Friday, August 19, 2016

Carragh Broin - The Stone of Sorrow

When I was on South Uist this week I made a two-day-trek around Beinn Ruigh Choinnich (the hill of Kenneth’s shieling). With a tent, sleeping bag, and midge net (among other things) strapped to my back, I crossed the footbridge at Auratote (NF 787 205). From there a soggy footpath led up to the reservoir of Loch nan Smalag (loch of the coal-fish), the water supply for Lochboisdale.

Footbridge at Auratote
From the loch I started across the boggy moorland to the northeast. To my right lay Beinn Ruigh Choinnich and the triple heights of Triuirebheinn (the hill of three peaks). Once around the shoulder of Triuirebheinn I climbed Bealach na Doillaid, the pass of the saddle. From the top of the pass I could see Loch nan Airm (the loch of weapons) lurking in a crater at the bottom of the slopes.

It was slow going down the trackless, bracken and heather clogged hillside to the Loch of Weapons. On the way down I met a shepherd out gathering sheep, on what was the first day of decent weather in over a week. Once down at the loch I made my way to its southeast corner. Hidden under the bracken here is a squat, rectangular boulder; marked on the map as 'Carragh Bròin' (the stone of sorrow). 

Some descriptions of the Stone of Sorrow say it's a standing stone. But there are no standing stones in the area, and this is the only substantial stone anywhere near the location marked on the map. As I made my way to the stone I nearly took a fall, tripped up by a run of rusty fence wire hidden under the bracken. It was a close call. Then, wanting to take a photo of the stone, I started pulling out some of the bracken that hid it. In doing so a sharp frond of bracken slashed open my index finger. The blood was flowing, and of course, my first-aid kit was buried at the bottom of my pack. The Stone of Sorrow was certainly causing me some sorrow.

Looking across Loch Nan Airm from the Stone of Sorrow - Loch Stulabhal in distance
Stone of Sorrow under the bracken
The story of the stone’s name, and that of the loch, is in Otta Swire’s The Outer Hebrides and their Legends (chapter 7). In it she recounts the tradition that the last battle between the Vikings and the people of South Uist occurred here. The battle was indecisive, and both sides stopped fighting. The wounded where brought to the stone, and the combatants threw their weapons into the water as a sign of peace.

Another version of the stone’s name is in DDCP Mould's West Over Sea (chapter 8). This one is not so dramatic. It says a duel was fought here, and that one of the contestants, after being wounded, collapsed on the stone.

After taking a few photos of the stone I carried on to the east. My next stop, Tigh Leacach, a large souterrain on the hillside above the loch. Then I planned to carry on through Bealach a' Chaolais to spend the night in the old settlement of Kyles Stuley, one of Prince Charlie's hideouts in 1746.

To be continued...

Carragh Broin - The Stone of Sorrow

1 comment:

  1. Great photos, Mark. Very evocative. Always enjoy your blog