all. But unfortunately I did not have the place to myself, for a large herd of cattle were contentedly grazing on the lush grass that was growing all over the site. One big old cow wanted to make friends, and aggressively followed me as I walked around. So after taking a few quick photos I headed up and over the rocks in search of Columba's Carn Cul ri Eirinn. (See the April 12, 2013 post.)


No comments:

Post a Comment