Sunday, November 25, 2018

Isles to Be - Mealasta

This is the first in a series of posts on the Elusive Ones; islands that have resisted all my advances; islands I hope to set foot on someday. The first is Mealasta, off the coast of Uig (Lewis).

Over the years I've sailed past Mealasta a dozen times. Three of those times we wanted to get ashore, but on all those occasions the swell was too large to safely land.

Mealasta seen from Scarp
Traigh Mhor an Eilean - Mealasta
Mealasta has a fantastic beach of golden sand on its east side  - Traigh Mhor an Eilean (previous photo). To the north of it lie the remains of a few structures: Airighean a Chraois; a name that implies it was a summer shieling.

I am not sure if, other than the shielings, the island was ever inhabited. (Haswell-Smith, in his Scottish Islands book says it was, but that there are no records.) There are indeed references to people from Mealasta, but those mentions may be referring to the township of Mealasta, opposite the island on Lewis. That Mealasta had a population of 11 in 1766.

The most well known story about the people of Mealasta is the incident of the Pairc Murders, when the crew of a boat from Mealasta were killed for their cargo of lumber. (See the August 1, 2017 post for more on this).  In his book Waypoints: Seascapes and Stories of Scotland's West Coast, Ian Fisher includes a version of the story that says that the doomed crew was from the island, not the mainland.

You can get to within a mile of Mealasta island by driving to the end of the Uig road, where there is a small jetty. Last time I was there the azure sea was calm and the wind light; ideal for a voyage to the island. At the foot of the jetty a boat sat invitingly on a trailer.  If only it was mine...

Scarp seen from near the old Mealasta township - Mealasta island to the right
I hope to set foot on Mealasta someday (without stealing a boat). But, for now, it remains one of the Isles to Be.

Scarp (left) and Mealasta seen from Lewis

1 comment:

  1. David & Margaret GartsideNovember 25, 2018 at 2:07 AM

    Thanks Marc. Looking forward to the rest of the series. Best wishes.