Saturday, September 10, 2016

Airighean Bo Nighean Mhuirich

Some places shout out to be visited when you see their name on a map. One such place, in the Lewis interior, is Airighean Bo Nighean Mhuirich, which means something like the shieling of the cow of Murchie's daughter. I was already planning a long-distance hike from Morsgail to the Ardveg, and so I decided that along the way I'd pay a visit to this place with the long, and charming name, once occupied by Murchie's daughter (and her cow).

Route - Morsgail to the Ardveg
Before setting out I contacted the gamekeepers for the Morsgail and Uig estates (it was August, and there might be deer-stalking activity). They told me no hunts were on during the days I'd be hiking, and so early on a Monday morning I set out along the track to Morsgail Lodge.

Fifteen minutes after setting out, while still on the tarmac track to Morsgail, Malcolm, the Morsgail keeper, drove up. He told me I could take a shortcut past his house near Morsgail lodge. This saved a hard mile of bog-hopping, as I had planned to circle around the south side of Loch Morsgail in order to bypass the grounds of the lodge.

Looking back to Morsgail Lodge on the way to Airighean Bo Nighean Mhuirich
Once out on the moorland west of the lodge, an hour of hiking took me to Airighean Bo Nighean Mhuirich, where I found five ruined dwellings and a very large animal enclosure.

Shieling structure at Airighean Bo Nighean Mhuirich
Sadly, there is nothing written about Airighean Bo Nighean Mhuirich (that I can find, anyway). But it is recorded that the shieling of Tighe Dhubastail, less than a mile to the southwest, was occupied by the people of Crowlista. So perhaps the daughter of Mhurich (and her cow) came from that area.

House ruin at Airighean Bo Nighean Mhuirich
Another dwelling at Airighean Bo Nighean Mhuirich
It was a pleasant, pastoral setting. And in any other circumstances it would be a wonderful place to camp. But I'd only just got started, and was hoping to make it as far as the Ardveg, another six miles to the southwest. But before heading on I took some time to look at the massive livestock enclosure. It was quite complex, with two stone barns attached, each with its own passage to the enclosure. This makes me believe that Murchie's daughter (or daughters) must have had more than one cow.

Enclosure at Airighean Bo Nighean Mhuirich - Harris hills in the distance
Airighean Bo Nighean Mhuirich was a busy place in its day, but aside from the occasional deer-stalker, few people pass by now. From this oasis in the Lewis bogs, I turned south to search out a few more shieling sites shown on the map: Maghannan, Tighe Dhubhastail, and Fidigidh. And if I was lucky, perhaps a few not on the map. 

Inside the enclosure

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Marc. Always enjoy reading about the fascinating remnants of a long lost way of life. Amazing that the islands once supported so many people. Best wishes,