Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Broken Bridge of South Uist - Hairteabhagh

I've only made the walk to Hairteabhaigh once - a remote ghost village on the southeast corner of South Uist. The journey there is a six-mile loop starting from South Glendale; or a five-mile out-and-back from North Glendale along a route that crosses what's marked on the OS map as "Broken Bridge". I like loops, and the bridge sounded interesting, so I chose to get to Hairteabahg via the route from the south, and return along the north to see what the broken bridge business was all about.

I became interested in seeing Hairteabhaigh after reading about a walk there in Martin Margulies' Mhor and More (2011). I've had the pleasure of hiking with Martin when we ascended Eabhal last May (see the May 28th post).

I started the walk at the far end of the South Uist road, a mile past the Eriskay causeway. From there a hill path leads from South to North Glendale, which I followed to its highest point on the west shoulder of Marabhal. I left the path there and headed east to traverse the southern side of Loch Chearsanais and Loch Marulaigh.

It was hard going in places, soft-soggy bog and a few streams to cross. After a while I reached the path that comes in from North Glendale, and a short ways on I came to Hairteabhaigh. A half dozen house ruins dotted the landscape, centered on the bay of Hairteabhaigh and the small tidal island of Eilean Dubh.

Hairteabhaigh was created in the late 1700s by crofters forced out of the better land on the west side of the island. They farmed about 150 acres, and built several fish-traps in the bay near Eilean Dubh. Hairteabhaigh was abandoned in the 1800s, but was resettled for a while in the 20th century. No one lives there today, and the only sign of activity was the sheep wash you can see in the previous photo.

The tide was out, and I was hoping to cross over to the small island of Eilean Dubh. But the tide flats were a miasma of sandy mud, and did not look safe to cross.

Muddy tide-flats between Hairteabhaigh and Eilean Dubh
From Hairteabhaigh I considered carrying on anther mile east to Rubha na h-Ordaig (Big Toe Point), the southeast end of Uist. But I had promised my wife I'd meet her on the highway near the Eriskay causeway in two hours, so it was time to start back.

The path west was in good shape, and when I reached the Marulaig River I could see that the bridge was not just broken, it was missing - with only its cement-stone supports still standing. Fortunately the river was low, and it was easy to wade across.

The Broken Bridge
A couple of miles later I reached the junction with the North/South Glendale path at the west end of Loch Kearsinish. A left turn took me south, and 45 minutes later I reached the Eriskay Causeway, where my wife was patiently waiting for me in the car. Someday I hope to return to Hairteabhaigh and continue on to remote Rubha na h-Ordaig, the big-toe of South Uist. For more on Hairteabhagh see this CANMORE page.

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