Saturday, January 30, 2016

She was More Than Merely Good Looking

One of the best week-long island visits I've made was to Eigg. My wife and I took a cottage in Cleadale, which is an excellent base for making long walks around the island. One of those walks was to Sgorr Sgaileach, at the northern tip of the island, and then down the east coast to Kildonan. 

Sgorr Sgaileach
From Sgorr Sgaileach I headed south down the coast. It was beautiful, but tiring terrain to cross; a series of ups and downs across slanting slopes. 

The east coast
A mile down the coast I came to the ruins of two stone houses; a little settlement known as the midway-shieling of Struidh (NM 496 889). In his book The Cruise of the Betsey (1869), Hugh Miller describes a walk down this coastline. And it was at Struidh that he had an encounter: 

"An island girl of eighteen, more than merely good looking, though much embrowned by the sun had come to the door to see who the unwonted visitors might be."

Unlike today, it seems tans were not appreciated back then. After enjoying a bowl of mingled milk and cream, Miller ends his description of the encounter with: "We bade farewell to the lonely shieling and the hospitable island girl."

Unfortunately there was not a 'more than merely good looking' island lass there to greet me, only a few shaggy sheep. But the surroundings made up for the missing hospitality (almost). Six hundred feet above the cottages the thin waterfall of the Allt na h-Airde Mheadhonaich misted down from the cliff-top. The resulting stream then flowed through the settlement: Struidh's one-time residents had fresh water at their doorsteps.

The Allt na h-Airde Mheadhonaich waterfall
The stream flowing through Struidh
As I walked on down the coast the land started to narrow; the cliff closing in on the right, the sea on the left. Hoping that the path shown on the map, that led up to Kildonan, was still there, I carried on. If not I'd have to backtrack four miles.

The shelf starts to narrow
And narrows even more
Fortunately the path to the top was still there, and an easy climb led to a pass called Bealach Clith.

The path through Bealach Clith
At this point I'd walked six miles; and the way back to the cottage in Cleadale involved another five miles of road walking. I was hoping to hitch a ride. But Eigg is such a quiet place that not a single car passed by, and so I had a peaceful and scenic walk back to Cleadale.

If you are looking for an amazing place to spend a week, you'd be hard pressed to find somewhere better than Eigg. And you'd also be hard pressed to find a better place to stay than the cottage we took for a week (Top House).

Top House

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