Friday, March 29, 2019


It is about as remote as you can get, but it is on the largest Hebridean island. No roads, tracks, or paths of any kind reach this far off place, so, unless you arrive by sea, getting there involves hours of bog- and heather-hopping. I am speaking of Tealasbhaigh, at the south end of the Ardveg peninsula. The approach to it from the highlands of Ardveg is stunning, with far-sweeping views over the mouth of the loch to the mountainous isle of Scarp.

Loch Tealasbhaigh - Scarp in the distance (right)

As you descend to the shore of Loch Tealasbhaigh you pass several beautiful un-named hillside lochs.

My last hike to Tealasbhaigh was to look for beehive cells, as I had read that there was a cell here. I did find the township ruins at the head of the loch, but there were no beehive cells. (There is, however, an amazing collection of cells a kilometer to the east.)

The township ruins consist of two blackhouses, each with an attached pen. You will be hard-pressed to find any written information on the settlement. In Bill Lawson's excellent book Lewis - The West Coast in History and Legend, there is only this brief mention:  'Teallasbhagh was for a time a keeper's cottage at the back of the Arid Bheag . . . none of these little settlements lasted into census times, and  probably they all fell empty in the 1820s.'

Tealasbhaigh's only place in Hebridean history (that I know of), is as the spot where the Lewis Chessmen came to the island. As one version of the story goes, a young boy absconded with the chessmen from a ship at anchor here. He was subsequently murdered, and the chessmen taken to Uig, where they were buried in the sand. See this web-page for the complete story.

My favorite memory of Loch Tealasbhaigh is of a night in the spring of 2003. I was aboard the ship Poplar Diver, and we'd anchored there for the night. Once the hook was dropped, the skipper, Rob Barlow, went diving for scallops in the icy waters of the loch. It was my first taste of fresh-dived scallops: which to this day, for me, is still one of the highlights of a small-ship Hebridean cruise. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Great Skua

The great skua is an impressive beast. I have seen a sky full of 100,000 puffins suddenly become empty as a skua swooped through on the prowl. I have been attacked by them on several occasions, most notably on St Kilda, Rona, and Hermaness (Unst). For their first attack they like to dive in from behind, trying to get a piece of your scalp. It can be quite startling if you don't see them coming.

Here are a few Skua pictures I've taken over the years. If you look at the March 17, 2013 post, you will find video of a skua attack on Rona. Looking at that old post, made exactly six years ago, reminded me that the blog is in its seventh year, with over 600 posts. If the Skuas don't get me, I hope to make at least another 600.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Pabay Mor in Song

When first he rounded Pabay Mor
And met the mountain waves alone
There was fear till there was fear no more
Wild Atlantic son

This is the first verse of Pabay Mor; a beautiful song that eloquently invokes the ever-present challenge of the sea in the lives of the Hebrideans. I have been to this beautiful island several times over the years, and have experienced first-hand the severe sea-change often encountered when rounding the island to leave the sheltered waters of Loch Rog. One second the boat is lazily motoring forward, the next it is plowing through heavy seas.

Here are links to two versions of Pabay Mor. Have a listen, I think you'll like them. Below these links are a few images of beautiful Pabay Mor.