Friday, July 1, 2016

Oronsay - 23 Years On

Another island I made a long-awaited return to last month was Oronsay. I first visited this tidal island in 1993, when my wife and I reached it the traditional way by wading from Colonsay at low tide.

Shawna crossing the strand to Oronsay in 1993
Halfway across the strand we had to take our shoes off in order to cross a tidal stream. It was cold going, but in short order we made a wet-foot landfall on Oronsay. On my return visit to Oronsay last month aboard Elizabeth G my feet did not get cold, as we made a dry-foot beach landing from an inflatable at Port na-h-Atha, a sandy beach on the east coast of Oronsay.

Beach landing at Port na-h-Atha
From the beach a pleasant mile-long walk took us to the priory ruins. The caretakers have a good sense of humor; the first thing we saw when we approached the priory was a 'Car Park' sign.

The car park
The highlights of Oronsay are Prior Colin's Cross and the collection of carved tombstones kept in what's usually called the Prior's House, but what was once a barn. The barn itself has a sinister history. Although Oronsay was considered a sanctuary island, some 500 years ago Alexander Macdonald of Lochalsh was murdered in the barn by MacIain of Ardnamurchan. (MacIain did this in order to curry favor with the Duke of Argyle - see chapter 3 (page 154) of MEM's Further Wanderings, Mainly in Argyll.)

Prior Colin's Cross
Medieval Tombstones in the barn where Alexander Macdonald was murdered
The main thing I wanted to do on Oronsay was to climb up to Carn Cul ri Eirinn (the cairn looking away from Ireland). There is another Carn Cul ri Eirinn 20 miles to the north on Iona, and 30 miles to the northwest on Mull lies Carn Cul ri Albainn. It has been suggested that these cairns defined the border between Dalriada of the Scots, and Alba, the land of the Picts.

From left to right: Carn Cul ri Eirinn (Oronsay); Carn Cul ri Eirinn (Iona); Carn Cul ri Albainn (Mull)
On that visit to Oronsay in 1993 I ended up with only one (not very good) photo of Oronsay's Carn Cul ri Eirinn. This time I climbed the hill looking forward to getting more photos of the top of Beinn Oronsay and Carn Cul ri Eirinn. On the way up some beautiful views opened up over the priory and the surrounding islands.

The Priory
Carn Cul ri Eirinn (Oronsay)
The top of Oronsay is a beautiful spot, with views north to Colonsay, south to Islay, east to Jura, and west to the open sea. I sat there for a while before heading down to the strand to find the spot where my wife and I had made landfall on Oronsay 23 years ago.

The view from Carn Cul ri Eirinn - looking away from Ireland across the strand to Colonsay 
Note: This post marks the end of the descriptions of my travels last month on Elizabeth G with members of the St Kilda Club. I'd like to thank Christina, Viv, Margaret, Marion, Liz, Keith, Chris, Jeff, Jim, and John for being such good company. Also many thanks to the crew; Rob, Pip, and Connor, for such a great experience. Beginning with the next post we will travel to the 12 islands visited by Hjalmar Bjorge from May 21-31.

No comments:

Post a Comment